Under the leadership of Rev. W. Branch, eight persons organized the First Baptist Church of Pontiac on Sunday, May 24, 1857. At first, worship services were held in private homes, later moving to the Methodist Church for afternoon services. Baptisms were performed in the Vermillion River. As the church membership grew, plans were made to construct our own church building in 1860. Our first building was completed in 1866 on the corner of Oak and Water Streets.
As time progressed, the church saw opportunity to expand the ministry by beginning Sunday School classes. The first Sunday School was held on May 19, 1867. And, as the congregation continued to grow, the need for a larger building became apparent. So, on August 10, 1893 the cornerstone was laid for a building at the corner of Livingston and Mill Streets. A dedication service for this building was held in March 1894.
On July 17, 1921, Miss Lennie Rhodes from the Swygert Church was ordained in the Pontiac Church. She was the first woman in Illinois to be ordained a minister. Rev. W.C. Boyd led the ordination service. Pastor Boyd’s successor, Harold Hayward, was also ordained in the Pontiac Church on May 23, 1924.
In May 1949, plans began to add a Christian Educational Building, and cornerstone was laid on April 9, 1950. The building was completed and dedicated on April 20, 1952. In 1975 the land just south of the building was purchased to be used as a parking lot. Today that area is occupied by the Public Safety Complex, which houses the police and fire departments.
As growth continued to take place in all areas of church life, we were once again in need of a larger facility to accommodate our congregation. On October 3, 1983 the present property (formerly Ladd Grade School) was purchased and church services were first held in the gymnasium on December 2, 1984.
In April 1987 the congregation voted to hire an architectural firm to draw plans for a new sanctuary to be located on the present site. As time passed, these plans had to be postponed and it sometimes appeared that the dream of a sanctuary would never become reality. However, God “In His Time” had a definite plan and purpose for First Baptist Church.
Our present pastor, James O. Wolfe III, answered the call and became our full-time pastor on March 1, 1990.
On May 19, 1993, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to mark the beginning of construction of the long-awaited sanctuary. Construction proceeded on schedule and the congregation celebrated Christmas Eve 1993 in the beauty of the new sanctuary, where stained glass windows from our former church building were displayed. A dedication service was conducted on February 6, 1994.
With God and the movement of the Holy Spirit at the center of its ministry to members and community, the history of caring and outreach continues to shine a path into the future at First Baptist Church of Pontiac, Illinois.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11