A Rich and Storied History -- Dr. Robert Richardson
It is well known that First Baptist has a very rich and storied history.
Much of the strength and prowess of this congregation has been developed by the vision and leadership of the various pastors complimented by the commitment and dedication of the laity.
From the very beginning, this church set high standards in pastoral leadership. Almost all of the pastors across the years possessed both pastoral experience and theological training in a college or seminary. Many of the pastors were sufficiently trained and skilled to fill leadership and teaching positions in colleges and universities.
Secondly, missions have always been a part of the foundation of First Baptist. In fact, within eleven years of its founding, First Baptist was promoting missions and missionary support. This pro-missions perspective led the Ichaconna Baptist Association to withdraw fellowship from First Baptist and nine other churches.
The ten churches then formed the Rehoboth Association and continued their promotion of missions. Not only did First Church and the other association churches support missions in general, they funded a missionary to minister to the Creek Indians in the area.
This unswerving commitment to missions led First Baptist to single-handedly contribute the entire cost of building the Warren Memorial Hospital in Hwanghien, North China, in 1903. It was the first hospital erected by Southern Baptists in a foreign land.
Thirdly, music has always been central to the life and ministry of First Baptist. The first choir was organized in 1855. The first organ was installed in the church in 1860.
In 1911, a Sunday School orchestra was formed consisting of “thirteen of the best instrumentalists in the city.” A 25-voice mixed choir assisted the orchestra to provide some of the best sacred music in the area. Many of the choir directors in those early years were women. The current programs of graded choirs, the youth choirs, and the Chancel Choir are excellent.
Lastly, a major part of the heritage of First Baptist can be defined as being on the “cutting edge” of leadership. The church was committed to an educated clergy when many churches were suspicious of preachers who had “book learning.”
The fourth pastor, Rev. Law, would preach to the slaves on Sunday afternoon saying, “that the soul of a black man was just as precious in the sight of Christ as the slave is to his owner.”
First Baptist was among the earliest churches to organize a Sunday School, support the Temperance movement, and write and distribute tracts to share the Gospel.
First Baptist is the first Baptist church in Macon to ordain women to office of deacon, to have on staff an ordained woman as minister, and to have a woman as chair of deacons.
The story of leadership, commitment, and unparalleled support continues. We are blessed to be a part of such a great heritage.