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Whitesburg Baptist Church celebrates 50 years, phenomenal growth in Huntsvillecomment (0)

October 25, 2007

By Greg Heyman

When Whitesburg Baptist Church, Huntsville, began in 1957, it had only 83 members in a city of about 55,500. When the Madison Baptist Association church celebrated its 50th anniversary recently, it had a membership that had grown to about 6,700 in a city now boasting a population of about 168,000.

The church’s phenomenal growth has far outpaced that of the city, but Pastor Jimmy Jackson said remembering the past 50 years at Whitesburg Baptist was no different than a celebration in a smaller church.

"The only difference is that you’ve got a larger sanctuary," he said.

That larger sanctuary was filled to near capacity Sept. 30 as 2,383 were present for "one huge worship service" attended by current members and former members and staff.

The size of the congregation made it impossible to hold a typical dinner on the grounds, so that was taken care of with four nights of banquets leading up to Sunday’s worship service.

"It was a time of reflection on the graciousness of God’s people," Jackson said.

Five videos were shown during the banquets with each focusing on different 10-year periods of Whitesburg’s history. The banquets also included singing and comments by Jackson, who asked those in attendance to pray for the church daily. "We want to have at least a thousand people praying consistently for the church," he said.

The worship service’s keynote message was delivered by Whitesburg’s only living former pastor, Charles T. Carter who served from 1966 until 1972.

"It was an awesome service," said member Gary Pearman, praising Carter’s sermon. "What struck me is that he didn’t have the first note but came up with different numbers and points about why he loved the church."

Pearman said he believes the emphasis Carter placed on Whitesburg’s passion for reaching the lost and missions demonstrates the church is doing work for the Kingdom.

"I think God’s hand is on Whitesburg," Pearman said. "The leadership is there with our pastor, and the people are so giving. There’s a spirit of cooperation through people working together."

Carter also praised Jackson’s leadership and that of staff members and lay leaders. He singled out one former staff member in particular — Dick Thomassian, who served as minister of music from 1966 until 1996 and minister of missions from 1996 until his retirement in 2006.

"His imprint has been all over the church," said Carter, who now serves as interim pastor of First Baptist Church, Pleasant Grove, in Birmingham Baptist Association.

Carter’s sermon emphasized the 7,474 professions of faith that have been made at Whitesburg since 1957, which averages out to 150 baptisms each year, and the church’s impact on missions through giving $13.6 million.

And Jackson, who has served as pastor since June 1978, thinks God’s work at Whitesburg is just beginning.

"If He brought us this far from a small membership in 1957, what can He expect out of us for the next 50 years?" Jackson asked.

As the church looks toward the future, he said it is looking at ways to reach different demographics in Huntsville. One of the ways that is being accomplished is through Whitesburg’s Pulaski Pike Campus, a satellite ministry to inner-city residents on welfare. Eighty-five members attend Bible study and worship services at property purchased by the church in February.

The Crossings is another ministry that reaches out to the community. It provides activities such as tutoring, games, fellowship, Bible study and an evangelistic service for students from third grade through high school.

Started in 2002, middle and high school students participate on Wednesdays and students in grades 3–5 on Thursdays. About 350 students from more than 16 Huntsville schools are involved with the ministry that averages 10 professions of faith each week.

Students are transported by bus from their school to the church, and parents can pick them up or have them returned to their individual schools. As parents pick up their children, there is an opportunity for Jackson to visit with them in the hopes they will return to Whitesburg for worship services.

"It’s really a strong church," he said. "The opportunities for growth are still here."

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