20 Apr 2014 The journey
by Mark Dance
For 13 years, I have had the privilege of being the senior pastor at Second Baptist Church in Conway (2BC), which, as of Easter Sunday, has a new home address on the corner of Dave Ward Drive and Farris Road. This is still a very new and somewhat strange concept for our city after being near the corner of Harkrider and Oak streets for 92 years.
It is understandable if you are as curious about why we moved as where we moved. I am grateful for the opportunity to briefly share our relocation journey.
Our ministry vision has determined our direction since Second Baptist was started in 1922. The original vision of the founding members was to go where the people are. At that time, Conway was beginning to grow eastward, on the “other side of the tracks,” so six people from First Baptist Church rented the old White Grand Theater on the downtown corner of Oak and Court streets to reach new people.
In less than a year, this adventurous little group bought the original Nazarene church on the corner of Factory and Polk streets. This building was their home until it was destroyed by a hailstorm in 1951. The 2BC members frugally rebuilt that sanctuary “brick by brick” under the leadership of Pastor O.S. Stallings. William West pastored 2BC from 1957-75 and led the church to build an education building in the 1960s and a much larger sanctuary in 1971. Kendall Black pastored 2BC for seven years, during which time major renovations were done and additional property was purchased. In Dr. Larry Pillow’s 17-year, fruitful pastorate, 2BC expanded its campus by purchasing the Jodie Brown Motors building in the 1980s, as well as building a children’s ministry building in the 1990s. I became the pastor of Second Baptist in 2001, and we decided about a year later to relocate.
Which brings us back to the original question: “Why are you relocating?” Second Baptist decided to once again go where the people were. After determining that current facilities were limiting our ability to expand our ministry far into the next century, we relocated next door to the University of Central Arkansas, which is in the epicenter of Conway’s current residential base. The bottom line is that the Second Baptist family loves our neighbors more than our property. Conway is growing, and we want to grow with it.
Selling our five-acre downtown campus to rebuild on 50 acres would indefinitely solve our space problems, but it created a new dilemma — who would love our downtown neighbors? How can we love our neighbors and leave them at the same time? It was Dwight Davis, a 2BC deacon and the chairman of our relocation steering committee, who first asked, “What if we kept the downtown campus and used it for ministry purposes?” After a season of fasting and prayer, the Second Baptist family decided to take the property off the market and repurpose it into an evangelical ministry center for our neighbors.
To make this a plausible plan, we immediately downsized our blueprints and relocation budget. This wasn’t a downsize of our vision, but the fulfillment of it. By putting our neighbor’s needs first, and our own needs second, we’re trying to live up to our name (Second) as well as our calling to love all of our neighbors. I personally invited a handful of Conway pastors to help make the Ministry Center a reality. Their enthusiastic response was a testament to the kind of community we live in.
The Ministry Center has become a hub of evangelical churches and partners who are gathering to meet many of the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of our community. The center board is comprised of leaders from different churches. Chairman Greg Pillow plans on launching with a full summer program. Go to ministrycenter.org to find out more information.
Easter was the grand opening on our new campus. Worship and small groups meet at 9:30 and 11 a.m. each Sunday (2BCFamily.com). Our Dave Ward campus includes a new worship building, a student center and an office complex. The campus also includes a state-of-the-art playground, outdoor half basketball court, sand volleyball court and hammock nest — all opened to the community.
Our church hopes that both campuses will be a blessing to all of our Conway neighbors for generations to come.