Celebrating Over 150 Years of Service to the Community
About the time Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address, several Baptist families were writing the constitution, articles of faith, and covenant for the Wheaton Baptist Church. Like many other churches in the area, First Baptist Wheaton found its roots 25 years earlier near Stacy’s Corners in the town of Glen Ellyn, then called Danby, where the first believers began to gather together to form a united congregation.
Thanks to help along the way from Baptist missionaries to the Illinois frontier, such as Revs. Philander Taylor and Adoniram J. Joslyn, the First Baptist Church of Wheaton’s constitution was officially signed on May 7, 1864. On June 4 of the same year, the congregation of 20 members called its first pastor, Rev. Barna S. McLafferty. Over the next 47 years, 18 men held the pastorate at First Baptist Wheaton. Between 1911 and 1918, Dr. Ralph R. Kennan saw an incredible outreach during his tenure, with 229 people added to the church. By 1921, there were over 350 members.
While the congregation met at the Methodist Church at first, by December 5, 1867 First Baptist Wheaton moved into their own building located on the northeast corner of Main and Seminary. Around 1900 the congregation felt they were outgrowing that building, which was eventually moved to Cross and Seminary to become the home for the Lutheran Church.
On the same location at Main and Seminary, First Baptist Wheaton dedicated its second building in May 1904, and also officially incorporated as a church. This was home for the congregation until June 12, 1960, when First Baptist Wheaton moved into its current facility located at 1310 North Main Street. In 1992, the recognizable steeple was erected over the sanctuary as a beacon to the community. On the same corner where the first church stood, a second building was erected in 1904. This was home for the congregation until 1960.
Over the years, First Baptist Wheaton has had a passion for multiplication and growth of the church. In fact, through church planting efforts, First Baptist Wheaton has had a number of daughter churches. These churches were strategically planted and funded until they were able to maintain themselves independently:
- First Baptist Church of Elmhurst – founded in 1910
- Grace Baptist Church in Lombard – founded in 1957
- Carol Stream Baptist Church (Renamed Fellowship Church of Carol Stream) – founded in 1963
- First Baptist Church of Hanover Park (Renamed Jefferson Street Community Church) – founded in 1981
First Baptist Wheaton also played a role in the establishment of:
- Second Baptist Church of Wheaton – founded in 1907
- Geneva Road Baptist Church (Renamed Christ Community Church) – founded in 1954
- Christ Church in Glen Ellyn – founded in 2000
First Baptist Wheaton has also commissioned, supported, and cared for hundreds of missionaries to grow the church in other areas. It currently supports 40 “field staff” financially or through prayer. First Baptist Wheaton has also encouraged local cross-cultural ministry through its Russian and Spanish ministries, as well as its homework clubs and gardens for local refugee families.
First Baptist Wheaton has historically had a strong emphasis on leadership development, spiritual formation, and education. In 1974, the congregation opened Toddlers Campus Preschool, which celebrates its 40th Anniversary this year. With an enrollment of nearly 200 children the preschool serves as an education and outreach center for our community, even providing a dozen scholarships to refugee families in order to minister to them and prepare their children for public school. This spring First Baptist Wheaton is also launching the Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development, in hopes of training ministry leaders (at the Master’s level) in the context of the local church.
Now 150 years and 32 pastors later, the 546-member congregation of First Baptist Wheaton, led by Rev. Mike Rowe, continues to have a passion and fire for following its mission of “being disciples of Jesus Christ who disciple others” and endeavors to see that fire continue for the next 150 years.