Pastor John Roberts Celebrates 50 Years as Pastor of Indiana Avenue Missionary Baptist Church in Ohio

When Indiana Avenue Missionary Baptist Church was started, Pastor Roberts was a teenager. He moved to Toledo in 1944. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
When Indiana Avenue Missionary Baptist Church was started, Pastor Roberts was a teenager. He moved to Toledo in 1944.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

The Rev. John Roberts is one of the originals at Indiana Avenue Missionary Baptist Church. He was present for the church’s founding by the Rev. M. J. Stephenson in February 1946 and has led as pastor for 50 years, since Jan. 17, 1965. 

“He and I both were in the organizational meeting of the church,” said Sister Florence Butts; congregants use the terms “sister” and “brother.”

The first Sunday services at 640 Indiana Ave., in 1948, were in the lower, basement level.

“In ’68 we went into the upper level,” Pastor Roberts said. “And in 1980, we put this [sanctuary] on. In 1989 we put the [fellowship] hall on,” which is gymnasium-size. The hall, which cost $400,000 to build, is named for the Revs. Roberts and Stephenson, and it was built in part to support young people.

“I care more about what is done for the younger people than I do anything,” Pastor Roberts, 88, said. “One of the reasons why we built the hall, is basketball and volleyball and things like that, and if you make that a part of the ministry, you can always have a nice-sized congregation and the church will live on through young folks, mainly.”

When Indiana Avenue Missionary Baptist Church was started, Pastor Roberts was a teenager. He moved to Toledo in 1944, from Bryant, Miss., to join his mother after his grandfather died.

Before becoming pastor, he had been the church janitor, a trustee, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, and held other church positions. Then as pastor he held other jobs to support his ministry.

Pastor Roberts has always focused on his Toledo congregation, he said. “If you really want to build a nice-sized church, you need to be there for the people.”

When he was called as pastor, the church had about 75 members. In the past 50 years, more than 7,000 names have been added to the membership roll, he said. There could be as many as 2,000 current members, congregation member Mary Edwards said.

“I’ve been blessed to have some nice people,” Pastor Roberts said. “We try to stay away from arguments and fussing and that type of thing.”

The church built a strong music program as well. Sister Butts started and led the music program and, according to Sister Edwards, “She’s the one who passed the baton to his son,” the Rev. Derrick Roberts, and made him minister of music.

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Source: Toledo Blade | TK BARGER

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