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Pastor celebrates 125th anniversary of his church

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Aaron Colyer, lead pastor at First Baptist Church in Roswell, stands outside the church worship center. First Baptist Church will celebrate its 125th birthday Sunday, May 19 with a special service at 10 a.m. followed by a lunch. All people are welcome to attend. (Alex Ross Photo)

Aaron Colyer has been the lead pastor at First Baptist Church for five years, but the church he now leads has had a presence in the community for more than a century.

This coming Sunday, Colyer along with church members and staff past and present as well as the rest of the community will be celebrating 125 years in Roswell, with a special service and lunch at their worship center at 4500 N. Pennsylvania Ave.

Colyer said the church will be holding a special one to two-hour service the morning of May 19. The service will include an abbreviated sermon by Colyer along with video testimonials from members, singing and prayer.

“The service will mainly be a celebration — a celebration of everything God has done in our church for the last 125 years, every way that we have seen God’s faithfulness,” he said.

The service will be followed by a lunch in the fellowship hall. Colyer said the main dish, pulled pork, will be provided by the church, but members will provide side dishes and desserts. He added that the service is mainly meant to be a celebration of the church living up to God’s faithfulness in the last 125 years and hopes that faithfulness might continue.

Non-members are also welcome to attend, he said.

Colyer first came to First Baptist Church in 2014. He had grown up in San Antonio, Texas and for 10 years, had been a youth minister at a church in Irving, Texas.

He learned about the opening at First Baptist from a friend. He and his family did have some worries. Colyer said some of that was because he was 30 when he had applied and most of his experience was pastoring to teenagers and their parents, not older churchgoers.

Colyer, though, said some of his older mentors he had within the Southern Baptist faith told him that he was ready for the job of lead pastor and that did alleviate some of his worries.

He also felt, while visiting the church with his wife, that First Baptist was a church filled with people who love Jesus.

“And if a church is full of people who love Jesus, that has so much potential for being a healthy church that really has an impact in the kingdom of God,” he said.

He said with that knowledge, he was confident God could use him as an instrument to educate people about the Gospel and counsel them through the use of Scripture.

Colyer said he has often heard this, not only from current members of First Baptist, but former members and those whose parents and grandparents used to attend the church.

First Baptist has come a long way over the decades from the small church that was started by the American Baptist Society in 1894. Colyer said that back then services were held in an old railroad car with about 100 people attending services.

The church back then had no permanent pastor, and so a series of temporary pastors would come and live out of the railroad car. The church moved into a building on Fourth Street in 1896 and in 1906, ordained its first minister.

A worship center was built at 4500 Pennsylvania Ave. in 1908. Then in 1962, the existing worship center was built that now spans 7,800 square feet.

Colyer said, though, that it is the message of the church — about the glory of God — and not the building itself that is at the heart of what the church is about.

“I think the priority is less about buildings and more about the building of the kingdom,” he said.

The Baptist Church has sought to follow God’s teachings and serve in the community through religious education classes, and with the help of Scripture helping counsel people in strained marriages or who are experiencing other hardships.

Church members and volunteers have also provided free clothing to the poor and economically disadvantaged, a service provided through the church’s Jireh Ministry. Volunteers collect donations of clothing, wash them and then make them available to people in need.

However, Colyer said that it is efforts to spread the word of God and help build up other churches that is the work he takes the most pride in.

In the last 15 years, First Baptist has donated more than $1 million for missions within and outside of the U.S. This has included sending missionaries to spread the word of God or people to minister full time, or help build or revitalize churches with dwindling membership.

“I love to think about those kinds of things, where our church and our membership, we either sent funds for the Gospel to go out here and to other nations, or we have sent people,” Colyer said.

He said even in the five years, First Baptist has help plant — or establish — new churches in places such as Albuquerque.

Members of First Baptist assisted one church in Dora, New Mexico, build a music ministry within their church. First Baptist volunteers and staff would travel to Dora, a town in Roosevelt County, every week for two to four months to help make that music ministry a reality.

“And they went from not having any music on their Sunday church celebrations, to starting their own music team and being able to lead worship with their own leaders,” Colyer said.

Colyer said that First Baptist Church has changed since he arrived in 2014. Back then, the church had an older congregation that was less diverse. He said now, the church has drawn in more young people and families and has become more ethnically diverse.

And there has been more of an emphasis on bringing more disciples to Christ, something Colyer said is not just the job of pastors but of all Christians. To not do so would be unloving,” he said.

Colyer added that since his arrival at First Baptist, more members have become more comfortable in talking about their faith and sharing the message of God.

“Our people get really excited when God is on the move and the Gospel is being celebrated, and taught, and given out in this community, even when it is not within this church,” Colyer said.

He added the feeling is shared among other religious leaders in town who are more interested in bringing new people into the church and to the Christian faith rather than having the most names on the church roles.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.