Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church was legally organized on March 16, 1916 by Rev. D.J. Tyler. The church started with five members, all of whom had relocated to the Champaign area from St. Louis, Missouri. The members each brought with them letters of dismission from their home church, Compton Hill Missionary Baptist Church of St. Louis. Below is a list of the church's charter members: 


  • Sis. Amelia Tyler

  • Sis. Eva Nunn

  • Bro. Tolie Nunn

  • Bro. Morgan Knox

  • Sis. Nora Knox


The church originally began with prayer meetings in the living room of Bro. and Sis. Nunn, who lived at what was then 1110 North 4th Street. The group attending called themselves "The Prayer Band." They invited neighbors, friends and anyone else who would meet. The Prayer Band began going from house to house singing, praying and praising the Lord. 


Sis. Nunn began to see a need for a church. She discussed her vision with the Prayer Band, and they agreed. Sis. Nunn then wrote a letter to Rev. D.J. Tyler of St. Louis asking him to come to Champaign and organize the church. Rev. Tyler responded immediately. Upon arriving in Champaign, he sought out a church council and began to make plans for organizing what would become Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church. The council included Rev. Owens, then pastor of the Salem Baptist Church, a Rev. Rivers, Rev. Tyler and other missionaries and friends.


Once the church was organized, they set about moving out of the Nunn's home and into a building of their own. They purchased a lot across the street from the Nunn's at 1111 North 4th Street for $1,000. The monthly payments for the land were $15. There were two homes on the lot. The members worshipped in one of the homes, carrying chairs from their homes to sit on and donating coal to provide heat. They rented out the other home for $5 per month.  


The first deacons of the church were as follows: 


  • Bro. Tolie Nunn

  • Bro. Morgan Knox

  • Bro. Johnny Sykes

  • Bro. Aden Williams

  • Bro. Jesse Britt

  • Bro. Calude Britt

  • Bro. Sylvester Hampton


Since its founding, Mt. Olive has had twelve pastors. The church has been truly blessed with continued expansion and sustainability of its ministries through the strong, passionate leadership of these twelve outstanding men of God:

Rev. D.J. Tyler

Rev. A.R. McKee

Rev. S.M. Dukes

Rev. Young

Rev. G.B. Lock

Rev. C.W. Sanders

Rev. Elzie Kilgore

Rev. Chambers

Rev. Joseph E. Graves

Rev. James C. Offutt

Rev. Dr. Lundy Savage

Pastor Keith L. Thomas

Rev. Elzie Kilgore

Rev. Joseph E. Graves

Rev. Dr. Lundy Savage




Not much is documented on the individual accomplishments of the church's early pastors. However, during his seven years at the helm, the late Rev. Elzie Kilgore established the building fund for the construction of a new church. He made a commitment to improving life beyond the sanctuary by becoming deeply involved in civic activities, starting with addressing the housing problem in Northeast Champaign. Rev. Kilgore played a significant role in temporary housing which led to Burch Village.

Under the capable leadership of Rev. J.E. Graves, the church bought and remodeled a parsonage in 1962, followed by the construction of a new sancutary, moving the church from 4th Street to its current location at 808 East Bradley Avenue. Like Rev. Kilgore, Rev Graves was also a civil activist working towards community integration and shaping future leaders as the advisor of the U of I branch of the NAACP. In 1968, under the pastorate of Rev. James C. Offutt, the church succeeded in paying off its mortgage and purchasing a new parsonage.


Mt. Olive's longest tenured pastor was the late Rev. Dr. Lundy Savage. Under his spirit-filled guidance, the church witnessed gospel to over 2000 souls, many of them accepting the invitation to salvation. Many went on to become "sons" called to the gospel ministry. Recognizing that a church without children is a dying church, the late pastor placed strong emphasis on the youth ministry aimed at creating and nurtruing the relationship of young people with Jesus Christ. It was also under Rev. Savage that Mt. Olive became affectionately known as "The Mountain."


Rev. Savage made sure that the Mountain's building kept pace with it's ever-growing church body by overseeing four buidling projects. The church sanctuary was expanded in 1980. A new educational building was erected in 1985. In 1996, the sanctuary was expanded once more, and when the sanctuary could be expanded no more, a new 600 seat, million-dollar sancutary was constructed in 2003. Rev. Savage was presented with his heavenly crown on February 15, 2011.


The church petitioned the Lord for a new leader, and He answered by sending Pastor Keith L. Thomas from Peoria, Illinois. Pastor Thomas preached his first sermon at the Mountain on February 5, 2012. Since his arrival, he has demonstrated a deep respect and appreciation for the rich history of Mt. Olive and carries on many of its ministries and traditions, but like any great leader, he also has a vision of his own.


Pastor Thomas has worked tirelessly to lead Mt. Olive into the age of technology. He introduced the use of social media as a tool to witness to potential members and interact with existing members. He spear-headed efforts to install monitors in the sanctuary to enhance the worship experience. He also paved the way for the church's first official website, making the Mountain accessible to the world. 


While a staunch proponent of technology in the ministry, Pastor Thomas knows that true purpose of the church is to foster the gospel and the worship of our Lord and Savior. Shortly after his first anniversary at the Mountain, he led the congregation in the dedication of a new altar in the sanctuary. Through his progressive, spirit-led vision, Mt. Olive will continue to serve as a community servant, ministering through evangelism, missions and education, and winning souls for Christ.