In 1933, the depth of the great depression, four men of faith with a vision of witnessing for Jesus Christ among University of Illinois students, attended a six-week evangelistic campaign. The campaign inspired Rev. C.C. Stokes, Dr. Frank James, Arthur C. Singbusch and H.R. Shade to organize a new church. This church would serve as a base to reach University of Illinois students with the message of Jesus Christ.
A store in the heart of the campus at 606 S. Third Street, Champaign was rented and the new church, “Illinois Tabernacle” held its first meeting there on December 1, 1933.
During the first months, several area men conducted worship services each Sunday. As church attendance grew and activities increased, the church moved in the spring of 1934 to 206 E. John Street, Champaign and the board realized the need for a full-time pastor. In November of 1934, following special prayer meetings and interviews, the pastoral call was extended to D. Wayne Amsler of Knox, Pennsylvania, a recent graduate of Wheaton College. At this time the church was comprised of 20 adults and one child. Pastor Amsler’s first service was 24 November 1934.
The congregation soon relocated to a rented house at 203 E. Green Street, Champaign, and continued to grow.
In the spring of 1935, they moved again into a rented house at 106 E. Green, Champaign, and in July of that year, the name of the church was changed to “Independent Fundamental Church.”
Church Renamed Twin City Bible Church
A larger congregation needed more space to conduct worship, Sunday School and fellowship meetings. So the vacated property of Trinity Methodist Church, at the corner of Springfield and Matthews, was rented for $50 per month. The first service was held there on March 1, 1936 and the church name was changed again to “Twin City Bible Church” (TCBC). The new location appealed to the congregation because of its proximity to students and faculty from the University of Illinois, in addition to community people. During these early years the members had a growing feeling that the church should look for a permanent home. After much prayer, work and deliberation, on November 1, 1941 the Trustees entered into a contract with Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church to purchase the property where their congregation had been meeting. The purchase price was $7,500, to be paid in 150 monthly installments of $50. All rent previously paid was applied as down payment. The final payment was made in October 1948, in approximately one-half the allotted time.
Challenge of Faith
It was on November 8, 1959 during a fellowship supper that the membership was given the startling news that no more services could be held in their church building. While a number of improvements had just been completed, consulting engineers had been hired to check the building for any necessary structural and roof repairs, and a serious weakness of the masonry walls, which support the roof trusses, was found. Subsequent investigations by architects, engineers and contractors indicated that it was impractical to consider saving the building.
On the very next Sunday, worship services were held in the University of Illinois YMCA. Praise and thanksgiving were given to God, who knew the needs in advance and, in His mercy, provided a place for the church to meet. All Sunday services, Wednesday night prayer meetings and other meetings were held at the YMCA, for about a year-and-a-half.
Vision of TCBC Reconfirmed
A decision had to be made regarding where to locate the new church—in the campus area or out in the community. After much discussion and prayer, it was decided to try to find property that would be in or near the campus area in order to continue ministering to students as the early church fathers had envisioned. In November of 1960 the church purchased an apartment building at the corner of Lincoln and Michigan for $64,000. The apartments were rented out by the Board of Trustees until the building was torn down. In February of 1961 the house next door at 808 West Michigan was purchased for $21,000 and became known as the Church House. The Church House became an office and meeting place for prayer meetings, youth activities, afterglows, fellowship suppers and alumni coffee hours after U of I homecoming football games. The University of Illinois agreed to let the church use Gregory Hall for Sunday meetings, and services began there on Sunday, June 4 1961.
Construction of Present Building
A ground breaking ceremony for construction of the current building was held at the corner of Michigan and Lincoln on 3 June 1962, and excavation of the basement began the following day. In spite of the inconveniences and the disadvantage of not having a permanent church building, the Lord blessed the congregation with increased attendance and spiritual encouragement. He provided the means to continue the full church program. Membership at the time of the annual meeting in 1963 was 187 and attendance at the Sunday morning services was around 300, including about 60 percent students.
A number of gifted pastors have served TCBC through out its history. However, with the call of Senior Pastor Bill Meier in 1991, TCBC saw its vision come full circle, as Pastor Meier was a product of it’s ministry. Bill Meier had become a Christian when, as a graduate student, he wandered into TCBC one Sunday morning feeling discouraged and disconsolate. Senior Pastor Jim Conway was speaking that Sunday, and through him, the Lord began to draw Bill Meier to Himself. Later, Bill met his wife Mindy through TCBC. After attending Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Bill Meier served as an intern under Pastor Conway for one year before moving on to serve with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as a pastor in Ann Arbor, Michigan before accepting the call to serve TCBC.
With so much happening and so many people coming and going, how does a church stay focused? The church leadership met at a retreat in May of 1997 to consider the vision of TCBC. Out of that meeting came a new vision statement to help direct our energies and plans. The leadership agreed TCBC is to be a Christ-centered church where community and campus come together to make a difference for God’s kingdom throughout the world. Armed with this vision, department chairpersons and board members look for the practical ways to work out this vision in the every day ministry of the church.
The church began to experience more rapid growth and the time came to make some significant decisions. After all the options were considered, the congregation decided to the continued development of the facilities at the corner of Lincoln and Michigan to keep with it's commitment to bring campus and community together. In January 2007, the Christian Education Annex, built immediately east of the main building, was completed and the children classrooms were quickly filled to capacity.
Also in January 2007, Pastor Bill Meier announced his resignation to be effective in the summer. In June, by an overwhelming majority, Associate Pastor Shannon Caughey was called by the congregation as the next Senior Pastor. Once again TCBC benefited from its vision to serve the campus because Pastor Shannon initially attended TCBC as a University of Illinois student, as did his wife, Cathy. They returned in 1999 so Shannon could serve as an intern as part of his MDiv program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. At the completion of his internship he was called to join the TCBC staff as an associate pastor. Officially Shannon assumed his role as the Senior Pastor August 1, 2007.
At the April 12, 2011 semi-annual meeting, the TCBC membership approved the establishing of a second site in the Scott Park area. We want to live out the transforming message of Jesus in our daily lives by demonstrating his love to the university campus and by working for the renewal and restoration of our city. In order to expand this vision, TCBC Midtown (began services on March 1, 2012) was established as a second TCBC location in the diverse area that links campus with downtown Champaign.