Sister Nina May Pierce – Founder
The Emmanuel Churches of Christ was founded by Sister Nina May Pierce (nee Gregory). Born April 19, 1900 west of Portland, TN Sister Pierce was raised between two churches, Mount Pleasant Baptist church where her father was a deacon and the Free Methodist Church where her mother attended. In her early teens, the family began to attend the Tomlinson Church of God (Church of God of Prophecy), where she was Sanctified and Received the Holy Ghost in April 1920.
Sister Pierce received the revelation of Jesus Name Baptism while praying and studying her Bible in 1921. This revelation set so heavily on her heart, that she took a train from Bruceton, TN to Portland, TN to share this message with her family. As they sat around the kitchen table, her youngest sister Vera, saw the Light on the importance of the Name. Vera had already repented and professed a faith, later receiving the Holy Ghost in the Church of God of Prophecy, but she was never baptized in the formula of the Titles.
Sister Pierce went from meeting to meeting; revival to revival hoping to find someone who would baptize her in Jesus Name according to the book of Acts. All her searching seemed in vain, as some would promise to baptize her in Jesus Name; only to baptize her using the titles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
In March of 1926, Sister Pierce’s sister and and brother in law, Bill and Vera Beatty, moved to Bay City, Texas. While there, Vera began attending a revival being held down the street from where they lived, at the Emmanuel’s Church in Jesus Christ. This was a large movement in Texas and some of the southwestern states; this movement merged with other Oneness groups in 1948 to form the UPCI.
Vera worked nightly in the altar praying people through to the Holy Ghost. The pastor, Brother R. C. Hall in September told her that he would like to come by the house and visit with her and Bill. Brother Hall taught and believed that no one could have the baptism of the Holy Ghost without being baptized in Jesus Name. He was amazed when he learned that Vera was not baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ. He said that he knew that she had the Holy Ghost because he had heard her speaking in tongues during the altar services. Vera mentioned to him that Cornelius and his household received the Holy Ghost before they were baptized and he said “Sister that is the Truth”. Later that week Vera and Bill were baptized by Brother R.C. Hall in the Colorado River in Jesus Name. She telegrammed home to her sister, Nina and told her that she had indeed found someone who baptized in Jesus Name.
In March of 1927, Sister Pierce went by train to Bay City, TX and was baptized in Jesus Name by Brother R. C. Hall in the Colorado River. He told her that there were believers of like Faith in Memphis, TN. After her baptism, she returned home to Bruceton, TN (near Memphis) where she attended the First Pentecostal Church of Memphis.
Beginning of the Ministry of Sister Pierce
In July of 1932, Sister Pierce yielded to the call to preach that she had run from for several years. She went to Springfield, TN on several Saturday afternoons and preached on the steps of the Courthouse. She stepped out alone with only a guitar, a couple of song books, her Bible, two white dresses, less than $1.00 in her purse, and no one to encourage. Some people who heard her asked her to come to Adairville, KY. In Adairville, Sister Pierce preached in the park off of the square. Sister Lena Chaney invited her to come to Old Logan Mill, where they built a brush arbor for the meeting, the pulpit and stage was a rickety wagon bed.
Our oldest operating congregation within the Emmanuel Churches of Christ, Logan Mill Emmanuel Church of Christ, stands not far from where that very brush arbor was erected.
A great revival broke out and much conviction was experienced in the surrounding area. There were reports of men falling to their knees and repenting with tears in the fields as they plowed and worked with their teams. Reports were heard of shouts of victory ringing out over the hills and hollows as men and women rejoiced in their new experience. Sister Pierce was happy to preach under trees, in front of courthouses, in city parks, homes, any place that there was an open door of invitation. A business man from Russellville, KY, gave financial support and purchased a tent for her. This was welcomed relief because she had lived an almost hand-to-mouth existence.
At first Sister Pierce did not preach Water Baptism in Jesus Name and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. The Lord had instructed her to preach evangelisticly to win the confidence of the people. Later in the fall she began to preach on Water Baptism and many souls were baptized in Jesus Name in the Red River. The business man threatened to withdraw his financial support if she continued to preach the Jesus Name Message. She told him that she was not for sale, and that it was better for her to obey God than man. He withdrew all financial support and predicted that she and her message would not last six months.
The Lord spoke to her again reaffirming His promise of 1925 that He would provide for her. Times were hard and she often received less than twenty cents in the offering. She didn’t have an automobile and had to travel by bus, train, or by someone generously driving her to her appointments. Sister Caltrop from Adairville would send a box of fresh eggs, vegetables, and other items home with her each week and that supplied her need for food for the week. The Lord made a way for her. She took the tent and held meetings in Gallatin, Hartsville, Lafayette, Nashville, and Carthage, TN. with many professions of faith.
Her father and mother did not encourage her to go out and preach the Gospel. In fact, her father didn’t believe in women preachers. She preached at a neighbor’s home across the field from her family’s farm. Her father pretended to be asleep while she was preaching. When he returned home he told her mother, “Nina, is the only woman preacher that I’ve ever heard that could stick to her topic”. A couple of weeks later she held a tent meeting in Portland, TN. On a Saturday night she preached on Jesus Name Baptism as her family was present in the meeting. The next day her grandfather, step grandmother, her uncle and her father were all baptized in Jesus Name in the Red River.
She returned to Old Logan Mill and Adairville during the winter months of 1932 and early 1933 – over 100 received the gift of the Holy Ghost evidenced with speaking in tongues.
The Birth of the Emmanuel Churches of Christ
In the beginning of Sister Pierce’s ministry, there was no thought of her pastoring, much less of the beginnings of an organization. She was an Evangelist, that was her heart and where she found fulfillment. However, after there were threats of arrest for “preaching without a license”, Sister Pierce was advised to organize.
The Emmanuel Churches of Christ were organized on February 16, 1933. A Charter, Basis of Union and By-Laws were written and presented to the State of Kentucky for incorporation on March 18, 1933.
In 1934 a mission work was started in South Nashville in a space that had previously been used as an ice cream parlor. It was located just off of the present Nolensville Road area. The Truth of the Oneness of God, Jesus Name Baptism and Acts 2:38 born again experience swept through the Woodbine area and other surrounding communities in greater Nashville.
In September of 1935, the Emmanuel Churches of Christ annual convention was held in Hartsville, TN. There were over 3,000 in attendance. It was reported at the Convention – that through this ministry there were over 800 baptized in Jesus Name, 300 filled with the Holy Ghost and 9 churches established.
Through the early seeds and ministry of Sister Pierce, and all those that labored with her in this ministry of Truth, thousands of people were brought into this great truth and over 100 churches were started in the south.
Even after Sister Pierce’s ministry concluded, through the many men and women of God that have followed laboring in the local churches, ministering in youth camps and conferences, and rising to help lead this organization, the Emmanuel Churches of Christ has a strong history, legacy and heritage that has lasted for over 80 years. We are an organization that has known greatness, and tribulation… but have persevered through it with the mission of taking this great Gospel to a lost and dying world.
Though the present number of assembly churches within the Emmanuel Churches of Christ is not at it’s largest number, the Emmanuel Churches of Christ are as strong as ever, and as determined as ever to preach the gospel and doctrines the Apostles taught. We are unashamedly Apostolic, Oneness and Pentecostal.
Though Emmanuel still has strong congregations that are fully associated with the assembly, completely operating with the ecclesiastical government and polity of the organization, in recent years under the leadership of our current Bishop-Overseer, Elder Ronnie Banks our doors of fellowship have been opened via Fellowship Licensing of ministers. This is an additional area of credentials, enabling pastors and ministers of like precious faith to be able to unite with the Emmanuel Churches of Christ in common purpose, while their congregations remain autonomous and separate. Those churches still fellowship but do not have voting representation within the General Assembly of the Emmanuel Churches of Christ, nor are they under the governmental oversight of the organization.
The Emmanuel Churches of Christ has two Annual meetings where the entire organization, its credentialed ministry, as well as those ministers who fellowship with Emmanuel; come together for common purpose and worship. Those two meetings are the 3rd Saturday of March and the entire week (Monday-Friday) of Labor Day in September. These are our Bi-Annual and General Assembly meetings respectively.