THE HISTORY OF HERITAGE
God Answers Prayer
“I will give you shepherds after My own heart who will feed you on wisdom and understanding.”
These words from the prophet Jeremiah were a precious promise upon which God birthed Heritage Baptist Church. In 1979, Mrs. Cathy Herndon was elected to serve on a pulpit committee of another church in Oklahoma City where she and her husband, the late Dr. Elwood Herndon, were members. Mrs. Herndon prayed and fasted before the Lord, as her earnest desire was to be in a church where the pastor lived and taught the abundant, spirit-filled way of life, where the Lord Jesus Christ was central, where Christian members were taught to respond to life’s trials in a godly way, and where God was praised and thanked in all things. God honored the fasting and praying and gave Mrs. Herndon special verses to cling to as He began to form a new work in northwest Oklahoma City. God, in His great mercy, clearly impressed upon Mrs. Herndon, through the direction and confirmation of her husband, that they were to obediently call a Mr. Jim Burleson and ask him if he would pastor a new Southern Baptist Church. From the first call, God confirmed that He was preparing both Mr. Burleson and the Herndons to begin this new work and gave them a vision to “raise up a standard” for the people in northwest Oklahoma City.
The Birthing of Heritage Baptist Church
In June 1980, an evening meeting was held in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Elwood Herndon where twenty-two people freely expressed their hearts with Mr. Burleson and were overjoyed to discover a oneness of heart. God had, indeed, prepared by His mighty acts a pastor and a people for this new and exciting venture. In July, the church was formally organized and began meeting regularly in the Herndon’s living room. Each Saturday afternoon, furniture was moved and rented folding chairs were set in place. Dr. Herndon built a small plywood pulpit and the pastor’s wife played the piano. It actually took more than a month for the charter group to prayerfully decide on the name Heritage Baptist Church, which is dervied from Psalm 119:111: “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.”
In three short months, the church had outgrown the Herndon’s living room. God, once again, answered the prayers of His people by providing space in the Seventh Day Adventist Church building on 63rd Street between Meridian and MacArthur. For seven years, Heritage Baptist Church occupied this space. These years taught the church to be very flexible as they were required to move the Adventist’s equipment out and move their own equipment and supplies in every Sunday morning. Mrs. Herndon reminisced that “every Sunday was like moving day!” Nevertheless, the church rejoiced in God’s provision of a nice auditorium and Sunday School space.
The Lord’s Work in a Wheat Field
The church continued to grow and people began attending from all over the greater Oklahoma City, including: Midwest City, S.E. Oklahoma City, S.W. Oklahoma City, Yukon, Mustang, Edmond, etc. In 1985, the church began looking for a permanent location—one that would not require the church to set-up and tear-down each week. After much prayer and fasting, God led them to a 20 acre wheat field and farm house north of Memorial Road on Council Road priced at $300,000. That Thanksgiving, the church gathered together in gratitude to what God had been doing in their fellowship and, by a miracle of God, pledged several thousand over the $300,000 needed! Trusting that God, in His perfect timing, would provide the funds necessary for a building, the church decided not to enter into debt and owned the present property for three years before groundbreaking.
This God-honoring principle of stewardship is continued to this day. In the summer of 1987, construction commenced on a 16,000 sq. foot facility comprised of a 300 seat sanctuary, commercial kitchen, offices, classrooms, and nursery. The existing farm house on the property was remodeled into additional classroom space as well. With a 10-fold growth from 25-250 members, Heritage Baptist Church dedicated it’s new, permanent home to the glory of God on Easter Sunday, April 3, 1988. Here is a quote from the first bulletin published on April 3: The purpose of every service—from baby dedications to building dedications—is to proclaim the Word, worship and praise the Living Savior, and give people an opportunity to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. Today is no different. We desire for our focus to continue to be on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ and His right to our total commitment.
From Planting to Watering
By August 1988, the church entered an interim period without a pastor. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,” so God was now preparing the church for a new man to water what had been planted by the previous pastor. For 22 long months, the pulpit committee agonized before the Lord—waiting for His man in His timing.
In early 1990, Dr. Bill Stewart of the Moody Bible Institute was supplying the pulpit on an interim basis. One April Sunday, he mistakenly double-booked himself at both Heritage Baptist Church and Hilltop Baptist Church in Norman, where his friend, Dr. Dan Maxwell, was pastor. Dr. Stewart asked Dr. Maxwell to help him out of this dilemma by preaching in his place at Heritage while he supplied the pulpit at Hilltop. After Dr. Maxwell preached, the pulpit committee at Heritage felt this was perhaps God’s man in God’s timing. The committee, however, did not feel Dr. Maxwell would consider leaving his very large church in Norman to shepherd the flock at Heritage that had considerably dwindled over the 22 month interim to approximately 60-70 people. However, God led the committee to approach Dr. Maxwell and after much prayer and leadership from the Lord, the church voted for him in June and he came as pastor on Sunday, July 30, 1990.
Room to Grow
It soon became apparent that more space was needed to accommodate the rapidly growing church. In February of 1994, a 9200 sq. foot facility was built to the northwest of the existing brick building. This new facility included seven new classrooms and a half court gym. An 1120 sq. foot portable building was also purchased to house the growing youth ministry. It was at this time that Mark Dittmer stepped down and Jason Gilbow was hired as the new Youth Pastor. In October of 1995, Rocky Hails was called to join the growing pastoral staff of the church.
Soon, three overflow services were being held in the small sanctuary and classroom space was quickly filling.
In the fall of 1996, construction began on a 12,800 sq ft. auditorium. A commons and hallway was built between this new facility and the two existing facilities. Two 1344 sq. foot portable buildings were purchased as well. The present auditorium was completed in August 1997.
The youth ministry soon began to outgrow their home in the portable buildings and plans began being formulated to build a permanent facility to the west of the existing facilities. In early 2000, plans were presented to build a flexible facility that would house both youth ministries and adult education ministries. During this period in 2000, Jim Jackson was called to join the pastoral staff to assist in family ministries and pastoral care. In May 2001, the 10,000 sq. foot education facility was completed, including a small semi-circle auditorium, 6-17 flexible classrooms, office space, and a kitchen. A 300 space paved parking lot was added a year later to the south of the church facilities.
The Lord’s New Work at Heritage
In October 2003, God continued to do His work in at Heritage as Pastor Maxwell stepped down and the church entered another interim period. In January 2004, James Lankford, an Evangelism Specialist of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and Director of the Falls Creek Youth Camp, was called as the Interim Pastor. During this period, the pulpit committee sought the will of God as the church earnestly prayed and fasted for the right man to pastor this large flock. In the latter half of 2004, a local pastor submitted the name Marty Brown—a pastor of a Southern Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas—to the pulpit committee. On February 13, 2005, Marty came in view of a call and was almost unanimously voted in by the congregation. He officially began as pastor on March 7 of that year. Once again, God honored the praying and fasting of His people: “By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, of God of our salvation!”
A Look to the Future
Today, under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ and the under-shepherding of Marty and the Pastoral staff, Heritage Baptist Church is continuing to “raise up a standard” for the people of the greater Oklahoma City area as they seek to delight in God and declare His glory to all peoples.
Written by Kyler Smith