First Baptist Church Peachtree City celebrates 40 years of ministry
By BONNIE HELANDER
Special to The Citizen
Members and guests of First Baptist Church Peachtree City (FBCPTC) gathered on the grounds after the Sunday service on April 28 for an old-fashioned pot luck luncheon to celebrate the church’s 40th anniversary. First Baptist was formally constituted on March 11, 1973.
While long-time members swapped stories about the congregation’s history and impact over the last 40 years, the emphasis was really on looking ahead to the next 40.
Church charter member Lynn Fairley explained, “It is wonderful that we want to embrace our past because we accomplished so much. Those first founding and charter members took a big step of faith. But we also want to paint a picture for the next 40 years so we don’t lose our vision.”
The history of First Baptist Church is an integral part of the history of Peachtree City. The city was just a small community on Aug. 29, 1969, when 32 residents met at the local bank building to ascertain interest in forming a Baptist chapel.
Fayetteville First Baptist Church agreed to sponsor the new mission church and one month later Peachtree City Baptist Chapel members began meeting at Peachtree City Elementary School. Founding members of the chapel included Jim and Miriam Fulton and son Frank, Louise Holman, Dick and Mary Maud Hiestand and Earl and Audrey Waisanen with their two sons, Mark and Earl Thomas.
In 1970, the small congregation decided to call a full-time minister and met with the Rev. William DeLay, the pastor of a large church in Atlanta. Seeing a need and an opportunity, DeLay and wife Cathy accepted the call at a reduced salary, even though it meant Cathy would have to take a teaching job to help cover expenses for their family of five.
In March 1972, construction began on the Peachtree City Baptist Chapel which later became First Baptist Church of Peachtree City. DeLay led the church for 15 years, followed by Dr. Harold Allen who served for 13 years and Dr. Steve Bingham who served for 11 years. Presently the church is under the leadership of Dr. Joey Rodgers. He and wife Meg and their four children have been calling FBCPTC home since September of 2011.
Rodgers says his burning passion is to lead people to honor God in their lives by connecting them with Christ and His church, growing them to maturity in the faith, and helping them to engage the world with the love of God. “The thing that really blew me away, said Rodgers, “is the number of people in our church who are already involved in significant ministries inside and outside this church. We want to meet people at the point of their need and then help to meet their greatest need — to know Jesus Christ.”
Meeting people’s needs while sharing God’s love has always been the passion of the people of FBCPTC. Lynn and Shirley Fairley recall the church reaching out to families from New Orleans who had lost everything in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The church owned an apartment complex that was ready for demolition for a new parking lot.
Church volunteers quickly mobilized to bring the building up to code and clean and furnish the apartments with everything needed to welcome 13 families to temporary homes. Shirley said, “They came with only the clothes on their backs and cried when they saw what had been provided for them that they could take with them when they left.”
First Baptist Church has helped to start or support an amazing array of ministries that are making far-reaching impacts in the community and beyond. Wellspring Living, the vision of church member Mary Frances Bowley, works with marginalized women who have been sexually abused or exploited and the ministry has become a national model. The Healing Bridge Clinic, initiated by church members, gives free primary health care to those uninsured who qualify.
And residents of Peachtree City have greatly benefited from The Bridge Community Center, the church’s gift to the city that offers a wide variety of recreational activities for all ages and multi-purpose meeting space. Church volunteers are also deeply committed to The Pregnancy Resource Center and the Midwest Food Bank.
According to Rodgers, the 40th anniversary celebration is a springboard for looking ahead to the future.
“The next 40 years is all about how we will continue to engage and impact the world around us,” he said. “We are a mission church. We need to continue to plant churches, so I will be challenging our members to plant at least one church per year for the next 40 years.” Rodgers went on to share additional goals. “In the next 40 months, I’d like all our members over the age of 12 to be a part of a ministry project somewhere in the world. In the next 40 weeks, I am asking our members to fast once a week and in the next 40 days to pray twice daily at 8:40 for our church and for their own personal role in engaging the world.”
First Baptist Church Peachtree City has more than 2,400 members and ministers to the needs of all ages from babies to seniors. For more information about FBCPTC, go to http://www.fbcptc.org.