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Tuscaloosa’s Ridgecrest celebrates 50 years filled with revival, growthcomment (0)

November 29, 2007

By Brian Blackwell

Curtis Kelley never will forget that Wednesday evening in June 1971 when a scheduled one-hour business meeting at Ridgecrest Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, turned into a four-year revival. Within a few years, Sunday School attendance tripled, discipleship training participation quadrupled, missions programs sprang up and tithes increased threefold at the Tuscaloosa Baptist Association church.

“I had sensed a revival at the beginning of the year,” said Kelley, founding pastor of the church. “I had noticed God was preparing our church for a great spiritual awakening, and that wonderful night in 1971 was the day God pulled the stopper out of the bottle. It’s hard to put into words what God did through our congregation for those next four years.”

Though he resigned in 1988 to pursue his doctorate in ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and now serves as pastor of Taylorville Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, Kelley’s time at Ridgecrest Baptist still remains a highlight in his spiritual journey. And Oct. 14, he returned as guest speaker for the church’s 50th anniversary celebration.

In addition to the worship service, the jubilee celebration included an Oct. 13 fellowship meal and testimony time at Snow Hinton Park in Tuscaloosa.

Back when Ridgecrest was formed, the fledgling congregation met in the Old Northington Barracks in Tuscaloosa but soon bought property at its present location. The church has been through five building programs and is preparing for a sixth addition with the construction of a new sanctuary.

The gathering of former and current members for the anniversary celebration reminded Jim Headley of the reason for Ridgecrest’s growth, which began with about 50 charter members and has reached 1,100 now.

“I can say without reservation that this is the greatest church I have had the privilege to be a part of and I look forward to many more years of service at Ridgecrest,” said Headley, pastor since 1993. “Our church has prospered and grown steadily over the years and is known for its music, warm fellowship and commitment to missions.”

Scott Hilliker, minister of music and education at Ridgecrest since 1985, echoed the thought.

“The Lord’s been able to do neat things here through our worship and missions emphasis,” he said. “Our church has gone through its ups and downs like any other Southern Baptist church our size. But we’ve been resilient.
Whenever we reached a low point in membership or other areas, we were able to rebound and further the Kingdom in the place where the Lord has placed us to do His work.”

The church has also reached beyond its community with missions trips during the past 25 years and more than 45 members called into full-time ministry, including six pastors who are presently serving in Tuscaloosa County and missionaries serving in Africa, Taiwan, China, Thailand and Russia.

According to Headley, the church has a heart for replicating itself to reach others.

Ridgecrest’s founding members had a vision 50 years ago to outgrow their present site and then use 150–250 of its members to plant a new church in a growing area in the future, he explained. “Then when we grow again to capacity one day, we hope to repeat the process and continue to start new churches until the Lord comes back.”

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