By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
[img_assist|nid=7813|title=Going Strong|desc=Members of Tangipahoa Baptist Church say they are one big family. The church has a spirit of giving and cooperation, and is committed to advancing God’s Kingdom work in the state and across the globe. The Baptist church, apparently the first established in what is now Louisiana, is celebrating its 200th anniversary.|link=none|align=left|width=640|height=427]TANGIPAHOA – Before there was a Louisiana, there was a Tangipahoa Baptist Church.
Before there was a Louisiana Baptist Convention, there was a Tangipahoa Baptist Church.
“Churches success should not be measured in memberships or finances, but in the lives and hearts changed by Christ,” said Pastor Greg Stewart. “Tangipahoa looks forward to continually charring out the Great Commission of Jesus until His return. Revelation 22:20 says, He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
As Louisiana and the Louisiana Baptist Convention prepare to celebrate their 200th anniversaries in 2012, the record shows Tangipahoa Baptist Church was accepted on Oct. 19, 1811, into the Mississippi Baptist Association, which then included territory stretching from Natchez, Miss., to New Orleans, and from the Mississippi River to the Pearl River.
Tangipahoa was the eleventh church to join the Mississippi Baptist Association, which was formed in 1807 with five churches. Tangipahoa was in the Florida Parishes until in 1810 the area was annexed by the United States. It was apparently when peace came to the land that had been under British, then Spanish rule, that settlers started the church.
The Tangipahoa area was settled by loggers from Tennessee, who first chopped down the virgin cypress, pine and hardwood trees, then stayed to clear the land, said Pastor Stewart, who has an interest in history.
The only thing known for sure about the start of Tangipahoa Baptist Church is the name of the messenger to that 1811 associational meeting: David Edwards. Early records were lost in a fire, the pastor said. Over the years the church met in several locations, including a barn now at least 200 years old, which is still standing.
The first evidence of Southern Baptists’ cooperative spirit took place in 1886, when Tangipahoa Baptist Church was unable to pay the balance of $25 owed to its pastor. Bethel Baptist Church, started in 1853 in St. Helena Parish – the next parish west – heard about it and took up a special offering so the Tangipahoa church wouldn’t close.
Tangipahoa Baptist’s 1926 budget allocated $254.20 to the Cooperative Program. This was the first budget year after the Cooperative Program was enacted by messengers to the 1925 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, as a way to pool mission dollars to provide for God’s Kingdom work in the state conventions and across the globe.
When the church apparently eagerly entered into the spirit of the Cooperative Program, perhaps they remembered the kindness of Bethel, which today has a Kentwood address.
Tangipahoa Baptist Church today regularly cooperates with other churches in its part of the state, such as a recent appeal from First Baptist Church of Kentwood to be part of that town’s Christmas parade, and from Pine Grove Baptist Church of Livington to attend a special concert.
Members also cooperate with each other for the good of God’s kingdom work. Dale and Mildred Bridges donated four acres of land so the church could relocate to a strategic corner location. Norma Lambert donated the money to build a worship center that has since expanded to include education and fellowship wings.
Ed Beck was one of several members to help with the construction.[img_assist|nid=7814|title=Pastor sings|desc=Pastor Greg Stewart and his wife Paula, who own a trucking concern based in Port Allen, have served since January 2006 bivocationally without salary.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=427]
“This place is definitely one big family here,” Beck said. “I enjoy it. It’s the first time in my life I’ve been dedicated to go to church.”
Bobby Cutrer, who worked for years in the auto body business, didn’t even wait until the invitation song started one recent week before he walked down the aisle to rededicate his life and join the church. His wife did the same the following week.
“I felt the need,” Cutrer said. “All these months we’ve been coming – our son invited us – I felt I was wandering in the wilderness and I needed to do something.” Why did he choose for that “something” to be God? “There’s no end to what God can do,” Cutrer said with absolute assurance.
He’d learned that under the pastoral teaching of Stewart, he said.
Pastor Greg and his wife Paula Stewart, who own a trucking concern based in Port Allen, have served since January 2006 bivocationally without salary, which enables the church to afford a youth minister.
Deacons minister to the community’s pastoral needs throughout the week.
Worship services include several times of prayer as well as extended time of fellowship mingling, and the singing of Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to those celebrating during the month.
The opening heartfelt prayer was for those who lost loved ones in recent days, for those in military service, for America and its leaders, and for missionaries.
Other prayer times throughout the service were for personal words with God, for the needs of friends and family members, to thank God for His blessings, and for a movement of the Holy Spirit.
Music was provided by a computerized “box” with all the hymns from the Baptist Hymnal on it, said song leader Janet Bridges. The electronic device was donated by a member after the church lost its pianist several years ago.
Stewart preached from Mark 11:11-14 one Sunday in early December. It was the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree.
“God has given us all things in which to produce,” Stewart preached. “We’re showing the leaves of the season” – referring to Christmas decorations, nativity scenes and the like – “but what about the fruit?”
In the same way that Jesus expected to see fruit in the lives of Jews in the temple, he expected to see figs – or at least buds in that early springtime – on the fig tree, Stewart preached. “Instead, he saw greed, corruption, sin – leaves but no fruit. …
“What is the value of a church … when nothing is there to justify its existence? You’ve got the leaves,” Stewart preached. “Are you bearing the fruit?”
Tangipahoa, according to records of the Mississippi Baptist Association, was the first of what now are about 1,600 churches and about 500,000 members across Louisiana, who minister in their communities and associations, across the state and throughout the world.
Only God can count the fruit produced over the last 200 years by Louisiana Southern Baptists.
By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor