When First Baptist Church of Caldwell affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention last August, it brought a rich history into the youngest Southern Baptist state fellowship. First Baptist is older than the SBTC and, actually, older than the state of Texas.
First Baptist Caldwell was founded during the Texas Republic in 1843. That central part of the state is rich in Texas history as the Republic’s capital moved back and forth between Washington-on-the-Brazos, southeast of Caldwell, and Austin, west of Caldwell, during the 10 years of independence. Southwestern Seminary’s founding president, B.H. Carroll, was one of the church’s early pastors.
“I think that the history of the church tends to give us a picture of God’s faithfulness over the years. It wasn’t just in those beginning days,” Pastor Shane Dismuke said. “He remained faithful in the midst of the body over the years. The people love their history, and they love their building, and they love the community. But what makes this place impactful has been God’s faithfulness.”
Missions is a big part of church’s story. They have an ongoing missionary project in Matamoros, Mexico, and have planted a Spanish-speaking congregation just down the road. This in addition to faithful contributions through the Cooperative Program.
“God seems to have spurred an excitement among our people for the gospel; the church has a rich history of missions,” Dismuke said. “We’ve done two [mission] trips in the last six months. We have another one in March and another one in June, which are all in a partnership with Matamoros. We still have a partnership with Uruguay that we’re helping down there as well. And the church has historically planted other churches.”
A love for missions is also what drew the church to the SBTC. Dismuke said the commitment of the convention to emphasize worldwide outreach and statewide needs was appealing to his church.
“I did the research,” he said, “and I found out that the SBTC was sending the majority of its money to the SBC for missions efforts and the furthering of the seminaries, the furthering of NAMB, the furthering of IMB. For me, that was where I wanted our money going.”
Dismuke came to Caldwell about 15 months ago with his wife, Shannon, and two teenage daughters. He’s seeing some growth and excitement at First Baptist Church as it recovers from the COVID slump. He describes his work there as one of revitalization.
“This is kind of what we’ve done in ministry for over 26 years. And every church we’ve served at, it’s been a process of revitalization,” he said. “Some of them we’ve helped after splits and got them back going well and done more like a transitional thing.
“I don’t think there’s a church in the country that doesn’t need revitalization. If we stop renewing, we stop growing, and renewing doesn’t mean changing our goal. Giving a new challenge, a new direction, a new vision on a regular basis is part of what keeps us as a people thriving in the right direction.”
In a sermon last October, during the Independence Baptist Association’s annual meeting, Dismuke described cooperation between churches as part of “church health.”
“And not just health in the church alone,” he added, “but in the overall gospel message.
I preached [to our associational meeting] from Ecclesiastes 4:10-12 and I talked about [cooperation] producing a better outcome and an accountable encouragement and a sustainable ministry, and basically being engineered to carry us through opposition within our churches.”
One way that First Baptist Church has expressed its love for missions and cooperation is by helping sister churches in the area. The church’s 2022 budget included what they call a “fostering fund” for local needs.
“So, if one of the churches that is struggling needs help that we can address financially, we don’t want to just put our words towards it,” Dismuke said. “We want to put our finances behind it, our people behind it.
“Last summer, we did two vacation Bible schools for other local churches. Not to outreach for First Baptist, but to outreach for them. We funded those, and we sought to reach folks in their community for that body of believers. That’s the point. We are all on the same team and we have one purpose and that’s to give God glory.”