After a two-month long offering yielded $1.4 million, First Baptist Church of Dover has been able to pay off its worship center. A celebration featuring the musical group Veritas will be held Sunday, Jan. 22.
Two months ago, those words didn’t apply to First Baptist Church of Dover and its 43,000-square-foot worship center. Built in 2011 for $6.3 million, the church still had $1.4 million to pay off.
“We had been on top of our payments,” Dr. Rob Jackson, the church’s senior pastor, said. “The church saved $4.1 million in 10 years. But we were paying $6,000 per month in interest alone.”
Just before Christmas, Jackson and the rest of the church staff encouraged the congregation to give toward the payment in honor of the season. After numerous donations, the church’s request had been fulfilled by Sunday, Jan. 8.
“We saw donations start in December and every single week they increased,” Jackson said. “The vast majority of the congregation contributed something, and I’m sure many did sacrificially. We’re officially a debt-free church. There’s always upkeep, but we had that anyway. We’re very thankful.”
The church will commemorate the competed payment — which Jackson calls a celebration of what God has done — at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22, with a church luncheon and a performance by vocal ensemble Veritas.
But the church didn’t start off packing hundreds into its sanctuary on Sunday mornings — just with a small group who wanted to worship.
Dover Baptist Church was born on July 3, 1904. Its founders were largely men who worked at the nearby depot station.
“The church was built for those who had difficulty making it to other churches,” Jackson said.
The first pastor, Rev. T.H. Jaudon, received a $5 per month salary.
Slowly, the congregation began to grow. In 1916, members collected $28 to light the church, later installing permanent electric lights. In 1958, the church’s name was legally changed to First Baptist Church of Dover.
Today, the church has about 1,200 members, with between 500 and 750 members attending weekly.
“It has grown significantly this last year,” Jackson said. “We’ve seen growth in every single area of he church. We all come together for worship. When you have people sharing each other’s burdens, that’s appealing to people. It’s really His blessing.”
Vision for the Future
Jackson calls the paid off sanctuary “one of the steps of the process.” Members of the congregation and the public are invited to a service Sunday, Jan. 22, to listen to the church’s vision for the future.
The church has also invited vocal ensemble Veritas to perform. The five-member Christian group debuted in 2012, and has since performed over 200 shows and multiple venues, including Carnegie Hall.
“We hope and pray we’ll be more effective in using the funds for Christ,” Jackson said. “We’re doing what God has called us to do, and we’re grateful for that.”
In addition to the sermon and performance, the church will present a 15-minute video highlighting First Baptist Dover’s history and testaments from the congregation. The loan note for the worship center will be burned ceremoniously following the service.
“We’re grateful for God’s answered prayers,” Jackson said. “We’re very grateful.”
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