Church History

The Pleasant Green Baptist Church

Kansas City, Kansas

A History of Faith and Faithfulness for 150 Years

The Pleasant Green Baptist Church, Kansas City, Kansas, traces her origin to the early development of America’s Midwest. In 1867, shortly after the Civil War ended, in the state of Kansas, God drew together a Christian band. Facing the unknown, with faith in God, these pioneers (Southern migrants) formed a Christian fellowship in an old abandoned ice-house in the “Bottoms,” east of the Kaw River of the city. This was during a period of the Indian Wars on the Western Plains. Also, the U.S. flag had 37 Stars.

The initial pastor was a Reverend I. H. Brown, who led the group in a foundational sense, with Jesus Christ as the center of all their activities.

He was succeeded by a Reverend Windom, of whom scant information remains known of his tenure/achievements. Yet, the young fellowship continued in determination of spiritual destiny.

There followed a succession of pastors, in the 1880s through the end of the century, with little specifics of their individual contributions. We know, however, that as the city and country developed, so did this fellowship of saints.

Under the leadership of Reverend Thomas Alexander, we erected a large frame building equipped with gas lights at First and Splitlog in 1879. Packing-house workers and their families constituted the bulk of the membership.

Next, we were led by Reverend C. H. Childres, who served for one year until his death. We were building on a solid foundation in Christ, ever developing in faith.

Our next leader was Reverend Thomas Knapper. Little is known of his stewardship; yet, we can be sure, as the century turned, we basked in God’s faithfulness to us.

By 1892, there were reportedly 20,000 former slaves in Wyandotte County, most seeking shelter through the churches. Early in the new century, 1903-04, our original church (First and Splitlog) was destroyed by floods. A new building was erected, and then shortly afterward, destroyed by fire. Despite these setbacks, Pleasant Green continued.

In 1918, under the leadership of Reverend George McNeal, he persuaded the Fowler Packing Co. to donate building materials, allowing a new church edifice to be constructed on Fourth and Oakland (our present location!). After more than 40 years of faithful service to God, this church, and this community, Pastor McNeal died in 1933. His years meant structure for perpetuation of Christian ideals.

The pastoral administration of Reverend C.C. Harper followed Reverend McNeal. Little can be recalled of his achievements; but, we know the grace of God kept the saints, as they did unusual works of ministry. During “The Great Depression” of the 1930s, times were difficult; yet, God provided for His own. Pastor Harper served for 5 years.

Reverend T.H. Wicks served as pastor from 1940 to 1946, spanning the World War II years. In December, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and Germany declared war on the United States. The War ended after Germany surrendered in 1945 and Japan that same year after the dropping of the atomic bombs. During this period, a parsonage was purchased, and the sanctuary redecorated. With many of America’s finest serving in the armed forces, God was building His own army in us.

By 1946, our leader was Reverend Robert Penn. He led the church in stuccoing the building; adding new windows; adding classrooms; and renovating the interior space. As always, our focus was worship, Christ, souls and engagement in the life of our city.

By 1953, with America moving in new directions, Reverend E.T. Thorton then led the church family. He is credited with starting the Building Fund, to facilitate other physical additions to the edifice; redecorating the first unit; and paying-off the windows debt. Later, he left us to pastor in Chicago, IL

With America developing, and Kansas growing, God prepared PGBC for her next move in destiny. Our next leader had been licensed and ordained by the pastor and church.

In 1959, God gave us our most dynamic pastor yet, Reverend David L. Gray, a man of prayer, faith and wisdom. Uniquely, God gave us a mighty man of faith; Prayer­warrior; Preacher; Builder (Educational Building, 1962; Miracle Building, 1976); Evangelist; Community-leader; and Entrepreneur.

During the 1960s, with racial strife in the nation, God was using our leader and us, as several thousand came to Christ and the Kingdom. Also, the works of this fellowship grew: thousands saved, in prayer, and studying the Word.

By the late 60s/early 70s, America was broken, and God used Pastor Gray, steadfast in Christ, to promote radio ministry (over 30 years) and television ministry (over 20 years), well before many churches throughout the nation caught that vision. He encouraged bus ministry for children, youth and seniors. He built a large Sunday School, the foundation for producing Christian disciples. He led the church in baptizing every Sunday. His vision led thousands in organized prayer, in inter-racial, cross-cultural pastoral exchanges (United Prayer Movement). This movement became a model for the nation. It ignited prayer gatherings, revivals and crusades.

He organized a feeding program, which has fed thousands and supplied groceries to the sick, shut-ins, and the needy for more than 45 years. Internationally, Pastor led 2 groups (July, 1985 and August, 1987) to the Holy Land, for prayer, evangelism and church growth through the Spirit of God. Also, PGBC in Africa became a thriving ministry.

In 1977, his vision led to the Pleasant Green Community School, a private, tuition-based elementary through high school, an excellent academic enterprise for urban students. Other creative community engagements: Christian theater; Service Station; Christian Bookstore; purchasing Northeast Jr. High School.

Pastor Gray, nationally-recognized for passion for the lost, continually led us in worship/teaching/ministries, bathed in the credo: “In the name of Jesus.” He faithfully taught saints to pray; to memorize Bible verses/passages; to be their best for Jesus; and to lead holy lives. His great Bible verse was: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) We further esteem his legacy in recorded sermons/music, as well as published books/Bible studies.

On September 29, 1996, God called Pastor Gray from the PGBC pulpit, following a great message. He led a full life, as an excellent shepherd of God’s flock, serving as pastor for thirty-seven years, making an indelible impression on us, to this very day.

Reverend James Blair served as interim pastor for 18 months after the passing of Pastor Gray until the church called the Reverend Lanelle Pickett, Sr. to be its pastor.

In 1998, after a prayerful search, Reverend Lanelle Pickett came to serve this church family. In a pastorate just short of a year, he came with renewed emphasis on family, kindness and humility. He led us in the installation of a ramp for the disabled; ordination of deacons; reorientation of Sunday school literature; and more.

December, 2000, the church family, determined to await the specific gifting of a pastor from God (Eph. 4:11-13), extended the call to leadership to Rev. Dr. Jarvis L. Collier of Los Angeles, CA.

From the start, this phase of our church history ushered in a dynamic, anointed, visionary leadership paradigm. Before and after America’s 9/11 tragedy, we reviewed our legacy, while embracing new ministries: worship; powerful preaching; insightful teaching; New Year’s Day “Praise Bowl” worship; new communication system; cameras/lighting/sound/projection/reproduction equipment/media staffing; 20-terminal Computer Lab; regular baptisms; 2 Church Pictorial Directories; and the annual “State of the Church” address by the Pastor.

Over the years, Pastor’s worship preaching series have consisted of many NT books, designed to sharpen us as Christian disciples. Also, led by the Pastor, our Bible teaching emphasis has taken us through critical doctrines/spiritual principles: “Spiritual Gifts,” “Finances,” “Spiritual Excellence,” and “Kingdom Living,” to name a few.

At the same time, we celebrate God in 2 Morning Worships; 2 weekly Bible Study times; completely-renovated sanctuary (all amenities); revamped Sunday School literature/emphasis; standing with, tangible help-members/others in crises; dedicated children/youth ministries; renovated Glory Center; 12 Birth Month small-groups; prompting youth toward college/university life; Graduates Dinner; dedicated JEWELs Women’s Ministry; growing IRON Men’s Ministry; 35+ ministries; annual Blood Drives; 43-unit Northeast Place (senior-housing facility); feeding thousands; and more.

Over the summers, we have been used to reach new persons for Christ through various means: “Praise in the Park” outdoor worship; Freedom School for children/youth; and our spiritual renewal, “Dynamic Destiny” conference, featuring America’s best preachers/psalmists.

We also thank God for the national exposure of our Pastor, acclaimed Author of 9 books; Editor of the National Baptist Voice (denominational magazine); frequent Guest Preacher/Speaker; Denominational Leader (Presidential Candidate, Kansas Baptists); and engaged Civic Leader: Chairman of the Board, United Way of Wyandotte County; regularly featured in local media; joined Mayor in fight against move of EPA building; advocated for grocery store/development for KCK urban, blighted areas; and more.

By way of future plans, we anticipate God using us to establish a “college-prep” elementary school, Pleasant Green Academy of Excellence, for low-income students in the urban community. Indeed, viewing our future, we stand on the Word: “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding, abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us.” (Eph. 3:20)

In a unique manner, this represents only a few aspects of the rich history of this church family. Three constants have characterized us: I) The grace of God; 2) The love of many congregants; and 3) Miracles from heaven.

The Apostle Paul captures truth relative to our rich history: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” (I Cor. 3:6)

Across America and the Kansas terrain, we have experienced highs, transition, upheaval, crisis, pain, loss, and dark moments. Through it all, from 1867-present, we have relied upon the unfailing grace of God to guide us. Armed with enduring faith in God, commitment to Christ, and resilience through the Spirit, we yet glorify God and serve humanity.

We rejoice, finally, as the story yet continues … And, the best years of worship/ministry are yet to come!

Praise the Lord