Coinciding perfectly with its 20th anniversary, Frederica Baptist Church recently took its biggest step in fulfilling its original mission.
Building team president Rick Shelnutt said the church was started in 2002 with Rev. John Carr, a now-retired Southeastern Baptist Association missionary, to discuss opening. of a Southern Baptist Church on the northern end of St. Simons Island.
By September 22 of that year, the church had adopted an official name, established an official congregation of 75 members, and met at Oglethorpe Point Primary School. The following year, she purchased a commercial building at 1700 Frederica Road. Shortly thereafter, in 2005, The Sea Island Co. gifted Frederica Baptist Church with 13 acres on the north end.
“When we had that, we really fired up,” Shelnutt said.
Seventeen years, two fundraising campaigns and a major building project later, Shelnutt says he couldn’t feel luckier to be a member of the church at 65 Marsh’s Edge Lane. Now, Shelnutt said the church can say it has taken the most important step yet toward Carr’s vision of what the church could become.
“It took us 20 years, but it’s okay,” Shelnutt said. “We are satisfied with the blessings and the land the Lord has given us.
Phase 2 will be the actual sanctuary, followed by a family center, which will include more classrooms and recreational facilities, he said.
Over the years, the church had converted part of the commercial building it owned into condos. As the project progressed, Frederica Baptist also sold some of these individual units to pay for construction which, with money raised over the two campaigns, paid for all but $600,000 of the first phase of the new building.
It’s important, of course, to be able to achieve this major milestone, but the church’s 20th anniversary has made it so much more exciting, he said.
“It was wonderful having him in the new building,” Shelnutt said.
Completing the next two phases is the obvious next step, but church leaders see this as an opportunity to take a break from building and work to set the pace for the church for the next 20 years.
“I think as a team I decided to really focus on discipleship,” said Frederica Baptist pastor Mike Bowles.
It’s all centered around the “Three Ds,” he said: discovery, discipleship, and expedition. Each part represents a segment of the life cycle they want their members to go through — discovering Christ and his teachings, learning what it means to be a disciple, and then going out into the world and practicing, he explained.
Other church ministers are solidly behind him, Bowles said. Having more members is great, but the real measure of success will be how many people they have on the ground doing missionary work and helping people.
“Obviously we want as many people as possible,” said Cameron Reed, Minister for Youth. “But more importantly, how many people are equipping and sending to spread the word? …COVID has made us so stagnant, now we have to relearn how to “do”. »
Getting out into the community and avoiding becoming an insular institution is important, which is why the church has placed a substantial emphasis on facilities for young people.
St. Simons is growing as a retirement community, music minister Paul Reed acknowledged, but there are still families with children who need a place to come to pray, he said. In future expansions, the church also plans to invest more resources in its core ministry, he said.
“It’s a very forward-looking way of this church,” Bowles added. “They are looking at what kind of growth the island needs.”
He took on the role of pastor three years ago and credited previous pastors for their hard work in managing fundraising campaigns and keeping the congregation going in less than ideal circumstances. Bowles hopes to carry on this legacy in future anniversaries.
“This church has been taken so far on a journey of faith,” Bowles said. “My job is the next step.”