Olive Branch Community Church was born December 4, 1988 at 7pm. Pastor Ike Riddle led twelve people that first night, and most were children and teenagers. We met every Sunday and Tuesday until the day we went “public” on Palm Sunday 1989. As a result of becoming a daughter church of Saddleback Church, we had been able to mail out 30,000 flyers and God blessed us with 160 people that first Sunday.
The use of this high school was a miracle. We had asked the school district about a year earlier about using their facilities and they answered, “No!” But this church had been birthed and nurtured through intense prayer and now the Lord prompted Pastor Ike to ask again. They said yes and we had a new church home. Up until this time the district had been closed to all church use, but since then, many churches have been able to meet in schools all over the district. We met at Norco High for about a year.
Auburndale Jr. High
In September of 1990 Pastor Ike married Sharon and the next week Olive Branch moved to Auburndale Jr. High. Equipment continued to be hauled in a little trailer behind Pastor Ike’s red pick-up. It was here that the Lord added to the church many more wonderful families that would become the foundation of our church’s leadership team. One family moved here from Colorado and brought with them tenacity, experience in church growth, wisdom and maturity.One couple kept inviting their neighbors and eventually they came, dedicated their lives to Christ and became hard-working and sacrificial servants in almost every area of leadership. The Lord brought people with love for and experience in sound, children’s ministry, music and marriage counseling. He used them to help many families turn their lives around and get “on track” with God. The church was still small in numbers, but big in heart and definitely had a great family feel that attracted many.
In December of 1991 we felt the Lord leading us to a facility that would not have to be set up every week. We looked at several buildings, but none were within our budget. Pastor Ike thought we should rent space in an industrial building on Parkridge, but the $2,000/month lease payment looked impossible. We had to complete the build-out work in 21 days to avoid double payments (which we definitely could not afford). This intense project thoroughly exhausted our men, who worked regular jobs during the day and the project every night until the early in the morning. Looking back, it was clear that God had accomplished what seemed impossible to us. The final sign off was late Friday evening, the building was painted throughout the night, carpet was laid on Saturday and we worshipped in awe on Sunday morning.
One of the greatest blessings about this facility was that as we grew, we were able to lease more space. We added a new sanctuary and the old one became our Children’s Church. We added the building that would eventually house our preschool. Our resilient Youth Ministry was moved more than once during these growth spurts. During this period of time the Lord was gracious to send us multi-skilled, servant-hearted and self-denying people who worked hundreds of hours to meet our growing facility needs.
And it was here that we felt God call us to begin our preschool and elementary school. Both were begun with zero budgets, huge faith and sincere obedience. Many times we again saw the impossible accomplished as fire inspections were passed, equipment was donated and staff was secured. One of the greatest miracles we witnessed was when 1100 square feet of playground space was required to begin our preschool and the Lord pointed out a patch of land adjacent to our sanctuary building that was 1140 square feet. As our schools grew, our landlord smiled less and less. We all knew that we needed to look elsewhere for space for the growing number of children. The owner made the decision easier by raising the rent and tightening up the space we could use. All during this time we were looking at facilities and land.
Sav-On Facility or El Cerrito Land?
For a long time we looked into purchasing the Sav-On building at the corner of Main and Parkridge, but eventually we realized that God was saying no to that move. At the same time we were praying over a piece of land that one of our men had found through a friend. All we needed was money. Looking for land with approximately $40,000 was ridiculous, but we had learned to trust God for the impossible. As escrow closed on the land, a gift of $500,000 came in that completely paid for the property. The initial $40,000 had grown and could now be applied to the building that would eventually become our first permanent home.
El Cerrito Foursquare Church
While waiting for our building to be constructed, we were able to rent a former Foursquare facility at the end of Rudell Road. It had been closed for over a year and the Foursquare denomination gave us a great deal on rent. They also said that if we purchased the property by December of 2001 they would refund a portion of the rent. As we moved equipment into the property’s church, house and modular, we realized that this land had been prayed over for over fifty years. It was sacred ground and we knew that a great cloud of witnesses were watching to see if we would faithfully plant where they had plowed. We rented El Cerrito Elementary School for Sunday mornings and began getting acquainted with the neighborhood.
El Cerrito New Building
On December 16, 2001 we celebrated our first Sunday in our new facility. The sound crew worked feverishly to install enough equipment for our Christmas Eve service. Our mouths again dropped when we learned that God had given us another gift: The entire Foursquare property to use as a youth facility.
Pastor Ike’s Retirement
After leading the church for 17 years, a continuing battle with fibromyalgia convinced Pastor Ike that he must step down as Senior Pastor of Olive Branch. His retirement was announced on Palm Sunday of 2006. Soon after he was named Senior Pastor Emeritus. God’s faithfulness to Olive Branch through the ministry of Pastor Ike was celebrated with a wonderful event on July 30, 2006 and soon after the Riddle family moved to Texas where they now reside.
A Time of Transition
After the retirement of Pastor Ike Riddle, Olive Branch was co-led by Lead Teaching Pastor Greg Harris and Executive Pastor Buzz Brown. Both of them worked closely with Pastor Ike while he led the church through the transition to his retirement. Since that time Olive Branch has continued to grow as additional worship and discipleship opportunities have been developed.
Pastor Greg Called
In 2010, God allowed Olive Branch to purchase 14 acres right in the middle of the Temescal Valley as a place for future ministry to develop. In November of 2012 the elders, perceiving the transition of the church to be over, called Pastor Greg to be the Senior Pastor of Olive Branch.