While living in Louisiana, Rev. Kelly Key was given the vision to organize a church in Los Angeles, California. In 1946, Rev. Kelly Key, under divine orders, organized the Southern Missionary Baptist Church. When this great church was organized, Pastor Key envisioned she would serve as a beacon light guiding lost souls to Christ. As the church moved from the east side to the west side of Los Angeles, her guiding light would reach more souls. Pastor Key established auxiliaries as the arms of the church. He launched our church radio broadcast more than 50 years ago, and our church holds the great honor of having the longest running radio broadcast in southern California. Through Pastor Key, we were able to burn the note for our original church building. For the 32 years Pastor Key served, he will forever be remembered as the organizer of this body of baptized believers.
In 1978, Southern Baptist called Rev. Joe Louis Gates, Sr. as her second pastor. Understanding the need for people to not only hear the word, but know it for themselves, Pastor Gates instituted various teaching ministries to help the parishioners grow in their relationship with God. The physical building underwent physical changes during his tenure. We went from theater seats to pews; from regular windows to stained glass windows. Following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Pastor Gates served as the general contractor in rebuilding our edifice. We went from a building of 15,000 square feet to more than 30,000 square feet; from eight classrooms and three levels to more than 20 classrooms and four levels with an elevator; from seating 400 people to seating 1000 people. Since the earthquake, Pastor Gates instituted more ministries to help meet the needs of the parishioners and community. Pastor Gates’ legacy, for the 30 years he served, will be that of a visionary as well as dedicated servant of God who put his love for the church before his own needs. Dr. Gates serves as our Pastor Emeritus.
Pastor Xavier L. Thompson was unanimously selected to be the third Pastor of the Southern Church in May 2007. On August 31, 2008, the baton of leadership was passed from Pastor Joe Louis Gates, Sr. to Pastor Xavier L. Thompson. Pastor Thompson is the third servant leader in this church’s history. Pastor Thompson is an anointed and gifted man of God with a passion for God and compassion for people. Just as Pastor Key stood on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, and Pastor Gates stood on the shoulders of Pastor Key – Pastor Thompson is standing on the shoulders of giant men of God and the firm foundation of Jesus the Christ. With Pastor Thompson as the under-shepherd, Southern Baptist will reach new heights in ministry. Pastor Key’s vision of her serving as a beacon guiding men, women, boys and girls to Christ will shine even brighter. Pastor Gates’ vision of this church being viable in the 21st century and meeting the needs of the members and community will grow even larger! We believe that the best is yet to come!