Elmbrook: A Rich History
In 1957, five families joined to pray about a unique vision to form a new church. These five families came from Garfield Baptist church, but felt God's desire for them was to reach the community and introduce more people to the gospel. They had no pastor and no building, but they had hope.
That hope soon grew into First Baptist Church of Brookfield. They met for the first time on February 1, 1958 in Leland School with 30 people in attendance. The church had an annual income of $2,933, which they used to support two missions teams, Viola Brown, and Ray and Lola Liola. They knew how important missions were to the growth of God’s kingdom, and valued that vision. As they continued to reach the Brookfield area, they hired a salaried pastor, Ted Anderson, in 1959.
Attendance increased to 68 people, with an additional 85 involved in Sunday school. 47 of these became members of the church, and with that commitment, chose to experience intimacy with God, mature as followers of Jesus, influence their community, and impact the world with the good news of God's love. The church now had a budget of $7,306 that allowed for further support to global missions. The growth of children involved in the church was accommodated by the building of Sunday school facilities on Calhoun Road in Brookfield to facilitate ministry to the next generation of the church.
First Baptist Church of Brookfield dropped their Baptist affiliation and became the non-denominational church we know today, Elmbrook Church. The year before, 1967, saw the building of a sanctuary on Calhoun Road to accommodate about 350 people, but the church had already grown past that capacity. There were now 700 people in attendance. The church hired their first full time pastor, Bob Hobson, in 1968 and added a second morning service and an evening service to reach the growing congregation. Elmbrook Church was blessed to see God working alongside them in the community to bring people into a place where His love could be communicated.
777 South Barker Road, Brookfield. Elmbrook Church had a new address and broke ground on the present site. The church had grown from 30 people meeting in a school to 1,100 meeting in two locations: Calhoun Road and Ruby Isle Theater. The facilities at Calhoun Road were no longer big enough for God’s plan to make Himself known in the Brookfield community. Stuart Briscoe came to Elmbrook as Senior Pastor in 1970 and, under his leadership, 39 acres were purchased for $100,000 and the church moved to into its next phase. God provided during this time of expansion and the church’s annual giving increased to $337,000. 1972 was the first year Elmbrook Church hosted the World Missions Conference that has since become Harvestfest. This conference showed Elmbrook’s desire for God’s kingdom to grow globally.
The first service in the new location was held, but the growth of the church still surpassed anyone’s imagination. A new, bigger sanctuary had been built, but hundreds more people were flocking to the church to hear about the One who loves them. Two weeks after the first service in the new facility, a second service had to be added. The church also expanded the Library, the parking lot and added a classroom wing. There were now six people on the pastoral staff. Two years later, a third service was added on Saturday evenings.
A third Sunday morning service was added for a total of four services. But that wasn’t all that was new that year. Billy Graham came to Elmbrook. The Study Center began, along with a media ministry. A church survey was taken to find that 63 percent of the attendants had been in the church five years or less. There were 1500 children and 900 high school aged children. Elmbrook planted its first church, Eastbrook, with pastor Dr. Marc Erickson, and expanded the missions ministry, to $332,000. The missions focus was and is important to Elmbrook as the church not only wanted to reach Brookfield, but saw the need for biblical teaching throughout the Southeastern Wisconsin area and the world.
The '80s was a monumental decade at Elmbrook. There were three new church plants in quick succession. Westbrook came first in 1983, pastored by Mike Frans. 1985 saw the start of Northbrook, pastored by Lee Heyward. And Mark Seeford pastored Meadowbrook, which started in 1989. Elmbrook also helped found two churches for refuges in Laos. During this decade, the south wing classrooms and offices were added, the seating in the sanctuary was expanded and the west wing activity center, including the gymnasium and more classrooms, was added. Elmbrook Church began telecasting Sunday service on Channel 12. Faith Promise hit $1 million in 1987, making it one of the largest global missions budgets of its day. This allowed Elmbrook the capability to support more than 80 missionaries, ministry organizations and mission apprentices across the globe.
At this point, expansion couldn’t be put off any longer and Elmbrook broke ground on a new, 3,000-seat sanctuary and educational wing. It was important that the building could accommodate the growing congregation. In 1994, the new sanctuary was complete and Sunday service moved into its current home. But this church still needed more space to accommodate the many ministries hosted here. By 1996, there was a completed third floor education addition, Amphitheater and a remodeled Chapel, Library, Bookstore, Fellowship Hall and kitchen. Elmbrook Church now had 6,000 adults in attendance, 20 pastors, 3600 members, 125 missionaries with a $1,250,000 missions budget, and a weekly live radio broadcast of the 10:45 am service.
Mel Lawrenz became the new Senior Pastor, as Stuart and Jill Briscoe transitioned to Ministers-at-Large. With the completion of the outside plaza, “Project Expand” was complete: a doubling in size of the church facility. The church made a new commitment to wide-ranging digital ministry and media integration, intentionally expanding Elmbrook via the internet with uploads of sermons and written media.
The first annual session of The International Center took place this year, with leaders form Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America gathering for three weeks of intensive training. Sunday morning expanded to three worship services. Mel Lawrenz introduced “engagement” as the central ministry focus.
Elmbrook began a year-long celebration of 50 years of ministry, a Year of Jubilee, with a focus on “The Christ Life.” This focus took the congregation through a year-long study of Luke’s Gospel, making this a year of celebration and growth in the congregation. The church also celebrated retiring all debt from Project Expand, and becoming debt-free.
Elmbrook’s commitment to global mission was reflected in a record Faith Promise commitment of $2.8 million. Elmbrook planted Brooklife Church in Mukwonago, and some of Elmbrook’s other plants began planting churches of their own including Oakbrook and Kettlebrook, with more to come.
Mel Lawrenz transitioned to a Minster-at-Large role and launched The Brook Network for resourcing leaders locally and globally. Phillip Griffin was called as Senior Pastor. He instituted Spanish worship translation a year later, in 2011.
Phillip Griffin resigned from his role and Lead Pastor Scott Arbeiter was named as interim pastor while the search for a new Senior Pastor began. Granddaughter churches such as Oakbrook and Kettlebrook began planting church plants of their own, expanding outreach in the Milwaukee area.
Jason Webb, former Senior Pastor at Elmbrook daughter church Brooklife, was called as Senior Pastor. Brodie Swanson, who was previously Elmbrook's Children and Family Pastor, moved into the Senior Associate Pastor role. The Commons area was completed, which connected the Library and Bookstore resource ministries, and a new mission statement was developed.
Albo Esilaba of Kenya was called as Elmbrook's second Senior Associate Pastor, and the church leadership embarked on a year-long process to clarify the mission of Elmbrook Church. In September the mission statement was introduced at Vision Weekend: "To help people become Rooted in Christ and Released to His Mission."
Elmbrook en Español campus was launched. Paco Cojon was called as Associate Pastor.
The Lake Country campus was launched. Chris Henkaline was called as the Campus Pastor.