Courtesy: Daniel Bramlett
Can you believe First Baptist is 150 years old? When I think of FBC Hope so many memories and emotions flood my mind. This is a Church that has given life and hope to thousands of individuals through the years and I am one in that long line. Many of you reading this letter have ties to our Church. You came here as a kid, attended impactful events through the years, or heard the voice of God as a part of one of our ministries. FBC is more than a downtown building. It is a group of imperfect, grace-filled people who have been seeking to bring people closer to Jesus for multiple generations.
FBC has been a Hope institution from the beginning. It was first planted just outside of town as Siloam Baptist. When Hope started to take shape, the visionary leaders saw the need to care for the ‘urbanites’ and relocated to East Ave B. Not too long after that, as the center for business began to cross the tracks, they purchased the lot we have occupied for over 100 years now. No matter its location, FBC has always been a voice of truth.
Over the years our buildings have taken different shapes. The first building on our downtown lot was stone in construction with a beautiful stained glass work in its center. This building held our congregation until the post war growth of the late 1940’s. Our Church quickly saw that the old stone building was not going to hold their now quickly growing Body. Leadership proposed a building and the Church agreed. The current Sanctuary was built under the supervision of my Great Grandfather, S. A. Whitlow. Next came the dismantling of our favorite Faith Hall, the building built on faith with the sweat and work of many of our members. The current Education Wing was constructed in the sixties and the Children’s Wing followed in the early seventies. Our building has seen many updates over the years, including a major Children’s Wing remodel that is going on right now, but our Church has always been more than just a building. It has always been a Light in the ever encroaching Darkness.
Mention FBC in Hope and you’ll get a lot of different remarks. “I met Jesus there at a Vacation Bible School when I was a kid. I first heard the Gospel in that Sanctuary at a Revival. I used to sing in the choir! My mom helped lead Missions work there. My grandmother worked in the Nursery. I used to blow spit wads on that ceiling. (I actually heard that one once!) I first heard from God in Sunday School there. I was baptized there. I remember a block party, mission trip, youth camp…I went on with FBC and my life was changed! My children were dedicated there. I was married there. My family members were remembered and celebrated there.” These are all remarks made by people who have roots in our Church.
The Word of God has always been the focus of our Church. We confess that we are a sinful bunch. Given the opportunity, we will twist the truth every time. But we trust that God loves us more than we love ourselves. We believe He made us to work and worship Him together and as we do so faithfully, He keeps us in the place we need to be with Him. As we open the Word of God we ask Him to give us the ability to interpret it accurately and timely. This has been the case through the years and is still happening today.
Worship is also a key factor in our ministry. We love to sing, but we know our worship is not a concert. We join our voices together as a forgiven people who cannot contain our love for the One who made us clean. We strive to speak the language of the people, giving the residents of our area the opportunity to voice their praise to the God who made them.
For years the word “Mission” has been a central descriptor in our vocabulary.
FBC has sent and is sending 37 missionaries so far to the farthest reaching places of the world. We do this because God has placed the burden of carrying His Truth to the nations on the backs of the Church. We take very seriously Jesus’ command to “Make disciples of all nations.” We refuse to lose our saltiness in a tasteless world or to cover our Light in a world going blind.
Our ministries through the years have focused on reaching every demographic, every piece, and every part of our town with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Current ministries like Upwards Basketball, The Rock, and The Banner Hope Center fall in line with 150 years of ministry to the people of our area. We know Jesus came for the sick, the hurt, the beat down, not the well or the ones who have life all figured out or have it all together. Because of that we strive to be a hospital for the hurting. We work to create a refuge for the seeker and a sanctuary for the sinner. We have said for years that God created us to know Him, not to just know about Him. Every ministry we get behind is one that will work towards the goal of making God better knowable to the residents of our town.
Will you come celebrate with us this year? October 21 is our Big Celebration. Mike Huckabee will be our speaker for the 10:00 service. Will you be our guest? We would love to see your face checking out our hallways and talking with our people. Who knows, your great, great grandchildren might be celebrating our 300th anniversary in a few years!