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Many prominent Longview churches part of First Baptist Church family tree

By Richard Yeakley
Aug. 9, 2013 at 10 p.m.

This is the family history of First Baptist Church of Longview - and quite an extensive lineage it is.

While many Baptist churches in Longview began as communities of believers gathered together in their neighborhoods to worship, many others are offspring of First Baptist, including Mobberly Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland Heights Baptist Church, Valley View Baptist Church, Northside Baptist Church and Iglesia Bautista Nueva Esperanza.

And while church plants and mission churches are not unique to the nation's largest Protestant denomination, a long-term focus on evangelism has made Baptist churches prominent on many street corners across the country.

"A lot of it goes back to the philosophy of the mother church," said Tim Watson, executive director of the Longview Clergy Coalition. "For some mother churches that birth other congregations, the way they want to grow is to create new units that meet new constituencies. They go out to an area where there is not another church in that part of town or reaching that particular demographic. A lot of churches do have a philosophy they don't want to be a megachurch."

Watson said many churches anticipate creating new church units because it can more easily draw unreached groups.

"I don't really think there is a right or wrong way to grow," said Watson, referring to offering more services at one congregation or creating more congregations. He added that the Southern Baptist Convention had been historically very "externally focused."

"I think it just comes out of the DNA about what it means to be a Baptist. Throughout their history with all kinds of Baptists, there is a lot of latitude, but overall Baptists' focus on the Great Commission and evangelism and missions historically have always been a centerpiece about what made that denomination strong."

According to one of the most recent comprehensive break down of religious adherents - the Congregations and Membership in the United States survey of 2000 - almost 50 percent of Gregg County church-goers are aligned with the Southern Baptist denomination.

<h3>First Baptist</h3>

According to a church history of First Baptist Church, much of its outreach took place during the 1930s.

It was then that the church gave birth to North Side Baptist Church as Northcutt Heights Mission on Hudson Street. The church also established South Highlands Mission on Highland Street, the original incarnation of Mobberly Avenue Baptist Church, now Mobberly Baptist Church.

The church also formed the first incarnation of Valley View Baptist Church.

In the 1950s, a mission of the church was established at Bramlette Elementary School. That church now stands as Oakland Heights Baptist Church on Judson Road.

In recent years, the church has established Iglesia Bautista Nueva Esperanza to reach out to the growing Hispanic community.

<h3>Continued growth</h3>

While many Baptist congregations - such as Macedonia Baptist Church, New Beginnings Baptist Church, Lakeview Baptist Church, Calvary Baptist Church, Greggton First Baptist Church and Woodland Hills Baptist Church - began on their own, the original First Baptist Church missions have continued to create new congregations in the community.

Past years have seen two mission churches from Oakland Heights Baptist Church. One of those, Lifepoint Church, is aimed at a younger demographic, while the second, Vida Abundante, is for the area's Hispanic community.

Lifepoint Church will soon celebrate it's 10th year and was started with a team of members from Oakland Heights Baptist Church.

"I think it was very wise for them to do that," Watson said. "It needed the mother church to fund it, and a nucleus or members, but there was a demographic there of younger adults, and the church said that we are willing to fund that because evidently we are not going to reach that with our older, more established congregation."

Mobberly Baptist Church, Longview's only megachurch, has turned its focus heavily on planting churches for unreached people groups.

Joe Parnell, Mobberly's church plant strategist, said the reason the congregation planted three churches in recent years across the world is its mission is based in Acts 1:8.

"Part of our DNA has always been to plant churches, but with the coming of Dr. (Glynn) Stone who has a huge heart for church planting based on Acts 1:8," Parnell said.

The scripture commands Christians to spread their beliefs first to nearby people but also to the ends of the world.

"If you look at the history of the early church, they built churches where they were, but then they took the responsibility to send out missionaries and spread the word," Parnell said.

In addition to foreign language church plants in Longview, the church has helped launch three out-of-state congregations - True North Church in Ancorage, AK; Connection Church in Spearfish, S.D.; and Heritage Church in Preston, United Kingdom.

The church also will soon help launch a fourth, Lifepoint Church in San Fransisco, Calif., and has seen some of its missions give birth to church plants of its own.

"We just feel like that is something that God commissioned his church to do," Parnell said.



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