The rich history of New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church began in 1934 under the leadership of Rev. Elijah Thurston. The leadership and vision of four generations of Thurston men and a committed body of believers have led New Covenant to be one of the most well-respected and dynamic church in the Chicagoland area with pastor and people co-laboring to advance God’s Kingdom.
Honoring The Past
The Leadership of Rev. Elijah Thurston (1934-1968)
In 1934, Rev. Elijah Thurston was ordained as pastor of the Salem Baptist Church (37th & Langley) in Chicago after the death of Pastor B.L. Rhodes. Three years later, Rev. Elijah reorganized, relocated, and renamed Salem Baptist Church to be called the 44th Street Baptist Church (735 East 44th Street) in Chicago. As a man with a vision, Elijah Thurston pioneered the famed 44th Street Baptist Church Radio Ministry, the first Black religious broadcast in Chicago.
Spearheading by a weekly Sunday night radio broadcast, Rev. Elijah’s resounding proclamation “I Heard, I Heard, the voice of Jesus say, come unto me and rest; lie down thy weary one, lie down, thy head upon my breast” could be heard across the airwaves of Chicago. Sparked by a powerful spirit, his fiery prayers pricked the hearts of countless listeners and led many to Christ.
In 1956, Elijah Thurston led the congregation to reach another milestone, moving from 44th Street to its landmark location at 740 East 77th Street and renaming the church New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church. With God’s guidance and the diligent assistance of his son Rev. John L. Thurston, Rev. Elijah continued to boldly lead the congregation until his death on March 17, 1968.
The Leadership of Rev. John L. Thurston (1948-1979)
Rev. John Lee Thurston co-labored with his father, Rev. Elijah Thurston, after accepting his call to the Gospel and delivering his first sermon in 1948. Rev. John was ordained and appointed assistant pastor in 1950 while continuing to his father in building God’s kingdom through “The Church of a Thousand Welcomes”. Eight years later, he was appointed co-pastor and ultimately served as the second pastor of New Covenant after the death of his father in 1968. Rev. John grew in wisdom, knowledge, and strength as he led the church to new heights.
He continued the rich tradition of spirit-filled preaching, strong leadership and service, and emerged as an advocate for social justice. During the tumultuous times of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Rev. John was elected as president of the Chicago chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As such, he opened the doors of New Covenant to community and religious leaders including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1969, the John L. Thurston Scholarship Foundation was established to support the post-secondary educational pursuits of youth.
Armed with his business acumen and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Rev. John led the church in building and opening the New Covenant Day Care Center in 1971. This served as a facility for pre-school aged children for ten years until it was transformed into the John L. Thurston Center for Christian Development. It was during this time under Rev. John’s leadership that the church facilities were remodeled and expanded, which included the installation of a balcony and offices along with the purchase and building of a parking lot. Rev. John Thurston continued the legacy of the well-respected radio broadcast, proclaiming and imploring listeners to “Praise God from who all blessings flow”. He continued to co-labor in ministry with his son, Rev. Stephen J. Thurston, until his death on January 21, 1979.
Celebrating The Present
The Leadership of Rev. Stephen J. Thurston (1971-Current)
Easter Sundays were milestones in the ministry of Rev. Stephen John Thurston. He accepted his call to the Gospel and preached his initial sermon (Easter Sunday, April 11, 1971); was ordained and appointed as the assistant pastor of New Covenant M.B. Church (Easter Sunday, April 14, 1974); and was appointed as the co-pastor (Easter Sunday, March 30, 1975). After the death of his father, Rev. John L. Thurston, in 1979, he became the pastor of New Covenant M.B. Church. Equipped with Elijah’s faith, courage, and spirit while acquiring the wisdom, quest for knowledge, and strength of his father, Rev. Stephen J. Thurston proudly proclaims his testimony “He has done great things” around the world.
Rev. Stephen J. Thurston made history serving as the youngest elect president of the National Baptist Convention of America, Intl., Inc. in September 2003. His son, Rev. Stephen John Thurston II, accepted his call to the Gospel and preached his initial sermon on March 14, 1999. He was appointed as co-pastor on June 19, 2004 and officially installed on September 12, 2004, becoming the fourth generation Thurston to lead New Covenant M.B. Church.
Rev. Stephen J. Thurston is God’s appointed pastor to spiritually lead the people of New Covenant. Through life-changing ministries, Sunday worship services, weekly bible study, and a strong media presence, New Covenant is committed to effectively changing the lives of its members, the community, and the nation.
Building The Future
A local church with a worldwide vision sums up the future of New Covenant. On October 5, 2008, New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church family and friends celebrated the completion of its state-of-the-art worship center expanding its current location to 754 East 77th Street in Chicago. This edifice equipped with an 1,100 seat sanctuary, multipurpose gymnasium, bookstore, and classrooms was designed to provide ministry and services to the community, friends, and church family. This worship center is where New Covenant can continue to grow through fellowship and Christian Education, and meet the needs of every individual’s mind, body, and soul. The members of New Covenant are committed to creating a Christian Community Cradled in Kingdom Quality and the church will continue to use its ministries, strong media presence, extraordinary leadership, and the favor of God to touch the souls of men, women, and children around the world.