In 1849, the Tallahassee population had grown to almost 1,800 men, women, and children. From this diverse population, four men and five women organized the Baptist Church of Tallahassee. Of these nine original members, one was to become governor and another state comptroller.
Throughout our 167 year history, many members have occupied positions of leadership in private business and industry as well as in the public sector, including governors, university presidents, college deans, professors, coaches, judges, legislators, commissioners, and mayors. The first church building was situated on the south side of College Avenue on a lot purchased for $500. With missionary pastors sent from the Home Mission Board, the membership grew until the Civil War began. There was no post-war record of ministry until 1880 when Rev. A.C. McCants was sent to lead the church.
In September 1894 the name of the church was changed to The First Baptist Church of Tallahassee, and from meager purses, the building was remodeled, refinished, and reoccupied on January 21, 1900. With a membership of 407, a new church structure was dedicated in November 1915 with the coming of Pastor-builder J. Dean Adcock. First Baptist Church continued to serve the needs of the Tallahassee community in the 1920s and 1930s. But the 1940s brought an influx of World War II personnel. When the Florida State College for Women became the co-educational Florida State University, students were filling every service and it was time to build again. Dr. Harold G. Sanders led us through an eight-year building program that ended with the completion of our second-century church in 1957.
In the subsequent years, First Baptist Church recognized the need for additional churches in Tallahassee and responded by establishing six mission churches. Additional structures were also added to our existing location under the guidance of Dr. Robert W. McMillian, including construction of a multi-purpose Christian Life Center in 1974 and administrative offices in 1987. Additional buildings were also purchased in 1998 for future expansion.
During the end of the twentieth century, we gave prayerful consideration to relocating our church. During that time of discernment, we waited on God for direction regarding our place of future ministry. We concluded a study in 2009 and came to the decision that our present location is where God wants us to be for as long as Jesus tarries. Today, we proudly state that we are here…for life, and we embrace that calling joyfully and hopefully.
No other community organization can substitute for us in testifying to the abundant life Jesus gives. We believe that God called us to pursue a phased renovation of our entire campus so that we might be able to offer first-century ministry in a twenty-first-century context that meets the spiritual needs of every generation and life stage. In August 2009, we adopted a set of recommendations for Phase I of our plan, to include roof repairs, renovations to the Fellowship Hall and Christian Life Center as well as the Children’s and Youth Ministry areas. In addition, our plan included a brand new Welcome Center and Atrium that serve as a connecting point for all of our buildings. In August 2011, we completed all of the Phase I plans, and we began utilizing all of our new and renovated facilities.
As we look toward the future, we are excited about what God is doing in and through First Baptist. Jesus has promised to “build his church,” and as we continue to follow him we look with anticipation toward his continued blessing upon us.
For a digitized history of FBCTLH hosted by The Special Collections and Archives Division of the Florida State University Libraries visit the DigiNole website.