Recently I read again an article that described how our church began. I keep a file on the history of our church, and it contains various bulletins, newspaper articles and records from our church’s past. This particular article was written in 1963 by one of my predecessors, Reverend Dale T. Heinbaugh, for the 75th anniversary of our church’s founding. Reverend Heinbaugh was the pastor of First Baptist Church of Linton from 1960 to 1969. I shared this with our Sunday night crowd recently, but I thought it needed a wider circulation.
I had been told, and had told others, that our church was started in 1888 by the Olive Branch Baptist Church, which is just west of the Linton city limits. That is both true and not precisely true. What actually happened is told in the following excerpts from Pastor Heinbaugh’s article.
IN THE EARLY DAYS of Linton, a few persons, who were inclined to the Baptist position under the leadership of Rev. Patrick Faulk, began holding prayer meetings at Island City, Indiana. Then they met for services at the Methodist Church building, whose site was where the present Citizen Office Building stands.
These early Linton Baptists united with the Olive Branch church and asked that an “arm” of that church be extended to Linton. This was done and those Baptists worshipping in the Methodist church building were considered a mission of the Olive Branch church.
On August 15, 1888 a meeting was called to organize an independent Baptist Church. …
Through the courtesy of the Methodist Church this small group of Baptists continued to worship in the Methodist Church building. But they planned for a house of worship of their own and obtained a lot on the corner of First and “B” streets northwest. A house of worship was built and dedicated within the next year.
At a business meeting held August 15, 1906 a motion was made and carried that a new First Baptist Church building be built, provided the necessary funds could be solicited.
On July 19, 1907 $10,750 had been subscribed and a building committee was selected.
The present First Baptist Church building of Linton, Indiana was completed by 1909 and dedicated on February 5, 1911.
Now here in part is how Pastor Heinbaugh concluded this article:
Just 75 years ago last August 15 a small group of men and women met in this city to establish a Baptist testimony. Having themselves exercised personal repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, they were possessed by a strong hope to be used by God in this community to spread the blessed gospel of the Lord.
Impelled by their love for Him and for lost ones without the Savior, God answered their prayers.
Today this congregation is mute testimony to the fact that they truly built on Christ, the One and Only Foundation! This congregation tells the remainder of the story—how God honored their faith in Him and the proclaiming of His Word.
One writer observed that it’s not what you read, but what you think about because of what you read that is most important. Let me share with you some thoughts I had as I read this article.
First, I wish more were “inclined to the Baptist position”! Being a Christian is the most important thing, but that doesn’t mean being a Baptist is unimportant. To be a Baptist means believing certain things about being saved, about baptism, and about what a church is supposed to be. Believing these things doesn’t mean we have to be mad at other Christians who believe differently than us about such things as baptism and the way a church is organized. For instance, we owe the Methodists a great debt of gratitude. If they hadn’t let those first brothers and sisters use their building, our church wouldn’t be here today. But being a Baptist means believing certain very important things. We shouldn’t apologize or be embarrassed by the word Baptist. It stands for something.
Second, our church was born in prayer meetings. If we began in prayer meetings, what makes us think we can ever continue in any meaningful way without praying together? We shouldn’t be embarrassed by the word Baptist, but we really shouldn’t be embarrassed by praying, praying together, in our public services. Let’s have done with this fearful, embarrassed reticence toward praying together! I fear there is too much pride in it. Our church began in prayer. We can only go forward in prayer. May God pour out upon us a spirit of humble prayer and pleading to God!
Third, there was a fairly significant period of time that passed between when they began and when they built the building we call “old First Baptist Church’, which still stands at the corner of First and “B” streets northwest. It was 18 years after they started that they voted to build that building. It was another year before a building committee was formed, 3 more years after that before it was completed, and almost another 2 years before it was finally dedicated. All told, almost 24 years passed from their beginning to the dedication of their building.
We expect, almost demand God’s work to be done immediately, with near-instant results we can measure and report. When we don’t see this, too many of us conclude something’s wrong, with the church, with the minister, with the programs or lack of them. Then they leave for somewhere else where something is happening.
But whatever happened to waiting on God? Whatever happened to faithfully keeping on? What if too many people had abandoned ship in the years between 1888 and 1911? The answer is, our church wouldn’t be here today. But we are here, because there were a number of people who believed that the city of Linton needed the specific spiritual witness that our church could provide. And many people gave a significant number of years of their lives to this cause.
Fourth, I loved Pastor Heinbaugh’s clear definition of what it really means to be a Christian: “personal repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” And I loved how he expressed the clarity of the church’s purpose: “they were possessed of a strong hope to be used by God in this community to spread the blessed gospel of the Lord.” This is the heart of what we believe, the heart of our message, and the real reason why we’re here. If we’re not doing things that the Kiwanis of the Odd Fellows aren’t doing, then why are we here? The Kiwanis and the Odd Fellows do what they do, and that’s fine. But they don’t spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we ought not to be embarrassed about the gospel, either.
Fifth, I loved how Pastor Heinbaugh defined their twin motives and the one source of their power. Their twin motives were love for the Lord Jesus, and love for those who are lost without Him. And their one source of power was, again, prayer: “God answered their prayers.” And we have not because we ask not. (James 4:2)
And finally, I love how Pastor Heinbaugh emphasized this congregation’s testimony to our community, and “how God honored their faith in Him and the proclaiming of His Word.” May we continue to bear faithful testimony to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the absolute necessity of proclaiming His Word! Let the fads come and go, but God grant that we keep the main thing the main thing!
I would only add this: their “new” building, our “old First Baptist Church”, represented a new beginning for them. They began in 1888. They began again in 1909-1911. Our church had another new beginning in 1989, when we moved to our “new” building…which is now nearly thirty years old. I loved how the article was careful to maintain the distinction between the church and the church building. New beginnings aren’t just represented by new structures. Sometimes new structures mark the beginning of a time of decline. But when God adds believers to a local congregation, that can truly be a new beginning.
Recently the comment has been made to me by several different people: “God isn’t through with our church yet!” No, I don’t believe He is either. Last Sunday we had four wonderful Christian couples join our church, all in the same service. I’ve been doing this for over forty years, and I’ve never seen that happen before! I won’t embarrass them by mentioning their names in print…but we are so thankful to God for them!
You can look at the history of our church and see several times God gave us a new beginning. I believe He’s doing it again.
Why don’t we pray about that?
Soli Deo Gloria!