OUR CHURCH'S HISTORY
"We've come a long way, Lord – we've come a long way. Bearing our burdens in the heat of the day, we knew the Lord would make a way."
Religion had always been an important part of the late Rev. John Thomas French's life. In his hometown of Athens, Alabama, he was a faithful member of the Oak Grove Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
Rev. John Thomas French moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1937. After visiting many churches, he united with the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in 1939 under the pastorate of the late Rev. E. H. Maxwell. At Morning Star, Rev. French served as the Sunday School Superintendent and teacher, as well as the Chairman of the Deacon Board.
In 1940, Rev. French accepted his call into the ministry. In 1946, he was called to assist a newly established mission with three faithful believers at 1900 Cedar Street. This group continued in prayer with faith and in a short span of time, moved to 1121 Magazine Street. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the mission was organized into a church.
Rev. French was called as pastor and the name Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church was chosen, in honor of his home church in Athens, Alabama. Though they were few in number, Rev. French was thankful to God and loved his church. At all of the services, he could be found worshiping God and doing all he could to build up God's Kingdom as the membership slowly began to grow.
In 1951, a building was purchased at 1708 Magazine Street and converted into a place of worship. As the membership continued to grow, there were those who moved on and members who were steadfast, unmovable and serious about the support of the church. They did all they could by having church suppers in different homes and various other fund-raising projects. We thank God for those members who loved and shared together as God's happy family.
In 1969, with God's blessings and much hard work, we were able to purchase property at 41st and Vermont to build a church, which was dedicated in 1970. Rev. French was so thankful to God as he opened the doors to the new sanctuary. The membership began to grow and many souls were added to the church. As we grew in God's grace and love, He continued to bless us.
In 1978, Rev. French became ill, but because of his love for God and his love of the church, he was given the inspiration and fortitude to continue serving until his death. His prayer was that after his death, the church would continue to move forward for the cause of Christ.
Rev. French passed away on September 22, 1980 and left the church in excellent condition, both spiritually and financially. While we mourned the death of Rev. French, we continued to pray and seek God's guidance. During this time, Rev. Burton Barbour, an Associate Minister at Oak Grove served in the interim.
In 1981, Deacon Thomas Henry French, who had served faithfully as his father's "Armor Bearer," announced his public call to the ministry. His initial sermon was on June 15, 1981 and he received his license. Rev. Thomas French is the 3rd child of 15 siblings born to the late Rev. John Thomas and Mother Lucy Mae French.
Rev. Thomas French has been married to the former Virginia Garner for 64 years. They have one daughter, Linda French-Smith, an educational evaluator in the Bullitt County Schools system. Their son, Dr. Leon Douglas French was a dentist in the West Louisville area and was called home to be with the Lord on April 30, 2013. They have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Rev. Thomas French is a charter member and charter deacon who served in many capacities under our founder, Rev. John French. During that time, he was loyal in his duties as a Deacon, Trustee, Sunday School Superintendent and Treasurer. He was also instrumental in the first building constructed at 41st and Vermont.
Rev. French has been our pastor for the last 34 years and he willingly and without reservation embraces the responsibilities inherent to his calling. Our pastor was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Simmons College of Kentucky (Louisville) on May 18, 2014. He is a pastor, a visionary, motivator, administrator and he also has great concern and love for our youth.
In 1989, under the close supervision of Rev. French, the West Chapel underwent a renovation. The church annex was acquired in 1992. On December 5, 2007, Rev. French announced a Capital Building Fund Campaign for the construction of our new sanctuary. In 2013, a parking lot expansion was added to the church campus. A Ground Breaking and Stake Planting Ceremony for the new sanctuary was held on Saturday, September 13, 2014 with the theme, “Our Stake is in the West End.”
After overcoming many challenges and with God’s blessing, Rev. French’s vision finally became a reality as we marched into our new, beautiful sanctuary on Sunday, July 12, 2015. Our new edifice brightens the entire corner at night as light shines from its illuminated crosses and steeples. The neighborhood is also blessed each day at Noon as a melodic hymn is played by chimes. “To God be the Glory for the Great Things He Has Done!”
On Sunday, August 6, 2017 a retirement banquet was held for Rev. French as he passed the pastoralship of the church to his niece and licensed minister Rev. Alyce French Johnson. Rev. French Johnson was installed as the pastor on Sunday, August 13, 2017.
Romans 8:28 (KJV) says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose."