The Beginning of OBC in Kankakee
Open Bible Center began in the early 1940’s as a mission in West Kankakee under the direction of Reverend Lewis. The first public location was in a basement room in the 100 block of N. Schuyler Avenue. Rev. John Smith assumed responsibilities of the mission in 1944. This was near the end of World War II. Rev. Smith purchased a house at 195 N. Myrtle, in Kankakee in June of 1945. One wall was removed from the first floor to make room for worship services, and the second floor was used as a home for Pastor Smith and his family.
The mission became affiliated in 1947 with Open Bible Churches. Open Bible Churches originated from two revival movements, Bible Standard Conference, founded in Eugene, Oregon in 1918, and Open Bible Evangelistic Association, founded in Des Moines in 1932. Both movements have historical roots that reach back to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1906 at Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California.
In preparation for the future, the congregation purchased 4 lots of property in the 900 block of West Broadway in Bradley, in October of 1947. Rev. James Simons became the next pastor from 1947-1951. He came with the purpose of building a new church on the lots that had been purchased. While constructing the first building, which was a concrete block garage, he lived in an apartment owned by C.M. & Irma Ford at 195 S. Schuyler in Bradley. Church services were held in the Ford’s home at the same address. Each Sunday, the furniture in the living room was rearranged, and the breakfast bar between the living room and the kitchen was used for the pulpit. When the two story garage was finished, Rev. Simons and his family moved into it, and services were held in his living room.
The next phase of expansion required that a basement be dug on another one of the purchased lots at 947 West Broadway. This would serve as the location of the new church. It was a difficult time for all because the church was small, and building materials were costly. After the basement floor was poured and the walls were built, a roof was erected over the structure and the congregation began using the basement for worship services in the late 1940’s.
Rev. Robert Newberg pastored the church from 1952-1956. He, with the help of others, began to build the upper walls above the basement. The congregation was delighted to move from the basement to the upstairs sanctuary for church services. Realizing the inadequacy of the current parsonage, the congregation also constructed a new parsonage next to the church in 1960’s.
The church continued to grow and expand throughout the years. Under the direction of Rev. Paul Brown, the church eventually purchased the Longfellow school building at 410 S. Small Avenue in west Kankakee, in 1985. At this time, the church also changed its name from Open Bible Church to Open Bible Center, to reflect its desire to serve the community through a variety of ministries. This building continues to serve as the church’s present location. However, in 2007, under the leadership of Pastor Andy Hansen, the church purchased 16 acres of property located directly behind the Walmart located at Exit 308 in Kankakee, for the purpose of expanding and constructing a new and larger facility.
While names, dates and locations may be unimportant to some, we are grateful for the service and sacrifice of the many believers and pastors that have been a part of Open Bible Center from its beginning. May we be encouraged by their faith, as we endeavor to carry on the vision that the Lord has for this church.