A Brief History of Emmanuel Fellowship Church  


In the Spring of 1998, two vibrant Lifegroups were flourishing in Sweetwater , Texas .  One was meeting at the home of Ray and Deborah Doak and ministering extensively to youth in our area.  The Doaks were members of Emmanuel Fellowship Church of Abilene and were extending the heartbeat of that congregation into Nolan and Fisher counties.  Another life-giving group was meeting in the home of Don and Melody Dawes.  The Dawes were members of Abilene Mission Church at that time and were bringing the vision and values of that church to life here in the Sweetwater area.

As God continued to bless these two Lifegroups, it soon became apparent that the nucleus for a larger work was being established in the city.  The leadership teams of both Emmanuel Fellowship and Abilene Mission Church began to pray and seek God concerning what He was doing in Sweetwater.  Through that time of prayer and the obvious fruit that was being born through the Lifegroups ministering in Sweetwater, the leaders of both churches decided to plant a church in Sweetwater, and Emmanuel Fellowship Church of Sweetwater was born! 


In October of 1998, EFC held its first worship service in The Center at TSTC.  Yancy Smith, an associate pastor of Abilene Mission Church, was set in as the founding Pastor of EFC Sweetwater, and a leadership team was developed from the two existing Lifegroups.

From its inception, EFC has held to a vision of bringing a life-giving, spirit-filled encounter with the love of the Lord Jesus Christ to our community.  It is a church that has a strong awareness of its identity, purpose, and expression.


EFC was founded through God’s miraculous blessing of unity demonstrated through two churches working together to establish a new work in Sweetwater.  The merging of two Lifegroups from different denominational perspectives required much grace and humility to form one unified congregation.  But it was not the last time God would smile upon and bless this group of believers as they traveled a non-traditional road toward their destiny.

Pastor Yancy Smith set his hand to the challenging work of laying a foundation for a church that would last from generation to generation.  He organized the administration of the church and established the coordination of ministries necessary to meet the needs of its members.  Pastor Smith oversaw its transition from a mobile church that met weekly at TSTC to establishing a more permanent home at 1418 Hailey Street.  Pastor Smith also laid the foundation of love deep in the heart of this congregation.

After four years of ministry in Sweetwater, Pastor Yancy Smith began to seek the Lord about his successor.  It was then that God began to work on the hearts of a young youth pastor and his wife at Emmanuel Fellowship Church in Abilene .  In a time of prayer before bed one night, Eric von Atzigen heard the clear call of God sending him to Sweetwater to “bring life to the city.”   

These events set in motion a truly beautiful and grace-filled transition in leadership at the new Emmanuel Fellowship Church of Sweetwater.   In August of 2002, Eric von Atzigen was set in as the pastor of EFC, and Yancy and his wife, Lanette, remained and served as elders for a year before moving to Ft. Worth for Yancy to pursue his doctorate at Texas Christian University


Emmanuel Fellowship has continued to move forward, passionately fulfilling its purpose.  The members of EFC have continued to lay a strong foundation upon which the church will minister in Sweetwater for generations.  Under Pastor Eric’s leadership, EFC has set it’s heart to demonstrate the Christian life by “loving God and loving people.”  Unity and loving relationships continue to be a hallmark of the atmosphere of EFC.  The church is aggressively seeking to establish an outpost of Heaven on earth so that the prayer Jesus modeled for believers in Matthew 6 may be a reality for the citizens of Nolan county ---- “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed by Your name.  YOUR KINGDOM COME, YOUR WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN!”