Upon turning 150, church near Terrell remains fixed on Great Commission

In the small community of Poetry outside of Terrell, Texas, in Kaufman County, God is using the county’s oldest Baptist church to illustrate the claims of Isaiah 40:31: “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

The history of Poetry Baptist Church, which celebrated its 150th birthday on July 10, provides a living example of God’s renewing strength.

Founded in 1855, it survived the Civil War, a name change and cultural change?but just barely. Peak membership hit 135 in 1868. By the late 1960s, only seven members remained.

From that remnant, however, new growth occurred. Faithful to the Great Commission and God’s word, the congregation rebounded. Growth led to a need for more space and a new education building in the 1980s. In 1997 the church built a family life center and gymnasium.

Today, under pastor Robert A. Wheat, the church is fixed on its stated mission: “Enter to Seek God, Depart to Serve Him.”

With heritage rich and roots deep in Texan lifestyle, Poetry prides itself in Southern hospitality and commitment to family values, Wheat wrote in a letter to the TEXAN.

Originally named Salem Baptist Church, it did not become Poetry Baptist until 1868, when the meeting day was every fourth Sunday. Enduring a devastating tornado in 1890 that destroyed the church building along with other homes and businesses in the area, Poetry remained a family. When a fire devastated the Poetry business district in 1924, the resilience of the members and the blessing that the church did not catch fire held the community together.

The church is averaging around 100 in attendance each Sunday, Wheat said. Its stated commitment to the Great Commission is evident; the church sent a missions team to Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2004, meeting with political leaders and even speaking in some public schools there. A team is traveling to Africa this summer. Others have dispatched to Mexico and Mongolia, Wheat said.

“We may not possess a large congregation, as years of change and business endeavors shifted, but we do exist as a family of members who are committed to the Great Commission from God’s word for others,” Wheat said.

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