Fifty-year-old church plant
Beginning in 1963 with a few families meeting in a basement, Emmanuel launched as Fridley Assembly of God, a steadily growing church serving the northwest Twin Cities. Later becoming Emmanuel Christian Center after moving to its current location in the late 1980s, today Emmanuel is a diverse, multi-generational body of Christ followers with one aim: to fulfill the Great Commission by raising up disciples in our community, nation, and world. Having had only three senior pastors in its more than 50-year history, Emmanuel is a growing church that relies on prayer and Spirit-empowered preaching to train disciples and send out leaders to all corners of the earth.
In the early 1960s, several families in the Twin Cities began dreaming about planting an Assemblies of God church in the Fridley area. At the same time, unbeknownst to the families, God was speaking with Mark and Shirley Denyes about leaving their home in Missouri and settling in Fridley, Minnesota, to pastor an Assemblies of God church.
Still unaware of the community's desire for a church but knowing they’d heard God’s voice, the young Denyes family obeyed God's leading and moved to Minnesota in March of 1963, finding the group of families planting an Assemblies of God church. On Mother’s Day, only the second Sunday of the small church’s existence, Pastor Denyes delivered the message. Right away, the church knew they had found their senior pastor. They officially elected Pastor G. Mark Denyes just a few weeks later.
Emmanuel Christian Center
In 1979, the little church that began in a basement was now Fridley Assembly of God. As they prayed and dreamed about relocating to a larger facility, they decided to build a new church. They purchased eight-and-a half acres across the street at 7777 University Avenue and made ambitious plans for a 3,000 seat sanctuary.
In 1987 construction began, and Fridley Assembly purchased another eight acres of land adjacent to the first plot. In moving from Fridley to Spring Lake Park, they needed a new name. On November 4, 1987, they became Emmanuel Christian Center. Emmanuel means “God with us.”
In May of 1988, Emmanuel both celebrated its 25th anniversary and had its final service at 472 Osborne Road. On the final service, both worship services were full. It was an emotional time with a mixture of sadness in leaving the old location and joyful anticipation at what God had in store for Emmanuel's future!
In the first Sunday of June 1988, Emmanuel held the first service in its new home. With God’s help, Emmanuel grew quickly, and very soon the 1,500 seat sanctuary was packed. To make services more comfortable for everyone, the church decided in September of 1989 to return to two worship times.
In 1992 Emmanuel added 16,000 square feet to the education wing to service its families. The growth in attendance continued, and in May of 1997, Emmanuel enlarged the Sanctuary to accommodate 3,000 worshippers. The church also added a chapel with a capacity of 450, more classrooms, and more parking.
The Changing of the Guard
The church was about to enter a new season. In 2006, after 43 years of faithful service to the church family, founding pastor G. Mark Denyes announced he was stepping down as Senior Pastor and transitioning into the role of Founding Pastor.
Pastor Denyes' son, Dwight Denyes, who had been Executive Pastor since 2002, was voted in as Emmanuel's new Senior Pastor in March of 2006. Pastor Dwight brought his own leadership style and gifts into the position and led with humility and in the power of the Holy Spirit. His passion was to help all who attend Emmanuel Christian Center to become fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Dwight Denyes always felt he was a transitional leader; he described himself “a leader between leaders.” In 2012 he felt his assignment at Emmanuel Christian Center would be complete on March 3, 2013. He let the board know his intentions and helped them begin the search for a new pastor.
Through a series of confirmations in which God made it clear who he wanted as the next senior pastor, on November 26, 2012, the church elected Nate Ruch as the Lead Pastor of Emmanuel Christian Center. He worked with Pastor Dwight and was installed on March 10, 2013.
On March 11, 2013, the Founding Pastor, G. Mark Denyes, passed away. The church mourned. On May 5, 2013, the church celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Now and the Future
Pastor Nate Ruch is a dynamic leader. He is very familiar with Emmanuel Christian Center, because he had been the youth pastor of JC’s Place, Emmanuel's student ministries, from 1994-2003. During this time, he had the privilege of working for the Founding Pastor, G. Mark Denyes. Many of Pastor Denyes’ dreams have been planted in Pastor Nate’s heart.
Pastor Nate will continue to help the people of Emmanuel become fully-devoted followers of Christ. He will focus on the preaching of the Word with the power of the Holy Spirit. In addition, he is gifted with developing leaders and improving systems for growth. So, get ready for more, because Jesus is on the move at Emmanuel!