First Baptist Church was established in 1845 and is the oldest church in Durham. It was originally called the Rose of Sharon Baptist Church before changing its name to Durham Baptist Church in 1877 and then First Baptist Church of Durham in 1878. Over the years, our church has planted about a dozen other churches in and around Durham, most recently South Durham Church. We helped found the Yates Baptist Association, though in 2009 we left that body due to doctrinal concerns. Over the years, several FBC Durham pastors have served as key leaders in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Southern Baptist Convention. In past years, the church has hosted state convention meetings, statewide Woman’s Missionary Union meetings, and numerous denominational conferences. Dozens of FBC Durham members have served as trustees or board members of state convention or SBC ministries.
Like many Southern Baptist congregations, especially older urban churches, FBC Durham went through its own version of the “conservative resurgence” in recent years. Between the 1960s and the 1990s, the church was served by some pastors who identified with conservatives in the SBC and others who identified with the moderates in the Convention. Because the church’s membership was relatively engaged in denominational affairs, the same division was evident among the church’s deacons, WMU officers, staff members, and other key leaders. In 1990, Allan Moseley became the pastor of FBC Durham and helped to prevent the church from affiliating with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Moseley left in 1996 to become the dean of students and an Old Testament professor at Southeastern Seminary.
In 1998, after a prolonged interim pastorate by SEBTS preaching professor Wayne McDill, Andrew Davis became the new senior pastor of FBC Durham. Under Davis’s leadership, the church went through a period of significant turmoil between 1999 and 2003. During this period, the church developed stronger ties with Southeastern Seminary, which is located about a half hour from the church’s building. The church also developed ties with Southern Seminary, where Davis earned a PhD in church history. By 2003, the church had become definitively, intentionally conservative in its doctrine. In 2008, the membership approved a change in the church’s polity from a committee-driven congregationalism to a plural-elder-led congregationalism.
In the past decade, the church has renewed its commitment to evangelism and missions. The church has always had a track record of emphasizing global missions. Over the years, dozens of members have served as overseas missionaries, including at least two pastors. We currently have five families and two single women serving with the International Mission Board. Another couple serves with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Numerous members have served as Journeymen with IMB in recent years. In terms of North American missions, in recent years we have sent domestic church planters to southern Durham (www.soduchurch.org) and Boston (www.mosiacboston.com), as well as a NAMB-sponsored church revitalizer to Worcester, MA. The church has also been committed to short-term overseas mission trips since the 1970s.
God has blessed FBC Durham in numerous ways. We’re grateful for almost 170 years of gospel ministry. We pray for even greater faithfulness and fruitfulness in the years to come.