The History of First Baptist Church Lawrenceburg

On February 2, 1896, nine people met in the Opera House. Rev. R. J. Wood was moderator. The meeting opened with a song and prayer. Rev. Wood delivered a message from Matthew 16:18; "…upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." This group of dedicated Christians undertook a task that is still being blessed by God today. The church was organized and Rev. Wood was called as pastor.

The first recorded observance of the Lord’s Supper took place on the 3rd Sunday of May 1896. At 3:00 p.m. that same afternoon, the first recorded baptism took place when Millie Van Leer was baptized in Shoal Creek. The church first affiliated with the Indian Creek Association of Wayne County.

In July 1897, a lot east of the railroad on Gaines Street was purchased. The foundation was laid in December of 1898 and a one story, frame, brick veneer building 30 by 60 feet was built. It had stained glass windows. The pews were purchased from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church for $40.00. The building was heated by two pot bellied stoves, one in the front and one in the back. There was a bell in the tower that rang from a cord coming down into the vestibule. The bell tolled on Sunday morning to signal it was time for church. The church was first lit by lantern but after 1908 it was lit by electricity. The choir loft, which seated 15 people, was on a stage in one corner of the church with the piano below the choir. The new church was dedicated in January of 1902 with a membership of 68.

By 1927 there were 339 members. That year, the First Baptist Church purchased a lot on the corner of Mahr Avenue and West Gaines Street and began the construction of a new building. The first service was held in 1928. The Great Depression hit the church the next year and although it was continually in use, the basement was not completed until 1946.

After 55 years in the downtown location it was obvious it was time to move to a more functional building. The growth of downtown had eliminated the ability of the church to expand and renovate at that location. This, plus the expense of maintenance on a building of that age, made a move to another location a necessity. Discussion began in the early 1970’s about replacing the church with a more modern building. Discussion continued as the years passed and the old building continued to deteriorate. It took almost 10 years for the church to decide what to do.

Under the direction of Pastor Charles O. Dinkins, plans were completed for the present church building. Eleven acres of land were purchased on Springer Road and Beuerlein Street in 1979. In 1981, a building committee was elected. Ground was broken for a new church of 15,000 square feet on July 1, 1983. The new building had a sanctuary to seat 450 people. The move into the building took place on Wednesday, June 20, 1984. On that day, 75 church members brought trucks and strong backs and moved all of the materials from the old church building in a few hours. A prayer session was held in the new church after the move, giving praise to the Lord for allowing the church to be successful. The first Sunday services in the new building were held on June 24, 1984. It soon became obvious God had more in store for the church and the building was quickly too small. Within a year, plans were developed and construction started for phase two of the church building program. This new addition included 12,000 square feet of educational space plus room for increased parking. Eight acres of additional property was purchased, bringing the total acreage to approximately 19 ½ acres.

At this point, the First Baptist Church consisted of 27,000 square feet of space. However, continual growth necessitated that additional space be added. On May 1, 1993, the church let a contract for a Christian Life Center. Ground was broken on January 16, 1994. The Christian Life Center was paid off during the summer of 1999. The CLC, as we have come to know it, has been used tremendously by God to serve the Lawrenceburg community as well as First Baptist Church members.

Is this the end of the story? Certainly not! The First Baptist Church will continue to be a beacon of light to the entire community for many years to come. The enthusiasm and dedication of those first nine members in 1896 lives today at the First Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee!