In 2002, Pastor Al and Chrissy Toledo responded to a burden the Lord impressed in their hearts for Chicago. They took a step of faith, knowing God had work for them to do, and moved their family of five from New York City to the north side of Chicago. Shortly thereafter, Pastor Al Toledo was asked to preach for a group of people that desired to see a church launched, but were without a pastor at the time. Chicago Tabernacle was born.
Chicago Tabernacle was birthed in prayer and built through prayer. After several weeks of meeting in the basement of an old church, the need to move into a better facility became apparent. Limited seating and challenging conditions hindered the church’s ability to grow; every seat represented a soul that could come to know Jesus and find a home in this new community. The church needed a building, a down-payment and a mortgage. With little to no resources, a handful of people cried out to God, asking for a miracle. Through a series of events, those prayers were answered, in what is now affectionately known in Chicago Tabernacle’s history as “The 7 Day Miracle.” In seven days, God opened the door providing the necessary down-payment, a new facility, and a mortgage! Chicago Tabernacle moved into its new home, 4201 N. Troy, in May of 2002.
Spring of 2003 inaugurated the hallmark of Chicago Tabernacle outreaches. The Story of Love, a unique dramatic presentation portraying the love of God, was put before the burgeoning congregation as an opportunity to reach out to the community. The initiative fostered a greater spirit of service among the people, while also increasing their faith to share the gospel. As a result, many more would begin to serve and deeper relationships were formed, expanding our community.
To meet the demands of a growing congregation, the church relocated its Sunday services to John B. Murphy Elementary School in fall 2005. In keeping with its name, Chicago Tabernacle would become like a moving tent for the next several years. While the spirit of service had been present amongst the community, it was during this season that the pillar of service was defined as a value.
In the summer of 2007, the Vacation Bible School (VBS) of Chicago Tabernacle experienced a revolution. Recognizing the unique nature of engaging children in the inner city, VBS shifted from a fun, Bible-based program to a “spiritual Disney World for children.” Kids Week of Adventure (KWA) was born. KWA not only provided dynamic ministry for children grades K-5, but also an opportunity for artists, actors, musicians and other creatives to use their gifts to glorify God. The vision of using the arts to preach the gospel to the city of Chicago was being realized, as many from the arts community began to call Chicago Tabernacle, “home.” The emergence of ministry through the arts and evolution of the kids summer program served to further shape the identity of Chicago Tabernacle.
By the fall of 2007, many people had entered the doors of Chicago Tabernacle. Lives were being impacted by the presence of God, the love of his people and selfless service. It was the launch of a new website, though, that would serve to define and bring clarity to the church’s mission. Inspired by John 1:12, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” Chicago Tabernacle was resolved to be a “place of becoming for all who long to know and serve the Lord.” “Becoming,” then, would take place through pursuing God, loving with His heart, and serving others into greatness.
In the spring of 2010, Chicago Tabernacle returned its Sunday ministry to the Troy building, deciding to conduct multiple services for the first time since the church opened its doors. Having made this transition, the need for a children’s space that could accommodate the growth experienced over the last five years was apparent. The church began to remodel the lower-level of the building, transforming it into a special place for children. With the emergence of CT’s Playhouse, children would be able to have their own worship services, with live production, music and teaching from God’s word.
As the church continued to grow, God impressed a prayer upon the heart of the church inspired by the sermon series, Your Kingdom Come. Matthew 6:10, which says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” became the resounding prayer of the church. In May of 2013, The 6:10 Building Project began. The 6:10 Project was motivated by the need to move to a larger space that would enable three key things: to raise up the next Spirit-filled generation, to preach the Gospel through the arts, and to continue to build a ministry around God’s Word and the altar. The people of Chicago Tabernacle sacrificially gave and continued to pray to see God’s Kingdom come.
In March of 2015, after years of believing God for more space, Chicago Tabernacle moved to its current location at 3231 N. Cicero. In its first year, the church experienced unprecedented growth, with hundreds coming to know the Lord; the Kingdom of God was truly being built. The prayers of previous years were being fulfilled, inspiring even greater prayers for the future.