The History of the First Baptist Church of Princeton, Indiana
The Purpose and Call of First Baptist Church: Spreading the Word since 1894!
First Baptist Church of Princeton, Indiana celebrates a rich heritage. Little did those thirteen charter members realize they were the beginning of a church that would stand strong for the Word of God for well over a century. During the years of the existence of this congregation, so many churches and denominations have forsaken the Word of God. As that has occurred, First Baptist has maintained its steadfast commitment to the fundamental truths of God.
A Rich Heritage of Spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ
First Baptist has had the privilege of seeing people come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Believing that salvation is only by faith in Christ apart from human effort, this church has faithfully proclaimed that glorious gospel. As that message has gone forth, thousands have been saved.
It is a church with a rich heritage of sending men and women out into world-wide ministry. Literally scores of people have left this church to proclaim Christ in other parts of this country as well as around the world.
June 11, 1894 – Church Was Organized
A few Baptists and their friends met at the K.P. Hall in the Burger Building on Thursday, March 8, 1894 for the purpose of considering the organization of a Missionary Baptist Church in Princeton. On March 13, 1894 a business meeting was held at the Christian Church at which time a temporary organization was agreed upon. A special meeting was called for Monday, June 11, 1894 at the Reformed Presbyterian Church. During this meeting the First Baptist Church was formally organized with thirteen charter members.
June 1895 – Land Purchased
The present site at the corner of Prince and Water Streets was purchased in June of 1895.
January 31, 1901 – Fire Extensively Damaged Church
On January 31, 1901, the church building having been nearly completed, was extensively damaged by fire. This event laid waste the work of years in just a matter of one hour. Only the walls remained standing. These walls were utilized in the rebuilding of the structure.
Following the dedication service for the new building in 1901, the local newspaper described the building as follows:
"The total cost of the building, fixing, and furnishings, complete as it now stands, is $7,904.13. The church is a stately structure, built of modern plans, and equipped with modern conveniences. Besides the large church room and annex, the church has a pastor’s study, two classrooms, one for infants, and one for adults, and the baptistery. Each room is nicely fitted with many conveniences and is connected for heating by the hot water system. The Baptists are proud of their church and well they may be for it is certainly a thing of beauty, and well worthy of time and money expended towards its erection."
Rev. E.W. Lounsbury, of Chicago spoke on “The Glory of a True Church” at the dedication of the church building. Here are some of his statements:
"This building will be glorious if the gospel is preached here and it is
filled with the Holy Spirit."
"If God comes here and remains in this place, this building will be a glorious place by reason of His visitation."
"This place is a place of salvation and this makes it a more sacred spot."
In 1913, a conference was held for the purpose of uniting the two Baptist bodies in the city, namely the General Baptists and the First Baptist Church. Inasmuch as both congregations were small and money was scarce, this uniting occurred early in 1914. During these few years this newly formed body alternated between General Baptist and Missionary Baptist pastors. In 1917, the General Baptists withdrew and organized their own church, due to doctrinal and church policy reasons. The withdrawn body has become the First General Baptist Church of Princeton.
1926 – Pastor Ford Porter’s Ministry
The Rev. Ford Porter became pastor in 1926. During his ministry the church enjoyed its greatest growth. Sunday School attendance grew from 80 to 350 in ten years. Church membership grew to 425 by 1936. Attendance remained in the 500’s for some time.
More space was needed to accommodate the crowds attending services and Sunday School. Therefore, in 1934 a basement addition was added. During this period of time of Sunday School revival, classes met not only on the church property, but also in several neighboring buildings.
First Baptist Church became a center of revival and evangelism for Southwestern Indiana. Revival meetings of two to four weeks were common. One evangelistic crusade, in 1933 was extended through a period of eight weeks.
Several years later, the church sponsored a city-wide tent meeting with some outstanding evangelists as speakers. The tent meeting held in June of 1939 on the Wheeler lot on South Main Street was perhaps the most successful. The speaker was Dr. Sam Morris of Texas. The ushers reported that on the closing night 1200 automobiles were parked and 6000 people were seated.
1938 – First Baptist Church Withdrew From the Northern Baptist Convention
First Baptist has always taken a strong stand for the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures and for other great fundamental Christian doctrines. First Baptist had been affiliated with the Northern Baptist Convention. Due to modernism and liberalism within the convention, a special business meeting was called on Monday, January 31, 1938. A resolution was presented to the congregation recommending withdrawal from all fellowship with the Northern Baptist Convention. This resolution was carried by a majority vote of 90 to 18. This action was legally challenged by the pro-convention minority which desired the court to constitute them the legal First Baptist Church. This would give them the right to the church property. The case was heard in Gibson circuit court in 1939 and again in Warrick county circuit court in 1940 with the decision rendered in favor of the majority. This was one of a series of monumental court cases which established the right of a congregationally governed local church to withdraw from a denominational organization and to retain all property rights.
The church voted in September of 1939 to enter into the fellowship of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. It has continuously maintained this fellowship to the present time.
“God’s Simple Plan of Salvation” Gospel Tract
While he was pastor at First Baptist Church, Dr. Ford Porter wrote his well-known Gospel tract, God’s Simple Plan of Salvation. This tract was originally written for distribution to every home in the city of Princeton. However, with the later expansion of Dr. Porter’s tract ministry, God’s Simple Plan of Salvation has been published in ninety languages, and three million copies have been distributed world-wide.
Radio Ministry Launched
First Baptist has long been involved in radio ministry. Pastor Ford Porter began a radio program in 1936 over station WGBF in Evansville. Lest We Forget, the current radio ministry of First Baptist Church began broadcasting over station WRAY in January of 1951. This is the longest continuous running religious broadcast aired over that station.
1955 – Extensive Building Program
An extensive program of building and remodeling was completed in 1955 during the leadership of Pastor Alan Vine. Two stories of educational space were built upon the earlier basement addition. The auditorium was completely remodeled and enlarged at this time as well.
1963 – Construction of Parsonage
The congregation of First Baptist Church, realizing the need of space for future expansion, purchased five additional lots. In 1963, a three bedroom parsonage was built on one of these lots (west of the church building). This parsonage not only included living space for the pastor, but also included an adequate accommodation in the basement of the parsonage for the Junior Sunday School Department until more permanent accommodations for the group could be provided.
1971 – Church Added First Associate Pastor
First Baptist hired its first Associate Pastor in 1971 to be the Minister of Youth and Christian Education.
1976 – Construction of the Fellowship Hall Building
The church constructed an educational building on the property south of the original church building in 1976. This building was to house rooms for Sunday School classes, a fellowship hall, a kitchen, and space for youth programs.
1983 – More Property Purchased
In 1983, an apartment building was purchased west of the parsonage. Initially this housed the Associate Pastor, after which it became rental property. It presently serves as the Youth House for programs involving First Baptist young people in their teens.
Since 1983, three additional lots in the block were purchased by First Baptist Church.
1990’s – Relocation Committee Formed
In the 1990’s, during the ministry of Pastor Joe Wilson, a relocation committee was organized. It was determined relocation would be necessary due to the growth of attendance at First Baptist Church.
“In One Accord” was a stewardship campaign which raised more than $120,000.
1993 – Expanded Worship Services
The influx of church attendance by 1993 necessitated two services to held each Sunday morning.
1996 – Church Added a Second Associate Pastor
In 1996 First Baptist hired a second associate Pastor. This pastor would serve as the Minister of Worship and Music. In addition to the pastoral staff, the paid staff of First Baptist Church includes a church secretary, a bookkeeper, and a custodian.
1999 – New Senior Pastor; Formation of Building Committee
Under the leadership of new Senior Pastor, George Prinzing, a building committee was formed in 1999.
2000 – Architect Hired
In the fall of 2000, Donovan & Donovan Associates was hired as architect for a new building facility for First Baptist.
2001 – Stewardship Campaign
A stewardship campaign that lasted three years was launched in May of 2001. Commitments during this campaign totaled $479,000.
2003 – Property Purchased
After almost a decade of searching for property for relocating First Baptist Church, a beautiful piece of property became available on Spring Street. In March of 2003, First Baptist purchased this 92-acre plot of land from the Key family at a cost of $540,000. The congregation is grateful to God for what they believe is the most beautiful setting for their new ministry facilities.
2004 – Property Paid Off
During the summer of 2004, the congregation determined to pay off the Spring Street property by Thanksgiving of the same year. This seemed like an impossible task because it meant the people would need to give an extra $7,000 per week above the regular offerings. But 20 weeks later they had raised over $143,000 and burned the mortgage at their annual Thanksgiving Meal!
2007 – Site-work Project Began
A $1.1 million site-work project began mid-summer of 2007. This project including extensive grading, putting in roadways and parking lots, as well as running utilities. By the end of 2009, the congregation had completely paid off this $1.1 million dollar site-work project!
2008 – Earthquake Damage to Church
The earthquake in April of 2008 caused enough damage to the church to make the auditorium unusable. All services from that point on were held in the Fellowship Hall of the Educational Building.
2009 – Arise and Build Campaign Began
First Baptist was urged - as they had been experiencing crowded facilities due to increased attendance - to pursue a new campaign called "Arise and Build." This campaign, which was presented to the congregation on May 17, 2009, would enable First Baptist to produce the funds to construct a new ministry facility on their Spring Street property.
On Sunday, May 31, 2009, the congregation of First Baptist Church committed over $544,000 toward the new Spring Street facility. One week later the church recorded its greatest single-Sunday offering as kick-off to a three-year commitment of increased giving. The one-day offering total was $44,000. A special vote was conducted on Sunday, June 21, 2009, officially commissioning the Trustees to seek financing and to move forward on the bidding documents and construction of the new facility. From that point on the congregation began in earnest to raise funds for the new facility.
2009-2010 – New motto, “In...in 2010!”
As 2009 came to a close, things were getting busy at First Baptist Church. The congregation chose, as they had always planned, to construct the new worship facility in phases. The first phase would include a multipurpose building to be used as a sanctuary. It would also have a minimum number of rooms to take care of infants and elderly, as well as having a kitchen. To accommodate the other youth and adult classrooms, and staff offices, the church decided to make use of a lower cost auxiliary building that would be used for storage later. It was also considered that if bids came in low enough and/or finances came in better than expected, the church would proceed with attaching an educational wing to the multipurpose building. With the leadership of the Trustees the church was approved for a loan by First Bank of Princeton, Indiana. Then late in December of 2009, the bid documents were released to the contractors for bids. These bids are expected back by the end of January, 2010. On Sunday, February 7, 2010, the members of First Baptist Church voted overwhelmingly to authorize the Trustees to sign contracts with builders to begin immediate construction of a Multi-Purpose Worship Facility and a large Maintenance Building, with a cost not to exceed $3.3 million. The estimated timeline for completion of the project was late fall/early winter of 2010! The congregation was encouraged to give God praise for the project, to fervently pray for its completion, and to faithfully give to support it. “In...in 2010” was becoming a reality!
“...all to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31b