About First Church
History of the Ministry
As the purpose of the Almighty God concerning this world unfolds, He has allowed a man to be born. That man's life has been controlled and directed by God himself. At the appointed time the Almighty God reveal himself to him. The path he would take is shown to him...there would be many days of preaching and teaching; many hours of traveling; many occasions of counseling others; many people; many enemies; much untold suffering; much fasting and much praying ...but the divine vision he would receive would be certain and clear...he was appointed a prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ...an ambassador to the nations...a preacher of righteousness...a faithful steward of God that would be driven on by the zeal and knowledge and will of the Almighty God.
"...Come out from among them and be ye separate..." II Corinthians 6 v 17
The beginning of the First Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc. (the incorporated organization) began with Pastor Gino N. Jennings and the divine vision given him of his ministry. The fourth of five sons born to Bishop Ernest and mother Jennings, Pastor Jennings has been involved with the worship of God since he was a child.
The family continued sincerely in what truth they knew for many years. The church where they worshipped was headed by Pastor Jennings' great uncle. Bishop Ernest Jennings was the second in-charge and Pastor Jennings, despite his tender age was third in-charge. He was also the Bible reader for his leader and would often accompany him in his travels. He began preaching at the age of thirteen with a message that could not be more fitting than from Hebrews chapter 11 v 6: "...But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is..."
This message set the stage for his ministry. As the time for the start of Pastor Jennings' ministry drew closer, the Holy Ghost began to make known to him the work he would be appointed to do. He began to tell others. He spoke of his God given vision; of doing a great work involving many people and churches; of a worldwide radio broadcast and many other things. Few believed, some doubted, others mocked. Yet it was on the second day of a three day and three night fast, while still a teenager that the Lord God of heaven appeared unto him:
"He stood there before me ... I saw his hands...something just comes over me when I talk about it...," Pastor Jennings has often testified..."...He showed me my work...," he would say,..."...my calling was made known to me : Jeremiah 1 verse 5...'...Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.' ,... He placed his hands in my face and made it hard as flint..."
After not preaching for a year he was again given the opportunity to speak to the congregation. However, he was told to preach only those things that his pastor taught. He started preaching again but the Holy Ghost had already begun a good work in him. His preaching did not change. The Holy Ghost was still calling for true holiness. He was silenced again for another entire year. Yet he held firmly to the vision given to him; he would not be shaken in mind. The heavy hand and somewhat strange teachings and ways of the leader became a concern. Many were discouraged. Some left. At that time Bishop Ernest Jennings also became ill. Despite the worsening conditions at the church, Pastor Jennings determined within himself not to leave unless he was told to do so by God and God alone. He was allowed to preach again after the end of the second year. But again, his message did not change. By this time, the once beloved helper of his leader, Pastor Jennings was now almost despised by him. It was May 17, 1984, at age 22, when the Holy Ghost finally told him to "...Come out from among them and be ye separate..." He did not hesitate, but went to his leader and told him he was leaving to do the work to which the Holy Ghost had called him. He was told that he was too young to be a leader; that he would have no followers; that he must have the blessings of his leader to prosper. He was unmoved because the vision remained in his mind; it was certain and clear, and he believed that God was faithful.
"...The day of small things..." Zechariah 4 v 10
May 21, 1984. It was the same week in which he had left the false church and decided to start the work God had shown to him. Bishop Jennings, (his father) never considered himself to be a leader and so decided to work under the leadership of his son. Although attempts were made to get a place of worship, the First Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostles' Faith Inc. had its beginnings in the basement of the home of Bishop and Mother Jennings located at 1335 West Jerome Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a humble beginning, yet nonetheless, the beginning. The small basement area was filled with used chairs provided by a friend of the family. An old dresser covered with a white sheet and red valor cloth was used as a pulpit. Small cardboard posters were made proclaiming the well known scriptures of Acts 2 v 38 and Matthew 28 v 19 and hung in the sanctuary. The cement floor was painted. The lighting from two or three wall mounted units helped to provide just enough light to allow reading of the scriptures. A small microphone and speaker box were set up. The winter of that year would see the small underground sanctuary being warmed by the steam rising from a heated pot sitting atop a stove located in the rear of the basement. Music from a small portable piano keyboard blended with the voices of the 12 to 15 sincere and eager souls that gathered to hear the word of the Lord. Headquarters? Yes, this was the headquarters church...it was the day of small things.
Many things would be accomplished from these humble beginnings. After the basement was transformed into an underground church, the Holy Ghost, through Pastor Jennings, continued crying out against pride and fleshly lusts. The false church had not held a genuinely strict standard of holy living. Some things had been taught and believed that were unscriptural. Now changes had to be made to comply with the Law of God. For some in the small group, it was not going to be easy. But gradually, modest apparel replaced worldly fashions and Pastor Jennings, as he was led by the Holy Ghost, set about the hard task of correcting many of the false teachings that had been heard for so many years. During this time, the church was incorporated and the first auxiliaries were formed; The Brotherhood, The Women Workers, The Daughters of Zion, The Ushers, Senior and Children's Choirs, The Prayer Band and a Tape auxiliary. Bishop Ernest Jennings was appointed National Bishop and the first deacon was ordained, Deacon Tyrone Jennings. The first communion service was also held. The Lord wrought miracles by the hand of Pastor Jennings: The hearing in the left ear of Brother Leon Palin was healed; Sister Seline Brown received the Holy Ghost while receiving prayer; Sister Mary McAliley died, prayer was made and the mercy and power of the Lord brought her back to life! The Almighty God had set his approval on the early work of Pastor Jennings! He began preaching in other areas of the country. Soon services were being held in Champagne Illinois, Detroit Michigan and Memphis Tennessee. While flying back from Detroit, he has often recalled how the Holy Ghost spoke to him: "If you are faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over much." Souls began to come from many places to hear the word of the Lord. By the winter of 1988, God had blessed him to be laboring in thirteen areas. Monthly services were being held in Landover and Salisbury Maryland, Stafford Virginia, Philadelphia and other places. More than 350 souls were baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus! Soon the small sanctuary was completely filled. Saints sat on the basement steps, others sat in the kitchen that led down to the basement, and in the dining and living rooms. Still others sat on the front porch of the home where they could hear the booming voice of the servant of God. Services in Philadelphia had to be moved to the Hunting Park Recreation Center on the first Sunday of the month in order accommodate the growing congregation. Of a truth, the word of the Lord was precious in those days...
But there would be times of disappointment and opposition too. On four or five occasions, the sanctuary was completely flooded after heavy rains. Each time, the water was cleaned up and the sanctuary made ready again. The first death of a member of the body occurred, that of Brother Jack Johnson. Mother Sarah Mills was also taken from among us. Other preachers that claimed to be of the Apostles' Faith began to oppose Pastor Jennings and the church as souls began to leave them. But the hand of God was with us and souls continued to come out of the false churches. On August 28, 1988, while services were being held in Jamaica, New York, a false prophet contended with Pastor Jennings concerning the body of Christ. His mouth was stopped, and the word of the Lord was preached mightily that day. Additional souls, amazed at the boldness and power with which the word was preached, left the false church they were attending and were added to us.
"...Their sound is gone out, and their voice to the end of the world..."Rom 10:12
April 2, 1989. The headquarters of the church was moved to 7485 Briar Road, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the fellowship hall of an Episcopalian church was rented. This location provided enough room to accommodate the growing congregation, musical instruments and other equipment. It was a welcomed reprieve from the limited basement space. However, the church's stay at his location would also bring times of great joy and times of deep sorrow. That month would see a big change for Pastor Jennings and Sister Darlene Gayman; they were married April 15, 1989. The ceremony was performed by Bishop Jennings. It was an occasion that will always be remembered; for many it was the first holy wedding they had ever seen. Since his wedding was not to divert his attention from his calling, Pastor Jennings insisted on preaching that same night, and preached he did.
The dawning of 1990. Souls have continued to come from different churches. At that time two things were uppermost in the mind of Pastor Jennings - whether to launch the broadcast or to purchase a headquarters church. He decided that it was time to take the gospel to the air waves. This was communicated to the church and preparations began. The name of the broadcast - The Truth of God Radio Program"> - and format were put together and broadcast rehearsals began in earnest. On one Thursday evening, the saints arrived at the church only to find that the church had been broken into and equipment needed for the up-coming broadcasts, stolen. That night, Pastor Jennings also announced that Sister Snyder of Washington D.C. had been brutally murdered by a family member. The saints were all saddened and disappointed. However, new equipment was purchased and broadcast rehearsals continued. Several local radio stations were contacted. By mid-February, God had provided us with a thirty minute international broadcast on WWCR, Nashville, Tennessee; and a one-hour broadcast on WTMR, Camden, New Jersey. The Truth of God Radio Program was aired for the first time on Sunday March 4, 1990 over WWCR. That same night our one hour program was also heard for the first time on WTMR. This was another step in the fulfillment of the divine vision given to Pastor Jennings. He prayed to God that the program would be heard on ten stations by the end of the first year. By the end of the first year, the Truth of God Radio Program was being on eleven radio stations! God had set his approval on the work of Pastor Jennings yet again. The broadcast continued to grow; numerous letters began coming in from listeners throughout the United States, Nigeria west Africa, Great Britain, the Caribbean and even as far away as New Zealand. By the end of the second year and ten months towards the third, the Truth of God Radio Program was being heard everywhere around the world!
Then suddenly, in the very early hours of April 12, 1991 our beloved Bishop Ernest Jennings and father of Pastor Jennings, died. The suddenness of his death left everyone in shock. His unexpected departure seemed to reverberate through the entire church. Before the church would leave this location Mother Rachel Armstrong, Mother Mary Stacker, Sister Marie Richardson, Sister Cleo Edwards, Brother Clarence Spann and Brother Herman Moore and Brother Jimmie Coleman would also be taken from us.
November 21, 1991. Settlement was made on the present headquarters church located at 2431 Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia. The building was in dire need of repair; the roof leaked in several places and had caused significant interior damage; the stonestructure needed to be pointed; the pavement area was cracked and the open parking lot area was overgrown with bushes and covered with trash. It was going to take a lot of work to get the building fully renovated. The brothers immediately began clearing the first floor of the church. A new floor was laid, and the entire first floor hall painted and the woodwork stained. Work continued almost daily despite the cold temperatures and there not being any heat in the building. Renovation of the first floor was completed and dedication services were held on February 2, 1992. It was a happy occasion and two were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Pastor Jennings' desire that the church have its own headquarters' building had come to pass.
After 25 years at Frankford Avenue, the work continued to grow and the Lord constantly added to the church. With the constant growth at Frankford Avenue, the capacity was outgrown in which a new Headquarters Temple was sought after in Philadelphia.
Finally, on June 29th, 2016, settlement was made on the present headquarters church located at 5105 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA. 19120.
God has and is blessing First Church daily allowing First Church to go from being on a corner to the expansion of a city block. Now First Church have a New International Headquarters Campus.
So then, some of the beginning of the vision given to Pastor Jennings has been written. Also, many witnesses (Pastors' Wife - Sister Darlene, Brother Mike Ravenel, Brother Steven Williams, and others) were told about the vision given to our leader, teacher, and guide Apostle/Pastor Gino Jennings.
The beginning of the First Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc. has unfolded just as the Almighty God had shown him. The works and accomplishments of the church indicate clearly that a true prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ has arisen and is among us. As the future becomes the present and the present becomes the past, it is certain that we will not only write the vision, but it will be made plain in the sight of many so that he that fears God may run.
By Brother Dan Thompson