Though it’s outgrown its building and more than tripled in size in recent years, the focus of Second Baptist Church and its congregation has remained the same, its pastor said.
“We are a loving church by the side of the road,” the Rev. Johnnie Fleming Jr. said, referencing the church’s motto, “and we have to embody that.”
Construction of the church’s $2 million expansion will soon begin, and in recent days its offices have been moved to a building on property the church purchased next door.
The move to the building, which will serve as the church’s office during construction, has been “very graceful,” he said, and the trustee ministry has been “stellar in doing everything that needs to be done.”
Fleming, who’s been the pastor at Second Baptist Church for nearly 16 years, said the expansion is the result of “at least a 10-year vision.”
“What’s been most instrumental is how members, the leadership, has just stepped up to the plate,” he said. “I presented the vision … but the people embraced it and ran with it.
“I’m grateful to the Lord and patience is a virtue. … Nothing happens overnight.”
The church’s last service in the building before the renovation will take place on Sunday, Jan. 17, Fleming said, which also happens to be the day he’ll mark his 16th year as pastor. Starting on Jan. 24, the church’s Sunday service will take place at 10 a.m. at Elizabeth Davis Middle School, located at 601 Corvus Court.
The construction should take somewhere from nine months to a year, Fleming said, and the church should be back in its home by Thanksgiving.
“The real emphasis of the expansion project is educational space,” which there’s always been a need for, he said. With the addition, the church will go from having two classrooms to having 10, he said.
Trustee Ezzard Williams, who’s been a member of the church since 2004, said he’d never been to a church that had so many children in it, and teaching those children was vital.
“We really need the space,” he said.
The pastor will get a new office, as will the church secretary, Fleming said. The choir loft will be enlarged by about 50 percent, he said, allowing more space for Second Baptist’s several choirs. The new pulpit area will be like an open stage, he said.
The baptismal, which is now under the pulpit area at the front of the sanctuary, will be moved to the back of the room and modernized, Fleming said. “I won’t have to get in the water anymore,” he said.
The church’s sign will also get a facelift with the addition of a digital message board, he said.
When Fleming took over as pastor, “we only had 150 people,” he said. Now, the number is up to 700 and climbing.
About three years ago, the church started having two Sunday morning services because there were too many people to fit in a single service. Now, he said, “both of those services have maxed out,” and chairs are often brought into the sanctuary, which can hold about 230 people, to provide more seats.
Second Baptist Church was established about 65 years ago as a Methodist church, and Fleming is its third pastor. The current building was built in 1985, and added onto in the early 1990s.
“The church has been a thriving church,” he said, largely because of its location on a main transportation artery. “We get so many patrons stopping by out of curiosity because” they saw the church “on their way to or from Walmart,” he said.
Second Baptist has a greeters ministry, and guests get a hug at the door and a song sung for them, he said. If it’s raining, greeters have umbrellas to help visitors in out of the rain, he said.
“I’d never been to a church where people hug you at the door,” Williams added.
Agatha Lynn Sumpter, who’s been the church secretary for four years, said she and her family decided to join the church after three or four visits because it felt right. Being part of the church made her feel more at peace while her husband, who is in the military, was on assignment overseas for six months.
“I’m very excited about the project,” she said. “The space will be well used and it’s been a long time coming.”
Sumpter said the church is family-oriented, and members are able to get to know each other. When someone is in pain, “people really, sincerely feel those people’s pain,” she said.
“It’s just a wonderful place to be,” she said.
“We like to think we have a ministry that reaches out to all segments of our community. … We empower them to live up to their gifts,” Fleming said. And, the service “offers a little bit of everything that people like.”
“I don’t think we consider ourselves to be a marathon service,” he said. “We only seem to allow what is necessary for spiritual fulfillment and do away with the other stuff.
“And, we are a loving church. … We have to live up to that.”