A body of believer's who referred to themselves by two names Citronelle Baptist Church and First Baptist Church, celebrate a 130 year history. Throughout the course of this 130 year history the church endured many changes, some good and some bad. When the church began, it started meeting at a rented house for .95 cents per month. A Sunday school was started on October 30, 1886, and the church began to raise funds to erect a building of their own. The first building, which was located directly south of the old Andrews building on Main Street, was used on May 25, 1890 for the first time.
As the church continued to grow, the early 1900’s were characterized by short pastorates and inadequate salaries. The church disposed of the old site on September 21, 1921, and the deeds to the property on Mobile Street (directly across from the old Post Office and Citronelle Drug) were dated July 6, 1921. The building was moved on rollers to the new location.
Over the next twenty years the church faced instability and financial problems, like most areas of the country due to the depression and the second World War. Plans for enlarging the Mobile Street property were abandoned and on August 30, 1944, the church voted to sell the property, and purchased a site on the corner of Hwy. 45 and LeBaron Ave.
From April of 1953, until September of 1957, the church changed greatly during this period, as oil was discovered in Citronelle. In 1957, the name of the church was changed from Citronelle Baptist Church to First Baptist Church.
From 1958 to 1962 the church membership grew to 488. In 1965 the church was responsible for planting two churches. In 1974 the membership was counted as 287 resident members. From 1994-2002, the church experienced significant growth, along with many new programs designed for families, with a church membership of 470 and Sunday School averaging 166.
On September 24, 2003, the church was hit with the hardest tragedy in the history of the church. The church building on Hwy. 45 was looked upon with tears in our eyes as the flames engulfed it. The fire, which started in the attic, quickly left our church body without a building. The current building was completed during March of 2006. Finally, First Baptist Church has had 40 pastors through over a century of fellowship.
A new work has begun...
So as one can read, First Baptist Church went through several changes over the years. Like any family, the congregation had their share of quarrels, but there has always been a strong core of believer's that have persevered and remained focused on reaching the community for Christ.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes in their recent history came on January 10, 2016, when Hope Church of Citronelle and First Baptist Church Citronelle began worshipping together, at the FBC campus.
Hope Church was new church plant established in 2012, and were unanimously accepted into the Mobile Baptist Association in October 2014. The church grew at a rapid pace and began to look at building an addition to accommodate growth. Some of the members of Hope Church were members of FBC at one time, but God brought some of the membership of the two congregations back together again!
As Christians, we are taught in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, that we are to function as one, as the body of Christ, and that is exactly what happened. In a society where churches split, decline, plateau, or even close their doors, we began to worship together and God has blessed that effort.
After a two month process of evaluation of the HOPE staff, FBC came to a conclusion to move in this direction, and a unanimous vote took place to call the Hope Church staff as FBC staff. Finally in May 2016, after watching God move in ways that no one can truly describe, HOPE CHURCH and FIRST BAPTIST unanimously decided to merge as one and take on a new name, RESTORATION CHURCH. The name describes what God did with HIS churches, and what God will do in anyone who is willing to submit to HIS leadership.
This is only the beginning of a new chapter in the story of a people who are defined one name, JESUS CHRIST!
When is it ok to make changes within a church?
Some would say never. Others would say constantly, and on and on the opinions could go.
What is the purpose of the church?
This is not debatable. It is found in Matthew 28:19,20. It is a commission from Jesus himself to us as followers. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This is the mission and the purpose for all followers of Jesus Christ, and sense Jesus died for the church, and his followers make up the church; this is the purpose of the church.
So, if we know our purpose, and a church is not fulfilling her purpose then....what is the church to do?
ANSWER: make changes
Change within any organization is always difficult, but it is necessary. The Church is a living organism, and she is intended to breathe life into a community. If a church isn't being effective within a community it is reflected. If people within a church are not serving, sharing, connecting, or growing, then change is necessary! The leadership within a church must remain focused on the mission, and if at anytime the activity of the Holy Spirit fails to be present, change must come! That is if the church wants to obey God the mission from God.
A church cannot get comfortable or complacent in their mission.
A church cannot simply focus on pleasing people and fail to please God.
A church MUST desire to please God and bring HIM ALONE GLORY!