OK Not to Be OK in OK
“Our church is a hospital for broken and hurting people that the power of Christ sets free,” declares Senior Pastor Herbert Cooper. “You can come to People’s Church with hurts, hang-ups, and issues. But we believe that Christ changes lives. It’s OK not to be OK, but it’s not OK to stay that way because of the transforming power of the gospel.”
Planted by Cooper and his wife, Tiffany, in 2002, People’s Church reaches on average 5,000 congregants on Sundays through 11 services on five campuses — four in Oklahoma and one in Indianapolis. The church also ministers to an online audience estimated at 3,000. Cooper preaches four services from the main campus, a 62,000-square-foot worship center. His sermons are streamed live to Parent Affiliate Church campuses in Northwest Oklahoma City for two services and to Midwest City east of the capital city for three services. These campuses have separate pastors and worship teams. The totally wired church maximizes social media for communicating with members and for follow up.
Cooper typifies the church’s multicultural flavor. People’s Church is about two-thirds African-American, 30 percent Caucasian, and 5 percent Hispanic.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see walls coming down when different races fellowship,” he says. “It’s a little heaven on earth.”
In 2015, Cooper gave his blessing to pastoral staff member Chris P. Smith to export the first out-of-state campus to northeast Indianapolis. Ministering from a middle school in Lawrence, attendance runs about 400 on Sundays.
“We enjoy an amazing multicultural diversity covering all age groups,” Smith says. In the congregation’s first 10 months, 111 people have been baptized.
Smith and his wife, Jamie, exude the church’s welcoming spirit, shaking hands at the exit after each service. The church’s First Impression team targets guests who receive hearty smiles, hugs, and handshakes. As the only paid staff member, Smith relies on more than 100 volunteers to share the load. Ministry partners commit to serving eight hours per week.
Partnering with God Behind Bars, People’s Church in Oklahoma City recently launched its fifth campus at the nearby Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, a maximum-security facility housing 1,055 females. Cooper’s sermons are streamed into weekly services averaging 150 inmates.
Upon graduating from Evangel University in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies, Cooper devoted his energy to a full-time evangelistic ministry by conducting revivals.
His reputation grew as a speaker at conferences, youth camps, and youth conventions across the U.S. and abroad. However, in 2001, while driving home after speaking at a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Cooper says he heard God’s still small voice challenging him to plant a church.
“It didn’t make sense,” Cooper recalls. Relying on heavy doses of prayer and input from the AG Oklahoma District Council, the Coopers sold their home in Springfield, Missouri, the following year and moved to the Sooner State’s capital.
Cooper admits that he didn’t know much about church planting except to trust God’s leading. The first service on Mother’s Day in 2002 in a shopping mall theater attracted 65 friends, family, and locals drawn by a mailing campaign. From that modest start, the church’s come-as-you-are welcoming approach, evangelistic preaching, and outreaches have won over thousands to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Altar calls complete every service. Around 1,000 baptisms occur annually.
High-profile community projects are regular events. Church teams repaint elementary school classrooms in poorer neighborhoods, mow lawns, plant gardens, and clean up playgrounds. Every summer People’s Church sponsors a Day of Hope for families, with an average of 4,500 participants. Free dental checkups and haircuts are offered as well school backpacks, games, and food.
Cooper, who is a member of the AG Church Multiplication Network lead team, plans to continue ministering to the hurting with a heartfelt compassion forged from a broken family life as a child.
“I know firsthand what it means to be healed from abuse and pain,” he says. “The power of Christ has set me free.”