The story of Christian life Church starts in 1918. Re W.R. Potter started a new fellowship, Pentecostal Mission, in a small store building located at 338 E. Third Street in Long Beach. In March 1921, this fellowship was incorporated as Pentecostal Assembly of Long Beach with Rev. W. Potter as pastor and Frank J. Doney a secretary.
In 1924, evangelist Raymond T. Ritchie held a ten revival in Long Beach. Converts from this revival joined with Rev. Potter’s group and another small Pentecostal, group pastored by Rev. Harvey McAlister. With two pastors and two boards, they rented a church building at the corner of Tenth Street and California Avenue, building which had formerly been used by a Methodist congregation. The new group retained the corporate name as established in March 1921, but operated under the name of Central Gospel Tabernacle.
In 1926, Christian Lucas, a returned missionary fro Africa, was chosen to replace the two pastors. He remained as interim pastor for eight months.
Rev. George Jeffrey was then elected as pastor. On October 29, 1928, he brought the church into fellowship with the Assemblies of God. Rev. Jeffrey remained a pastor until 1936. After his leaving, the church was not able to elect a new pastor immediately, so the District sent an evangelist Emma Taylor to care for the church until it could elect a permanent pastor. Charles Thacker acted as the interim pastor during this period.
About nine weeks later, in September 1936, Emma Taylor was elected as the new permanent pastor. The Taylors, Emma and her husband, Ernest, and their three children, Buddy, Ruth Marie and Junior, started their work in the church building at Tenth St. and California Ave. In 1940, the building was condemned by the city for need of repairs and alterations. Rather than make the required changes on a building they were renting, the group arranged to share use of a church building at Tenth Street and Linden Avenue that was owned by the Seventh Day Adventists, until the Adventists could secure a new building and relocate.
The Adventists were able to relocate in 1941 and then sold the old building to the Assemblies of God group. In 1948, it was decided to tear down the old building and replace it with a new building at the same location. The rebuilding job was completed in 1950 and operated under the name of First Assembly of God. Emma Taylor resigned in 1955.
Rev. T. C. Cunningham was then elected pastor He came with his wife, Jewel, and their three children, Loren, Phyllis and Janet. Their stay was cut short in 1958 when Pastor Cunningham was appointed Assistant District Superintendent of the Southern California District.
In April 1958, Rev. Fulton Buntain became pastor. He came with his wife, Lorraine, and their three children, Robin, Cathy and Tim and later, Michelle. Attendance at the church continued to grow and a larger facility was needed. In 1965, Pastor Buntain accepted a pastoral position in Tacoma, Washington.
The next pastor elected was Rev. Wesley Steelberg. He and his wife, Earline and their three children, Kenneth, Gary and Candice, began their work at Tenth and Linden in 1965. By this time, the church had struggled with secular opposition, financial problems and the lack of facilities. The church lot was only 150 by 200 feet and there was no adjacent land available and little possibility to expand. The board spent a year or more exploring the possible solutions to their problem. At one point they considered building second story Sunday school rooms above the existing parking areas, but found that it would cost $100,000 just to bring the plumbing and electrical work up to city code requirements. To secure land to build on within the city would cost in excess of $100,000 per acre.
After much prayer it was officially decide by the congregation to sell and relocate. Before the property could be listed with a Realtor, St. Mary’s Hospital, across the street from the church, contacted Pastor Steelberg to see if the church would possibly consider selling. The hospital wanted to expand. The church board decided to ask a price of $325,000 cash. The hospital offered $320,000 cash. It was a sale!
A weed-strewn corner lot was found at Pacific Avenue and Wardlow Road for $210,000. Much expense and labor was needed to plug ten old oil wells and to compact the soil where the building would sit. The services of a planning corporation were secured to assist with plans and financing. They contacted more than 50 lending agencies and not one was interested in lending to a church. The church’s banker said that construction funds were the tightest they had been since Civil War days.
California Plan of Church Finance was secured to help with a bond program. They reported that years of experience had taught them to determine the size of the bond issue by the size of the membership and their income. They thought the church couldn’t possibly sell all the bonds if they exceeded $175,000 (All bond sales proceeds are impounded by the State Corporation Commissioner until all bonds are sold and the cash on deposit). The church board felt construction could not be attempted with less than $300,000 in bonds. Against the advice of the bonding company, $300,000 in bonds was ordered. By the time construction plans were ready, the church was able to notify the Corporation Commissioner that the full $300,000 was on deposit. However, the bond program represented only half of the minimum construction funds needed.
Finally, the church’s bank, Farmers and Merchants Bank, offered a First Trust Deed loan of $150,000 and offered to service the bond program. Gus and Ken Walker, President and Chairman of the Board, were instrumental in securing this loan. As construction continued, costs climbed and initial estimates were found to be low, so further funds were needed. Farmers and Merchants gave another loan of $70,000. They also suggested securing promissory notes from members and friends of the church. With assistance from Orla Kern, the church’s business manager, $329,000 was secured in promissory notes and the final bills for construction were paid promptly. On October 10, 1971, the approximately 130 members of the First Assembly of God church moved into the new building, which was renamed Christian Life Church.
On October 14, 1974, Pastor Steelberg was struck with a massive heart attack. God spared his life at the time, but he was absent from the church office for seven months. During that time, Dale Van Steenis, the youth pastor, was able to take over most of the pastoral chores. Pastor Steelberg returned to the office in May 1975, but soon encountered further physical difficulties. On October 1, 1975, just one year after his initial heart attack, he resigned the pastorate. The resignation was to become effective December 31, 1975. (Pastor Wesley Steelberg passed away on June 16, 1986.)
In January 1976, Rev. Ray Rachels was elected as the new pastor. He joined the church with his wife, Judy, and their two sons, Scott and Lance. Later, daughter Heather was born. During Pastor Rachels’ time at CLC a new outreach program was established when the members voted to open a preschool in the building. The Sunday School rooms that stood vacant all week could be used. Christian Life Preschool has been in operation for 23 years. In October 1985, the church’s mortgage note was paid in full. In February 1986, Ray Rachels was elected to be Assistant District Superintendent for the Southern California District of the Assemblies of God.
In April 1986, an overwhelming majority elected Rev. Don Spradling as pastor. His wife, Kay, and their two children, Greg and Stephanie on May 15, 1986, joined Pastor Don. In August 1989, the final bonds from the church’s bond program were retired. In 1989, the congregation voted to renovate the entire upper level of the church, especially the sanctuary. It was given new carpet, wall coverings and refurbished pews. Sanctuary sound quality was improved with a platform face-lift and other acoustical alterations, a $350,000 project. It was paid for by special offerings and estate gifts. Other renovations and improvements have continued to be carried out. Sound system wiring has been replaced and the sound booth moved to the lower level for improved sound. Christian Life Church has had a strong missions program with as many as 75 missionaries and institutions at one time.
On November 20th, 2005, Mike Hinojosa was installed as the Lead Pastor at CLC. This begins a new chapter in our history as we continue to serve the Harbor area.