The First Baptist Church of Columbia, Missouri, was organized on November 22, 1823, at a meeting at the home of Charles Hardin, father of a later governor of Missouri. The original minutes, still in possession of the church, show that eleven members joined this new organization, the third Baptist church to be organized in Boone County and the first of any denomination in Columbia. For five years meetings were held in private homes followed by meetings for eight years at the Boone County Court House. In 1836, Dr. William Jewell and Moses U. Payne, a Methodist, at their own expense erected a building for the use of the two congregations. The building was jointly used for nearly 20 years. In the 1850’s a new church building was erected on part of the Boone County Court House square. Here the congregation continued to worship for four decades. Having purchased the lot at Broadway and Waugh, the members erected a Gothic style church building in 1891. The present building of authentic Georgian Colonial Architecture was dedicated on May 5, 1957.
The church has maintained its ecumenical stance by advancing cooperative programs with other denominations in Columbia and serving as members and officers of local, state, national and international ecumenical boards and committees. The church has supports & encourages women to be involved in ministry in both formal & volunteer positions. Mission efforts on all levels have been initiated and supported throughout the life of the church.
As is natural for any church located in Columbia, the First Baptist Church has served and been served by many students who became members. Membership has also included faculty and staff of Stephens College, Columbia College and the University of Missouri as well as townspeople representing various interests and life-styles.
From 1823 to 1828 there was no regular pastor but various ministers and laymen served in that capacity. From 1828 to 1923 twenty ministers were employed by the church with each serving from 1 to 8 years. Since 1923, six ministers have served each holding tenure for a somewhat longer period. These pastors and service dates included Luther Wesley Smith 1923-1934, Bradford S. Abernethy 1935-1941, Dr. Gene Bartlett 1942-1947, Dr. Lee C. Sheppard 1947-1966, Dr. O. Edwyn Luttrell, 1966-1984, Dr. J. Daniel Day 1985-1996. In November 1997 the church called Dr. John D. Baker 1997-2010.
The church continues its active, historical participation with the American Baptist Churches, USA. In 2001 First Baptist severed a 155 year partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention, after deciding that the newly birthed Cooperative Baptist Fellowship better expressed what it means to be Baptist. The church also respects the Alliance of Baptists and provides funds for its work of maintaining Baptist principles and initiating creative ministries.
From the beginning, First Baptist Church has been willing to worship and study in diverse ways and has sought means of expressing its Christian faith creatively and effectively, and this is still true today. First Baptist began a new worship opportunity in 2004 called AWAKENING, a contemporary-styled service, to compliment its beloved Traditional worship hour.