Longview Baptist Temple (1960-1969)

Mrs Dell PetersonIn 1960, Mrs. Robbie Cordell Peterson prayed for God to send a Man of God to Longview, Texas to start an independent, fundamental, Bible-believing Baptist church. Everything came together at a revival meeting when the 26-year old evangelist, Nihl Bulkley, agreed to start a church in Longview and thus the Longview Baptist Temple was born.

In the early 1960’s, LBT was a small, struggling church. The initial services were held in the living room of the Peterson’s home until the church purchased an old converted farmhouse on Spring Hill Road. It was a large, one room white-framed building with no running water or electricity.
One of the more crucial problems LBT faced was paying the bills. Since the tithes could not pay all the monthly bills, Pastor Bulkley handed out the bills at the business meetings to make sure they were paid.

One of the more crucial problems LBT faced was paying the bills. Since the tithes could not pay all the monthly bills, Pastor Bulkley handed out the bills at the business meetings to make sure they were paid.

In 1964, the church purchased a shotgun style building on Jenny Street for Sunday school classes and moved the church’s original building to Jenny Street, where it was used as the auditorium.

1967Soon afterwards, when Pastor Bulkley was forced to resign due to health problems, three of LBT’s first five years were spent without a pastor. To help solve the problem, Tommy Stone, pastor of the Melrose Baptist Church in Kilgore, Texas, asked his brother-in-law, Jerry Smith, if he knew anyone who would be interested in preaching in view of a call. Jerry Smith located a preacher named Gene Meredith who agreed to preach. Since Brother Smith was familiar with the area, he agreed to accompany Brother Meredith to Longview

Brother Meredith preached Sunday morning, then, in a surprise move, the folks asked Jerry Smith to preach Sunday night. The church voted to call Jerry Smith as their pastor. When he explained he could not assume the pastorate until after college graduation, the people told him they were willing to wait. Consequently, on the last Sunday in May of 1965, Jerry Smith became the second pastor of the Longview Baptist Temple. Ten people were in attendance.

There were a number of changes made during Pastor Smith’s first year at LBT. The church’s two buildings were primitive and in need of repair, so he put electricity and running water in the buildings, divided the large open room in the farmhouse into Sunday school space by building walls, joined the two buildings together by installing a covered walk way, and knocked out the front wall of the auditorium to add space and provide a foyer area.

Pastor Jerry Smith left LBT in October of 1968. Upon receiving Pastor Smith’s resignation, church member Buddy White contacted Dr. Jack Hyles of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, IN, for counsel on how to go about finding a new pastor. Dr. Hyles suggested he check out a young twenty-three year-old assistant pastor named Terry Smith. Brother Terry became LBT’s third pastor on December 29, 1968. When he and his family arrived, they were greeted by sixty people in the Sunday morning preaching service.

Nihl BulkeyThe sixty people Brother Terry was greeted by in 1968 grew to an average of 120 by the end of 1969. In addition, the church exceeded 200 in Sunday school for the first time on October 19, 1969.

From December 29, 1968 to December 28, 1969, the church saw ninety-one saved and sixty-three baptized. Sixty-five people joined the church by letter from other churches in the area. As the attendance increased, so did the offerings. The total offering for Pastor Terry’s first year was $21,274.64, which was an average of $409.13 per week.

The little country church in Longview was making great strides and would soon face a dilemma they had never faced before. They were starting to run out of room.