A Look at Our Past...Our Hope for the Future
Rev. Elder Isaac Backus
On January 16, 1756, several people met in the home of Isaac Backus and organized what was then called the Baptist Church of Christ in Middleborough, Bridgewater and Raynham. Backus, who had previously been pastor of the separatist church in town (North Congregational Church just down the road from our church building), left that post upon his conviction that Baptism should be reserved for those who have made a conscious decision to give their lives to Jesus Christ and thus profess that faith through Baptism by immersion. On June 23rd of that same year, Backus was formerly ordained as pastor of the new congregation, and one year later, ground was broken for the first church edifice. Records indicate that there were 41 members by the end of 1760.
First Baptist Church was the fourteenth Baptist church to have been established in the Massachusetts colony. The church is rich in history not only because of its being among the first ones planted in this state, but because of its founding Pastor, Rev. Isaac Backus. Backus was a direct descendent of Edward Winslow of the Mayflower pilgrims. Winslow has been called one of the founders of the Plymouth Colony. It was Winslow, sent by Governor Bradford, who first visited Chief Massasoit and developed a friendly relationship among the Native Americans of the area. Winslow would go on to serve three terms as Governor of the Colony.
Isaac Backus would come to experience personal salvation in Christ at age 18 years old, while plowing alone in his home fields on August 24, 1741. In his own diary, Backus recorded of his experience:
I was enabled by divine light to see the perfect righteousness of Christ and the freeness and richness of His grace with such clearness that my soul was drawn forth to trust in Him for salvation. The Word of God and the promises of His grace appeared firmer than a rock, and I was astonished at my previous unbelief.
Little did he realize then that he would not only come to serve as founder of one of the earliest Baptist churches in the colony, but as a pioneer for religious freedom in the new nation. During his years, Backus served as a defender of religious liberty, arguing for the right of every man to worship God in the church of his own choice, without coercion from government or the oppressive taxation of citizens in order to support the state church in Massachusetts. His brother and mother being imprisoned for refusal to pay such taxes, Backus pleaded his case before Continental Congress in 1774, the General Court in Watertown in 1775, and in Boston in 1780 and, finally, to George Washington in 1790. Although Backus died before seeing the fruits of his own labor, his efforts paved the way for Separation of Church and State, providing a heritage of religious freedom for all people. During his lifetime, Backus traveled over 68,600 miles as a traveling evangelist, while also maintaining his faithful ministry as pastor of the new church, a post he held for 50 years, until his death in 1806.
Since its founding, First Baptist has been housed in three buildings the first of which was located on Pleasant Street (1761-1806), the second which was located on the back corner of our current property (1807-1894) and our current structure which is located at the intersection of Plymouth and Bedford Streets. Through the years this church has also been the germ of several other Baptist churches and the nursing mother of several distinguished ministers of the Gospel. Our pastor, Rev. Jason D. Genest, serves as the 50th Pastor of our congregation.
First Baptist Church continues to stand as a leader in missions. Supporting twelve missionaries serving locally and globally, First Baptist remains committed to making disciples of all nations, through its faithful financial and prayerful support of those whose work is to advance the Gospel throughout the world. This commitment, which remains a hallmark of our fellowship, began in the early 1800s when the church established ties with those serving as missionaries in Burma.
In 1985, the church expanded its facilities, adding a fellowship hall, kitchen and main office. The fellowship hall houses a number of weekly ministries that meet at the church, including youth group, Mid-Week Bible Study, Monday Prayer Gatherings, adult Sunday School class, and the various dinners and special events held throughout the year. Our facilities have seen many updates since - a renovation of our Sanctuary, classroom and nursery areas and the fellowship hall.
First Baptist Church continues to stand as a growing fellowship of Believers who remain committed to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While there is no way to track the number of people who have entered our doors throughout our more than 250 years of ministry, or have come to know Christ through our efforts, we have seen, and continue to see, the faithfulness and provision of Almighty God as He carries us through generations of faithful and fruitful ministry for the Sake of Jesus Christ.