Though City Church was founded in 1980, its roots go back much farther. Bishop Owen McManus, Sr. had been in ministry since 1948, both as a successful pastor and evangelist, and had been responsible for starting many churches around New Orleans and in foreign countries. Bishop was a pioneer of the Pentecostal movement in the city of New Orleans. He was one of the first preachers on radio, and the very first to be on a major TV network. He had founded Bishop McManus Academy, one of the first Christian schools in the area, and was pastoring a large multicultural church, which the Lord was blessing greatly.
In 1979, his acceptance of African Americans into his congregation caused a rift with his denomination. The Lord led Bishop to resign and begin a new work, and so, he founded City Church at 8801 Chef Menteur Highway.
Owen McManus, Jr. had grown up in his father’s church. He was ordained in 1986 as an elder; then in 1993 he and his wife Tammy were ordained as Lead Pastors. The next 12 years that followed saw great advancements for the Kingdom of God. “The Family of God” television program began airing during this time. Outreach ministries in New Orleans and on the streets and creative dramas like WYBR reaped a harvest of 1000s. City Church preached in and supported missions in 14 countries worldwide.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, it looked as if the vision had come to an end. The church was flooded, and the church congregation was dispersed around the United States. But the Lord spoke a word to Bishop from Nehemiah 2:18: “Rise up and Build”. 21 people returned to New Orleans, working night and day to rebuild the church, and on Dec. 4, 2005, just over 3 months after the storm, City Church was able to open its doors for services once again. A few 100 people came that day, and City Church was reborn!
During 2006, the main focus was to complete the rebuilding process, while at the same time providing help to others in New Orleans who were struggling to return. It was at this time that God spoke to Pastor McManus about starting a full-time training institute to teach young people what real ministry was all about, and so in September, International Bible Institute began with 5 students. Today IBI is a thriving full-time ministry training, encompassing four years of instruction in theology and practical ministry, with over 100 students. IBI has literally touched New Orleans and the world.
In 2007, a great hunger for a greater move of God arose in our church, and the first all-night and ½-night prayer meetings were started. Members took to the streets and began marching and street preaching almost daily throughout New Orleans, culminating in a march through the French Quarter to the steps of City Hall. 180 began to grow by leaps and bounds! God enabled us to start 180 mentoring clubs in public schools here in New Orleans, and to start small groups on every college campus in the region. Truly a revival was beginning in our youth!
At the end of the year, we turned a page in our history when the Lord opened up for us the opportunity to purchase this facility. With more than 300,000 sq. ft. under roof and 33 acres of prime property, in a great leap of faith Pastors Owen and Tammy signed on the dotted line, and this property became ours! To rebuild it, almost 100% of the congregation pledged to give double the amount of their tithes until the rebuilding was completed, and for the next year and a ½, beginning in January 2008, the congregation volunteered and painted, hung sheetrock, stained doors, and handled almost every other aspect of the rebuilding process themselves! It was all worth it when on May 3, 2009, we celebrated the grand opening of City Church’s new home right here at 13123 I-10 Service Road.
The years since that Grand Opening have been productive. The ministry has experienced continuous growth in its children, youth and adult ministries. In 2010, Pastor McManus fulfilled a longtime dream by turning the stage drama “Will You Be Ready” into a full-length feature film, which debuted October 30, and we reconstructed and dedicated our Sports Complex. In 2011 the movie WYBR was further developed and transformed into the experience “Will You Be Ready in 4D”. In just two showings of the 4D experience, more than 600 people flooded the altars to receive the Lord Jesus Christ! In 2012, the final buildings on the property were completed, buildings which now house the headquarters for IBI and Bishop McManus Academy. In April of that year, an historic event took place when four public high schools bussed in students to City Church to view “WYBR4D”. Such an event had never happened in the history of our city, and many students gave their hearts to the Lord! In May of 2012, IBI graduated its first fourth year interns and started a second television program, “CityLife TV.” The year 2013 began with the release of an entirely new movie, “The Good Life.” Documented as the largest red carpet event ever in Hollywood South, the movie premiere drew in excess of 3,000 people and began a whole new chapter in the history of our church.
Certain aspects of the ministry have continued through the years, even as other events have overshadowed them. In 2007, Pastor McManus traveled to India and founded a Christian school, Bishop McManus Academy of India, for which we still provide complete support. Missions teams have gone to Peru, Cuba and Romania. 180 has hosted a regional youth conference every fall since 2007 and has touched 1,000’s. The Arts Department has produced major theatrical events at Christmas time every year and has seen multiplied hundreds give their lives to the Lord.
All through the years, the Lord’s presence and anointing have been with us. Multitudes have been touched, and thousands call City Church their home. The vision God has given Pastor McManus to reach the city is within our grasp, and we know that our best days are just ahead!