Innovation and change in response to community needs is a part of the who we are at First Baptist. One early example came in a change of language. From its birth, Swedish was spoken at the service. However, beginning in 1925, a gradual conversion from the Swedish language to English began with a few evening services held in English. Nine years later, a vote with sealed ballots was taken & all services were then conducted in English.
Sacrifice is another of our values. During the Depression years, it became difficult to make the mortgage payments. Our congregation had lost some members, who had previously made pledges toward paying the mortgage. Farming was poor and many members were suffering financially. At great personal sacrifice, two members each borrowed $1000 to make the church mortgage payment.
During these years, a tradition of generosity was birthed. The congregation began to gather together once a year for a special dinner, prepared by the women, to thank the Lord for His blessings, and to give a sacrificial offering to pay down the mortgage. This event came to be known as “Offerfest”, and has remained an annual tradition at Kingsburg First Baptist that continues today. Many blessings resulted from these generous and sacrificial gifts over the years including new ministry developments, building and property expansion, as well as many special missions projects.
In 1942, in response to the changing culture, the Swedish Baptist Church in Kingsburg changed its name to First Baptist Church. In the Centennial History of FBC, Anna Marie Dahlquist writes, “The new name was appropriate for several reasons: the younger generation spoke only English, non-Swedes were joining the congregation, and the church wanted to reach out to all ethnic groups.”
Making disciples and building Christ’s Kingdom have always been deeply held commitments at KFBC. Starting back in the 1940’s with increased missionary giving, three missionaries, Axel Anderson to Central America, Emily Satterberg to Belgian Congo & Astrid Peterson to West China, were sent out by our church. In 1953, Pastor Roger Youngquist reported that missionary giving had exceeded giving to current expenses.
Later, Richard Dahlquist (son of our former pastor, Rudolph Dahlquist) & his wife, Anna Marie, were commissioned as missionaries in 1975. In 1992, Ronald Erickson, great grandson of August Erickson who was the Supt. of construction of our 2nd Church building), and his wife, Betty, were sent to Kenya, Africa through Wycliffe Bible Translators. More recently, we are privileged to have the opportunity to support and send Greg & Rebecca Parker, members of our church, who are called to serve in Brazil. In addition, the numbers who have participated in short term missions numbers in the hundreds.
Ministry expansion has been a constant. Beyond the building of the sanctuary building, two parsonages (homes for our pastors) were built, as well as the Christian Education Center. Later purchases made all of the homes and buildings on Washington Street and of the Ministry Center provided additional classrooms and parking which make up our present church campus.
Throughout its history, First Baptist has been blessed with godly and gifted leadership. We have been greatly blessed to have had many “Heros of Faith” in our 100+ years of church history. Many godly pastors, gifted laymen and musicians have had a profound impact on the ministry of First Baptist Church. They are men and women who have ministered & served in all the needed areas as the Word of God has been taught and the work of the Lord’s church has been carried out.
In all, a total of 17 men have served as Senior Pastor, 5 as Associate Pastors, and 13 Youth Pastors.
The three pastors who served Kingsburg First Baptist for the longest length of time were Rev. A.W. Backlund (1904-1917), Roger Youngquist (1952-1964), and Russell Lyon (1986-2000). It was during their pastorates that the church experienced the most rapid increase in growth & membership. All three pastors were deeply loved by their congregations.
Roger Youngquist, along with his family, will be remembered for their musical talents, for his dedication in being a shepherd to the congregation of First Baptist Church and for his vision in the expansion of ministry. The church grew to 592 members. The growth required the first staff expansion, Fran Engvall, Church Missionary, and the first full-time Youth Pastor, Sam Cummings.
Pastor Youngquist left a legacy of regional church planting. In 1958, he began holding a Bible study with two members of KFBC. The Bible study was held in Fresno. As the Bible study grew, the group responded God’s call to organize a new church plant. That church: Northwest Baptist Church in Fresno. The membership showed outstanding commitment to the vision of seeing Northwest planted and established. $4000 was given for a down payment on a home for a pastor. Later, following the Lord’s leading, a mortgage on our own church building was taken in order to provide a $25,000 loan for Northwest to build their chapel. From that “Daughter Church” plant, have come further plants and the Word of God has been spread. We are very proud to have had a part in the expansion of churches for God’s glory.
Pastor Rusty Lyon began his ministry at KFBC in 1986. As written in the Centennial History of FBC, “Rusty’s years… were marked by a number of innovations, remarkable congregational growth, & a vivid style of preaching. During his pastorate, the church grew to three services with many outreach programs.” Pastor Rusty introduced a contemporary worship service in addition to a traditional service as an outreach to attract new people in 1992. KFBC membership grew to 693, and we became one of the largest churches in the Northern California Baptist General Conference, to which we belong.
The ministries have continued to progress in many areas throughout the years, Praise Kids, GMG, Brigade & now, AWANA for the children, Hispanic Outreach, Singles Ministry, and many others, as the Lord has directed. Despite challenges and difficult periods of time, the Lord has always sent a godly man of his choosing to minister to KFBC, to lead his people & the church body has perservered in faith & trust in our Lord.
In 2005, Pastor Jim Collins & his family began their ministry with us at KFBC. The Lord has continued to bless us as He has provided us with a strong leader and a gifted Teacher/Preacher.
Today we are eager to see the vision the Lord has for KFBC become reality. It is our desire and commitment to carry faithfulness, sacrifice, generosity, leadership, disciple-making, and kingdom-building that are integrally part of our heritage.
NOTE: Much of the information of this brief history was obtained from the much more detailed account of our church history found in the “Centennial History of First Baptist Church, Kingsburg, Ca. 1901-2001” written by Anna Marie Dahlquist along with contributions made by several additional church members.