In 1901 when Chattanooga was mostly mud roads and hitching posts, Tabernacle Church, which later became Second Baptist Church, felt the need for a mission on Montgomery Avenue, now known as Main Street. After much prayer and consideration, seven members stepped out on God’s Word and began the Avenue Mission in the old Grand View Hotel. The leaders of the mission were Mr. And Mrs. L. J. Miller and Miss Dollie Clouse, who later became Mrs. J. H. Keller.
God’s hand was on the little mission, and thirteen years later on April 26, 1914, Woodland Park Baptist Church, with twenty six adults and one youth, was organized. Little did this small group know God’s plan for this church, and the door of witness that it would become. But God had promised those with “little strength an open door that no man can shut; if His Word was kept and His Name not be denied.” And those of this membership today are reaping the benefits of His promised Word.
The first church was a small thirty by forty foot frame building. George W. McClure, who had been preaching for a short time was called to pastor the church. He began with a salary of $15 per month. He served for eight years and during his ministry the membership grew to three hundred and fifty.
Following the ministry of Bro. McClure was J.N. Poe, E.G. Epperson, Walter Lee Head, Rev. Ervin, A.M. Stansel, and E.L. Williams. Along with growing pains and the joys of fellowship there were some hard years. The depression and World War II touched all the families and especially the four that lost young sons in battle.
During the pastorate of Bro. E. L. Williams, God blessed with tremendous growth. The small white frame building had been added on to until it was unsafe. Army huts were brought in to house the Sunday Schools. In 1942 a new stone auditorium was built next door to the small white building. The building is still standing and after 30 years as home to the Senter School, it now houses the Chattanooga Rescue Mission. The original church housed the Sunday School classes.
By 1946 the membership had grown to 2,392 and in that year there were 380 additions with more than half of them coming by profession of faith and desiring to be baptized. During this time Woodland Park, which had been ministered to by others, began their own outreach by starting three mission churches – 1918 East 17th Street, 2301 East 23rd Street, and 650 East Main Street. From one large Sunday School class in the church the Lord had called out at least eight young men to preach the Gospel.
Bro. J. Harold Smith followed Bro. Williams and the growth continued. It was under his leadership that the Education Building was added on to the back of the auditorium.
Following Bro. Smith was John Edmund Haggai, B. B. Fletcher, Carl Allen (our tallest pastor – 6’8 1/2″) and Larry Draper (our youngest – 23 years old). Each one God used in His way to grow and to “build up” the church in the Word.
Bro. Charles Hyder was called as pastor in August of 1977. It was through his ministry Woodland Park was led to move to East Brainerd to 7501 Standifer Gap Road. Never will those approximately 200 people (from the Holtzclaw location) who met that Easter Sunday forget the excitement and joy of that day. They were fully aware that it was the Lord who had brought them this far by faith and obedience and would continue if they were found faithful – as those who had gone before.
Much happened at this location. After Bro. Hyder was called into evangelistic work, C. Henry Preston served as interim pastor until October of 1981. Through the grace of God and the direction of the Holy Spirit, Wayne A. Barber came on October 17, 1981, to pastor Woodland Park. In his 18 years phenomenal growth occurred. Without any pressure or great publicity, the people came to hear the Word preached in simplicity – so simple that a child could understand and so powerful it could reach the heart of the most learned.
Brother Wayne left in July of 1999 handing over the baton to John Meador who served until July of 2006. Having sold the 7501 Standifer Gap facility, WPBC had to have a new place to meet by May 31, 2007. Having exhausted available funds and unable to secure additional financing, the situation looked bleak for a church without a Sr. Pastor. Yet God was faithful. A plan was identified to do a “Minimal Build Out” (MBO) that could house the congregation. God provided $1.6 million dollars in 3 weeks. A new bank provided the needed additional financing. Kuebler Construction orchestrated dozens of sub-contractors, and miraculously one portion of the new facility was certified for occupancy on May 31. The body renamed the MBO the “miracle build out,” recognizing God’s hand in all that transpired. On June 3, 2007 Woodland Park held its first services at 6735 Standifer Gap Road. While in the new facility (the MBO portion), the pulpit was primarily filled by Elder David Lawson and Associate Pastor Eddie Rasnake, with an occasional guest speaker. Dr. Michael Easley played an important role in our transitional period through the ministry of the Word as well as strategic counsel provided during some difficult times. In November 2010, Woodland Park renewed discussions with former Senior Pastor Wayne Barber. On February 14, 2011, after much prayer and body involvement, Woodland Park Baptist Church affirmed the return of Dr. Wayne A. Barber as Senior Pastor.
Woodland Park has a great desire to be a part of reaching the world for Christ by joining hands with the International Mission Board, and by financially supporting missionaries and mission agencies to see this task accomplished. The extended missionary family and those receiving financial and prayer support has grown to 52 American missionaries and 42 National workers in approximately 33 countries. The church also offers many short-term opportunities in missions to countries all over the world—medical, construction, evangelism, preaching, discipling pastors and laymen.
The numbers are greater than they were in 1914, but Woodland Park’s strength is not in its numbers and faces, but in the Lord. As the people of Woodland Park appropriate His grace and power for every step and act of faith, we will see His Word spread and Jesus’ Name exalted. He has given us an open door; to all who will keep His Word and not deny His name.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!