First Baptist Church, the third oldest church in Sterling, was organized August 18, 1883, with seven charter members. The church preceded the formation of Logan County by four years and the town of Sterling by one. On October 22, 1888, Articles of Incorporation were filed with the Logan County Clerk and Recorder and a charter was granted.
The church began in a one-room structure and over the first 24 years the town and church grew quickly with many families moving to the area. A larger facility was purchased in 1913 to house the growing congregation and by 1922 First Baptist Church boasted 239 members. The church, along with the community, experienced its share of ups and downs over the next 25-30 years including the impact of World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II.
The discovery of oil in Northeast Colorado during the 1950’s resulted in dramatic changes both socially and economically for the community. Because a great many people who came to work in the oil industry were from Southern states, the only Baptist church in town was subject to more change in a short time than most churches experience in many years. In 1954 the church showed a total membership of 366. By the late 1950’s oil exploration slowed down. The boom was over and Sterling’s growth began to slow. The Southern Baptist people who had joined First Baptist Church decided to build their own Southern Baptist Church resulting in the loss of a number of members.
A New Home
In 1963, with a congregation of 230 resident members, it was decided to embark on a building campaign to construct a new church building further from the downtown area. A building campaign began in 1964 and ground was broken in October of 1968, in the southwest part of town. The first services were held in the new church on January 4, 1970. Total cost for the new building was estimated to be $250,000. Twelve years after moving in the new church building, the last payment was made on the indebtedness and a “Mortgage Burning Ceremony” was held February 3, 1982.
Since that move 49 years ago, First Baptist Church has maintained a strong spiritual presence in the city of Sterling, experiencing seasons of growth and loss just as the community itself has changed. The church celebrated its 100th Anniversary in October, 1983. In anticipation of future growth and development, an additional parcel of land to the North of the current building was purchased in 1988. In 2008, a 125th Anniversary celebration was observed.
The building itself has undergone several remodeling and updating projects. In 1997, the sanctuary saw its first updating since construction including new carpeting and upholstery for the pews. Then, in 2009 a building campaign was initiated for further remodeling including the possibility of constructing additional classrooms and a possible gymnasium. In the end, the campaign generated enough support for the installation of new windows throughout the building, a new roof over the education wing, an update of the heating and air conditioning system, improvements to the sound system, and other needed cosmetic improvements. Most recently, the sanctuary was updated again in 2018 with new carpeting, the existing pews were replaced with chairs improving its seating flexibility, and the kitchen was also refurbished.
During its 136 year history, First Baptist Church has been served by more than 32 pastors. Some of them were supply or itinerant ministers and there is no record of their names, however 32 are noted by name. In addition there have been at least four support staff or associates.