With over 3,200 members and more than 5,500 people attending any one of four weekend services, non-denominational Elmbrook Church in suburban Brookfield is the largest unaffiliated religious congregation in the state of Wisconsin. What began in 1956 with five families gathering for prayer in hopes of starting “a gospel-preaching church,” initially operated as the First Baptist Church and met in local schools with a volunteer pastor. Prior to hiring a salaried pastor in 1959 or erecting its first building in 1963, the church began to support overseas missionaries. This commitment remains one of Elmbrook’s core priorities; the church currently provides monetary and prayer support for over eighty missionaries and mission organizations. This international focus was also apparent in 1970 when the church hired an Englishman, Stuart Briscoe, as head pastor. Briscoe and his wife Jill oversaw three decades of phenomenal membership growth due in part to two national trends: suburbanization and the rise of evangelical, non-denominational Protestantism. As attendance grew, so too did Elmbrook’s physical plant, which now hosts worship services in its 3,200-seat sanctuary as well as a chapel that seats 1,300 people. Elmbrook’s vision further expanded in 1979 when it started a daughter church, Eastbrook, on Milwaukee’s East Side. Since then Elmbrook has been involved in starting thirteen other local congregations, all but one with “brook” incorporated into their names. Although only loosely connected by informal cooperation, the “brook” churches are known as evangelical congregations that believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God.
- ^ Membership and attendance figures from interview with Elmbrook head pastor Jason Webb, July 18, 2016.
- ^ “Early Years” scrapbook entry, box 1, folder 2, Elmbrook Church Archives.
- ^ Although officially incorporated in 1958, the true beginning of Elmbrook Church is traced back to the regular gatherings of the Harris, Baldwin, Davidson, Hoover, and Lutz families at their homes in 1956 for Bible study and to pray about starting a church in the Brookfield area. “Early Years” scrapbook entry, box 1, folder 2; “Elmbrook Church” recollections by Violet Baldwin, 1983, box 21, folder 2, both in Elmbrook Church Archives. As the group grew, it rented space at the Cottage Grove School in Brookfield, and Forrest Slane agreed to serve as an unpaid, part-time pastor. “Early Years” scrapbook entry, box 1, folder 2; Church bulletin insert, box 1, folder 2, both in Elmbrook Church Archives. Upon incorporation, they hosted Sunday services at the Leland School in Elm Grove. Church bulletin insert, box 1, folder 2, Elmbrook Church Archives.
- ^ The church built its first building near the intersection of Capitol Drive and Calhoun Road in 1963. “Elmbrook Church Historical Fact Sheet” April 1, 1993, box 21, folder 2, Elmbrook Church Archives.
- ^ Global Mission page, Elmbrook Church website, accessed January 9, 2017.
- ^ Sanctuary and chapel seating capacity figures from interview with Elmbrook head pastor Jason Webb, July 18, 2016.