A Brief History of God’s Grace at work at Faith Baptist Church, 1967-2012
“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Can you still remember when you first learned John 3:16? When we get to Heaven, we’ll meet a number of saints who could tell us about the first time they learned John 3:16—not from a classroom in a beautiful building, but in a little house on B street, on the west side of Greenville in Poe Mill Village.
The Poe Manufacturing Co. mill and its surrounding neighborhood are just one of many mill villages that characterize the upstate of South Carolina and its once-thriving textile industry. For many people in Greenville, life was lived in conjunction with the local mill until the industry began to move away from the upstate and mills began to close. By the late twentieth century, Poe Mill village, and its sister mill neighborhoods, reflected only a remnant of what they once had been. The influence of the textile industry may have waned, but the community’s need for Christ was just as apparent as ever.
In 1965, the drive down West Lee Road would have taken you past only houses and trees. Lots of trees. But at the very end of the road you would have found a small but faithful congregation of believers known as the Boulevard Baptist Church, led by Pastor Russell Stolp. It was there that a new youth pastor and his small group of teenagers became burdened to reach souls for Jesus Christ on the west side of town.
They became burdened specifically for Poe Mill. Their outreach efforts bore fruit initially with one little boy named Nathan, and that one contact soon grew into a regular outreach in the neighborhood. The church began a weekly Bible club for children on Fridays which they named “Club 3:16.” Children had to first memorize John 3:16 in order to join the club. Before long, Pastor Blair Bridle and his teenagers were looking for more room to house the growing Bible club and the Lord provided a little house at 23 B Street for them to rent out. Graciously, the Poe Manufacturing Co. rented the house to them for just $30 per month. Each month, Pastor Bridle, his teenagers, and their families would raise the $30 by finding and depositing a ton of trash paper at the local dump.
Quickly, Club 3:16 grew into a Friday night ministry for children and a Saturday night ministry for teenagers. Each weekend, the little house would be full of young people, a group that soon began to include parents and other adults. The church then organized Sunday school classes on Sunday mornings in the neighborhood under the leadership of Sunday school superintendent Al Thornton.
By 1966, it was apparent to Boulevard Baptist Church that Poe Mill Village needed a new church plant. On one side of the Poe Mill neighborhood was a small area of open land that had once been a cemetery for mill workers’ children. The property had since been neglected and overgrown, only a few grave markers could still be found. With permission from Poe Manufacturing and the county, Boulevard Baptist Church purchased the land for one dollar and erected a simple 50’ x 50’ metal building. Having enlisted Rev. Thornton to serve as its pastor, Boulevard Baptist church began what was first known as the Poe Mill Mission. In 1967, the Mission became independent of Boulevard Baptist Church and changed its name to the Faith Baptist Church.
The new church grew steadily under five years of Pastor Thornton’s leadership until 1971, when he resigned following his wife’s declining health and death. As the church sought for a new pastor the Lord led them to call Max Kaster, another faithful servant at Boulevard Baptist Church. Rev. Kaster had served in the United States Navy, where he trusted Christ as his savior, and then moved his family to Greenville to enroll at Bob Jones University as a preacher boy. Under Pastor Kaster, the church continued to grow, continued Club 3:16, and continued to reach people from Poe Mill. Before leaving Faith, Pastor Kaster helped complete the process of officially incorporating the small church on October 7th 1975. In 1975, Max and Linda Kaster moved to Indiana where the Lord used them to plant another Faith Baptist Church.
The next two years of Faith’s history were challenging. A third pastor, Robert Wolf, served for eighteen months but little has been recorded about that period of time. Between pastors, the church was led by one of its deacons while a pulpit committee searched for the next candidate. By 1977, the congregation at Faith had dwindled to only about forty people. The church was struggling financially and the people were beginning to pray about whether the time had come to simply return their membership and their building to Boulevard Baptist Church.
It was at this time that God connected some of the men at Faith with another veteran and preacher boy, John Vaughn. Bro. Vaughn and his growing family had moved to Greenville just a couple of years earlier to prepare for the ministry. Like Pastor Kaster, he had been saved and called to preach while serving in the military. His classmates and coworkers who attended Faith encouraged him to come and candidate. When John and Brenda Vaughn first arrived at the little building on the west side of town, they were struck by the obvious needs of the church. The facilities were in disrepair, the area was poor and aging, and the small congregation was in great need of encouragement. Though their first impression was less than enthusiastic, the Lord laid a burden on their hearts for the people at Faith, and in October of 1977 Pastor Vaughn accepted the call to come as pastor.
Immediately the work began to strengthen the people and to see the Lord meet their needs. The congregation slowly grew. But it was in May of 1978 when the Lord brought to the Vaughns and the Faith Baptist Church the fiery trial that would forever shape the church’s history. On Saturday evening, May 20th, the Lord ordained a terrible house fire in the Vaughns’ home which threatened the life of both Brenda and two-year old Becky. The next several months and years were consumed with critical care for Becky and Brenda as doctors watched them both miraculously survive and slowly recover. The little congregation of forty grew dramatically in the few years that followed as God worked in and through the Vaughns in incredible ways.
Within a short time, so many people were attending Faith that the little 50’ x 50’ building simply couldn’t hold them. The church held multiple morning and evening services—as many as five services each Sunday—to accommodate everyone. Thankfully, in 1981, the Lord provided a much larger facility nearby, which had once been a Winn-Dixie grocery store, that provided ample room for the church family. For the next thirteen years, 2706 Old Buncombe Road was the home of Faith Baptist Church.
During the years at Old Buncombe Road the church family matured and grew. Many people were discipled and raised their families under Pastor Vaughn’s preaching. The Lord also used Faith to begin two sister ministries during this time. The very limiting handicaps that Becky received as a result of the fire highlighted the need for Christian education designed specifically for handicapped children, and thus in 1981, with only two students, the Hidden Treasure Christian School began. The school started with one teacher and a handful of volunteers but immediately grew. Within ten years enrollment reached nearly forty students. Dr. John McCormick has served as the school’s Administrator since 1984.
The Lord also highlighted a great need among the growing Hispanic community in Greenville and used Faith to plant the now independent Iglesia Bautista de la Fe. By God’s grace, after nearly thirty years, Iglesia Bautista de la Fe continues as a thriving Spanish church in Greenville and is being used of God to strengthen its own people and missionaries around the world. Pastor Johnny Franco continues to serve as the church’s founding pastor.
During these years, the Lord also gave to the church a vision for a new home on West Lee Road. By 1992, the church had purchased and began to clear 36 acres of land in preparation for new buildings, a project that continued until the spring of 1994. And in April of 1994 the people officially moved to their new home!
The decade that followed was a time of thriving ministry at Faith. The Lord used the Vaughn’s testimony in churches all over the country. He also entrusted Dr. Vaughn with key leadership roles in the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International and the American and South Carolina Associations of Christian Schools. At one time Faith Baptist housed the home office of the FBFI as well as FrontLine Magazine in addition to expanding the ministry of Hidden Treasure Christian School. In these years the Lord also laid a particular burden on the hearts of key leaders at Faith for a new children’s discipleship program to better meet their needs. Several years of writing, editing, and development on the part of Dr. Ted Harris and his team of sacrificial members at Faith led to the creation of Frontline Clubs, which now not only serves the families at Faith but a number of other churches around the country and abroad.
In early 2007, in light of Brenda’s declining health, the Lord led Pastor Vaughn to begin a transition process in preparation for his retirement. A pulpit committee began the search for a candidate and the church family prepared to celebrate the thirty years that God had used Pastor Vaughn at Faith. The church family rejoiced with the Vaughns on October 28th, 2007, as they remembered all that the Lord had done over the past thirty years. The next full year, Deacon and Pulpit Committee Chairman Rob Perry led the church as they prayed for the Lord to guide them to their next pastor. Pastor Jim Binney graciously filled the pulpit for much of that year serving as Interim Pastor.
In October 2008, the Lord brought John and Susan Monroe and their family to Faith to candidate. Pastor Monroe had been the Senior Pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Riverview, Florida for thirteen years, and had previously served for three years as the Youth Pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Virginia Beach. In November, Faith officially called Pastor Monroe, and on January 18th, 2009, the Monroes said goodbye to their church family in Florida and became a part of their new family at Faith Baptist.
The Lord has certainly been at work over the last few years. Faith continues to grow and the Lord continues to develop new ministries. The last three years have seen the development of our church vision statement and core values, the creation and growth of Freedom That Lasts, Faith Counseling Institute, and the Freedom Home for Women located on the church campus. A new balcony has also been constructed in the past year, providing nearly three hundred additional seats to accommodate increasing attendance.
The Faith Baptist Church looks quite different today than it did in 1967, but the heart of the ministry is the same. John 3:16 still motivates the pastor and people at Faith to reach lost souls in this community, and God is doing just that, every week, by His grace! Praise the Lord for these last 45 plus years of His faithfulness and saving grace at Faith Baptist Church! May He find us faithful and fit for His use in the future and continue to glorify Himself here at Faith!