History

Church Dedication Program
January 30, 1955

The First Baptist Church of Kountze was begun as the Hardin Baptist Church in the spring of 1860. They met near the Old Hardin Cemetary; in fact the cemetary was believed to be the church yard. Copies of minutes of the “baptist church call hardin” from May 26, 1860, lists the pastor of the church as D.M. Jordan. Pastors are as follows:

D.M. Jordan 1860-1865
J.D. Phelps 1866
D.M. Jordan 1866-1870

By 1890, however, the majority of the members moved into Kountze, and in January of that year, the Baptist Church of Kountze was established. The original church was constructed on what is now called Redwood Street. The first available minutes of the “Kountze Baptis Church” {sic} were recorded on January 22, 1893.

Construction was begun on this church in 1908 and it was used until 1955, when a new building was built. This photo is of the church in 1945.

During the days of the ox and wagons, the United Methodists and Baptists worshiped together on a half-time basis. They continued worshiping together until 1893 when Br. Jerrell conducted a two week revival meeting and Br. Jeff Rhodes was called as the first pastor.

In 1908, during the pastorate of Br. W.R. Brown, construction was begun on a new auditorium. Most of the foundation was of hand hewn hardwood. It was reported that Mr. & Mrs. Frazier sawed the blocks for the foundation.

For a long period of time, the Sunday School was the only organization, conducted in classes around the auditorium. Then, the Ladies Aid Society began, and eventually changed its name to the Women’s Missionary Union in 1909. The Baptist Young People’s Union was organized sometime prior to 1915 as well. In 1927, the church decided to modernize by buying luxurious green burlap sack curtains to divide the Sunday school classes.

Among the early leaders of the church at that time, were Mr. & Mrs. Billy Richardson, Mr. & Mrs. George Williford, Mr. J.J. McAdams, Mr. R. Eason, Mrs. Fannie Hooks, Mrs. Mattie Cruse, Mrs. Mahaley Monk, and Mrs. Henry Holt. Mr. Richardson would ring the church bell, and different members would build the fire for warmth. The stoves were frequently moved about the building to see which location made the building the warmest.

The pastors were paid a meager salary, and Mr. George Williford would go around to the members and collect the money for the pastors’ salary. Br. Kelly Terrell was able to lead the church to quit selling things for money and to bring their tithes into the church instead of waiting until someone came to collect them. In 1939, he built the baptistry and more space was added to the back of the auditorium for Sunday School classes.

It was in 1943 that the first Vacation Bible School was held while Br. T.R. Thomas was pastor. In the mid-1940s, Br. Clifton Smith led the organization of the Brotherhood. Under his leadership, the membership increased considerably and other improvements were made in the Sunday School rooms.

Br. Claude Stripling was pastor when the youth building was built. The church also purchased an organ at this time. A building fund was started but the money was used to purchase a new parsonage.

Br. Dan F. Gardner came to be the pastor in December of 1951. On April 2, 1952, the church unanimously voted to establish a new building fund for an entirely new house of worship. On July 30, 1952, a gift for the building site was accepted from Mr. & Mrs. W.B. Cariker. Ground-breaking services were held on September 6, 1953. Mrs. Mary Crow, having been a member longer than anyone else, turned the first spade of dirt. With less than $10,000, the church undertook a $135,000 building program exclusive of furnishings. Generous gifts of money and volunteer labor enabled the church to continue construction without ceasing and in just sixteen months after construction began, the church was dedicated. This occurred only three years after they began their building fund.

Church Dedication Program
2002

Church building at the time of the dedication in 1955.

Great improvements have been made in our church since its origin: from wood stoves and burlap curtains to carpet and air conditioning. Many joyful, and even sad, experiences have led us to grow and worship together in God’s love and blessings.

In 1958, the present parsonage was constructed. In 1978, the “Together We Build” program was adopted. In 1980, the church added a carport and office building with classrooms above the office. This was done at a cost of $283,000. By 1983, the debt was paid off.

On April 6, 1997, the church voted to enter into a new building program, “Arise and Build.” A new fellowship hall and kitchen were added to the present building. The old fellowship hall was remodeled and included classrooms and restrooms accessible to the handicapped. An activity building was constructed next to the tennis court. A playground area right outside the nursery department was added for nursery-aged children. Additional parking spaces, exits, and entrances to the church grounds were also added.

The construction was approximated at $450,000. The faithful commitment of First Baptist members to pay pledges allowed the church to pay off a three year debt in 2 1/2 years. By this time, the church had close to six hundred resident members. The “Arise and Build” building program was a great witness of commitments being carried out faithfully.

In April of 2001, the church voted to expand the existing sanctuary by approximately 350 seats. The auditorium was increased greatly, and gave way for more room and technological upgrades in the facility. The “Building for His Name” building program allowed the church to meet immediate needs and plan for the future.

Church building in 1987

“Together We Build”

And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people restrained from bringing. Exodus 36:5-6

On March 18, 1979, First Baptist Church began a building program, “Together We Build.” It was a three year committment where members pledged to contribute above their regular giving. The goal was $280,000 and the purpose was to build new administrative offices and educational classrooms on the second floor, and remodel the existing first floor classrooms and expand a church library.

1980

Beauty for Ashes

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spiritof heaviness;
hat they may be called the trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:3

In April of 2008, a devastating fire deemed arson burned God’s house to the ground! The fire began in an office , and spread throughout the entire main building. The unattached gym survived the fire. Very few items were salvaged from the fire, but among the few were a King James Bible, and the communion table.

The Bible was restored by Mr. & Mrs. Charles Loftin and is on display in the church foyer.
Originally a mahogany finish, the table was restored & finished to match the newly built pulpit by Mr. Don Frazier.

The membership remained undaunted, and continued to meet, holding church services at the Kountze Intermediate School for about a month. During that month, they worked to convert the gym into a temporary place of worship, with a raised stage and even a baptistry. Mrs. Juanita Johnson made a curtain backdrop for the stage. They continued to meet in the gym for the duration of the time it took to build a new church building. It took a year to complete, but they were completely debt free when it was completed. They also added a fellowship hall on to the gym.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18

A few years later, in August of 2010, the church suffered a split, losing close to two-thirds of their membership. Despite the tragedies and spiritual opposition, First Baptist Church has persevered and continued to thrive. As of 2019, the church has three ministers on staff, supports two full-time missionaries, owns and maintains of SBTC Disaster Relief laundry and support trailers, and prays regularly for a dozen more missionaries. They have a heart for missions and a goal to reach as many people for the Lord as they can.

Pastors

W.A. Jarrol [Jarrell, Jarroll] (acting moderator & Preacher at Organization) 1893-
Arnold Roads [Rhodes]
Jeff W. Roads [Rhodes]
Jno. G. Leutwyler
Br. Cunningham
Br. Spillman
Br. Brown
E.W. Dickey 1927-1930
W.E. Wright
W.R. Earp
Ralph Davis 1934-1935
G.D. Freeman 1936-1937
Kelley Terrell 1937-1942
T.R. Thomas 1942-1945
T.J. McCormick 1946-1947
Clifton Smith 1947-1948
Claude Stripling 1948-1951
Dan F. Gardner 1951-1956
Weldon Viertel 1957-1958
E.P. Ramsey 1959-1961
Carroll T. Cole 1961-1965
Orel Speed 1965-1969
Alex Drennen 1970-1986
Aubrey Whitlock 1986-1994
Tony Thornton 1995-2007
Michael Knight 2010-2014
Daniel White 2015-present