Southwest Central has a rich heritage going back to 1918, when it was decided that Houston needed a centrally-located congregation. Central Church of Christ soon outgrew its first building at Drew and Albany and in 1939 secured the entire 4100 block of Montrose for a badly needed new plant. Under the ministry of Burton Coffman the church branched out into missionary work as never before and by 1945 its membership had swollen to over 800. Membership increased even more after World War II.
Central was known for its church planting. In 1955 Central played a significant role in planting the Southwest congregation as a mission project. Southwest started with about 100 former Central members among their number, including elders, deacons, and Central’s former asociate minister Paul Easley. Growth was explosive. By 1957 attendance reached 500. By 1959 membership required three Sunday morning worship services with two Bible class periods and two Sunday evening assemblies.
For the next 25 years both Central and Southwest carried on ministries of their own. In March of 1983, Southwest and Central merged to form Southwest Central. While the idea of a merger had been discussed for years, the final decision was precipitated by the resignation of Southwest’s preaching minister, Jim Howard, and the sale of the Central property to retire debts of the Christian Home for the Aged. So a church without a preacher got together with a church without a home. The resulting merger benefited from the strengths of both congregations.
Dan Anders was the first preacher for the new Southwest Central Church. The first outreach of SWC was the Churches of Christ Medical Center Chaplaincy, now known as Lifeline Chaplaincy. Under the leadership of Virgil Fry, this ministry has become the premier chaplaincy ministry among Churches of Christ. Southwest Central also plays a significant role in The Point, a campus ministry to students at the University of Houston.
Concerned with numerical decline, a church growth analysis was conducted in the late ’80s by a leading expert in the field. His recommendation: move and become a homogeneous suburban church. But believing that one of the church’s reasons for existence is to demonstrate God’s reconciling love, this idea was rejected. Instead, the church opened its eyes and heart to the masses at its doorstep. While not sharing our cultural background and values, they nonetheless need the Lord. We have embraced the challenge and the rewards of being an urban ministry.