Christ Temple Apostolic Church
370 Lincoln Street
Oberlin, Ohio 44074

District Elder Laurence E. Nevels, Pastor

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A History

Mark Simmons, Jesse Levine and Sarah Reynolds
Oberlin College
Fall 2003

            Christ Temple Apostolic Church is a Pentecostal church.  Well known for its outreach and evangelism, Christ Temple has a growing membership. Fervent prayer, an active Sunday School, and lively services characterize the church.  Its roots lie in the beginning of the Pentecostal faith, and it is affiliated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW). 

            As a ministerial organization, the congregation of Christ Temple is affiliated with the PAW through the pastor.  The congregation owns the church building, which it runs independently.  The District Elder may help find and approve pastors when asked; however, the congregation makes the ultimate decision in the appointment of pastors. 

            According to the PAW, the Pentecostal faith and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the world are the continuation of the great revival that began in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, AD 33.  While in prayer, the Apostles and prophets bean spontaneously to speak in tongues.  This was understood as evidence that they had received the Holy Spirit.  Receiving the Holy Spirit along with salvation through Jesus Christ and baptism are the foundations of the Pentecostal faith.  The Apostolic faith is an extension of Pentecostal Christianity based on Acts 2.

            In the twentieth century, the Pentecostal faith has become one of the largest Christian traditions in the world.  Two men played especially important roles: Charles Parham (1873-1929) and William Joseph Seymour (1870-1922).   

Charles Parham was a white Methodist who believed that sanctification was a second work of grace, separate from salvation, coupled with the Holiness belief of a third experience of baptism with the Holy Spirit.  He experienced and emphasized speaking in tongues, which, at the end of the nineteenth century, seemed to others like a peculiar practice that had ended in the apostolic age. 

In 1900, Parham began a bible school to promote these views, which he deemed “Apostolic Faith Theology.”  His school and his audience were, at first small; but when people started to have remarkable experiences speaking in tongues, Parham and his teachings gained notoriety and the faith grew.

William Joseph Seymour, the other central figure in the American Pentecostal movement, came out of Parham’s Bible School, and moved to Los Angeles in 1906.

There, Seymour spearheaded what came to be known as the Azusa Street Revivals, conducted from 1906 to 1909.  These revivals drew much attention for their racially mixed congregations.  They ignited interest around the world in Pentecostalism.

William Joseph Seymour

The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World is a ministerial organization that emerged in 1919, after the Azusa Street Revivals.  The central theological issue that distinguishes the Pentecostal faith is its position on baptism.   Pentecostals note that Jesus commanded baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; but in the Book of Acts, baptism takes place in the name of Jesus alone.    Pentecostals baptize in the name of Jesus alone, moving from recognition of the Trinity to a doctrine of Oneness.  PAW is now the major organization center for the Pentecostal Oneness doctrine.

            Christ Temple Apostolic Church in Oberlin has been affiliated with the PAW since its founding.  Named after the Mother Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, Christ Temple in Oberlin embraces the Pentecostal faith and the Oneness doctrine. 

            Christ Temple in Oberlin was founded in 1913 when Willie Lawson, inspired by the Oneness doctrine, baptized Garrett Smith in Plumb Creek.  It was winter, so the ice had to be chipped back to allow for Smith’s full immersion.

By 1914, Lawson and congregation rented their first building, a house on the corner of South Park and Sumner Streets.  When that building was sold the next year, the church moved to a house at 191 Grafton Street.  In 1918, Christ Temple moved again, now to its third home in five years, a storefront in the business district, near Vine and Main Streets.


At this time, Christ Temple was not very popular with the Oberlin police.  One memorable story involves an officer coming to arrest Willie Lawson for “disturbing the peace.”  The officer found that he was mesmerized by the service, and could not move himself to lay a hand on the minister.  The officer sat and listened before doing his duty.

1920 was an important year for Christ Temple; its first minister and founder, Willie Lawson, left the church.  However, Christ Temple survived, and the congregation remembers this period of time as one of lively Sunday school sessions and a general attitude of good fellowship. That year, members also traveled to Cleveland where Bishop Garfield Haywood displayed God’s healing power.  Back in Oberlin, baptisms were performed in the Black River, often at night, with car headlights providing illumination.

By 1928, Christ Temple found itself with its lowest membership ever: six members; and the storefront church was in desperate need of repair.  But the energetic Elder Paynes Broadnax began a campaign to increase membership and to raise money to repair the current building, or, better yet, purchase a new one. 

Within two years, the money had been raised and Christ Temple purchased a house at 278 Pleasant Street.  A carpenter was hired to remove the second story and convert the building into a church.  Along with the new building came a great spiritual boom.  A revival was conducted, at which fifteen young people were converted.  One year later, in 1939, Christ Temple was honored with holding the Ohio District Council in its new building.

Sunday School Picnic, 1929

In 1939, however, Christ Temple faced new challenges.  After a dispute among the congregation, some members left to form Glorious Faith Tabernacle Church; many of those who left would later return.

            By 1944, Christ Temple had acquired the land and resources to construct a new building to replace the aging structure it had occupied since 1930.    In 1945, the cornerstone was laid for its new building at 281 South Pleasant Street, and in 1946, the church was completed.

            The next major period in the church’s history began in 1967, when Christ Temple became Christ temple Apostolic Church.  By the mid-1970s, the church made successful efforts to reach out to the community, and had grown significantly, with membership reaching 150.    Today, tent revivals are still held, youth groups continue to form, and the Church was recently honored with hosting the Ohio District Council.

Street Meeting in Tappan Square, 1974  Tarry Meeting, 1970s

            On October 25, 1977, Elder Laurence E. Nevels was recommended to succeed Elder G. Brady Benton and was unanimously received by the congregation.  Elder Nevels has increased the Church Ministries while continuing to reach out to the community.  Over the past twenty-six years, the church has nourished its roots in evangelism and outreach, becoming more socially active in the community. 


Elder and Sister G. Brady Benton

Elder and Sister Laurence E. Nevels

With the arrival of Pastor Nevels, Christ Temple Apostolic Church came to occupy “God’s corner of the Kingdom,” its present home at 370 Lincoln Street.  The church now sits on 7 1/2 acres of land in the southwest corner of Oberlin.

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Pastor Nevels calls Christ Temple “a spiritual hospital to the city. “  In addition to local work, the church hosts a cable ministry, which airs the church services on the Oberlin Cable Channel twice each week.  This ministry serves shut-ins and others who are unable to attend church.  In 1993, Pastor Nevels became Chaplain of the Lorain County Correctional Facility where he ministers to over 1,500 inmates, facilitating religious services and organizing Bible Study for the men.  Pastor Nevels often refers to these men as “the west wing of the congregation.”  Other church members also work at the prison and are involved in ministry with the inmates and their families.  Through the “Angel Tree Ministry,” Pastor Nevels and the church help provide Christmas gifts to the families of incarcerated members during the holiday season. 

            The Church has felt a particularly strong calling to intercessory prayer, and holds multiple prayer services each week.  Miracle Monday Intercessory Prayer invites all.  On the first Friday of each month, the Church holds Late Night Prayer.  The also sponsors other programs, including a ministry for health professionals and “Couples in Christ.”

            In addition to ministering to his spirit-filled congregation, Pastor Nevels also serves as District Elder for Northeast Ohio, and acts as overseer for eight churches in the area.  He supports their pastors and fills their pulpits when needed. 

            Christ Temple Apostolic Church is a vibrant part of Oberlin’s religious community, building fellowship within the church and beyond.


Sunday Services:
Sunday Academy 9:30 am
Morning Worship 11 am


Sources: Special thanks to Pastor Laurence E. Nevels and Sister Dolores Nevels for their assistance.

Pastors of Christ Temple Apostolic Church

Minister and Sister Garrett Smith, First Assistant Pastor
Elder Smith was baptized by founder Willie Lawson

Elder and Sister Paynes Broadnax, Head Pastor 1927-1939

Co-Pastors, 1939-1944

Elder Harold Mills       

Elder and Sister Henry Hamlin


Elder and sister M.C. Jarvis, 1944-1947

Elder William Coleman, 1948-1956


Elder Homer Ray and Granddaughter, 1947.

Elder and Sister Joseph L. Nevels, 1956    

Photo Sources:
2003 Christ Temple Apostolic Church by Sarah Reynolds
Other Photos from Files of Christ Temple Apostolic Church