On September 11, 1988, sixty-four like-minded believers gathered for lunch to explore the possibilities for the future. This meeting was the first step toward the formation and establishment of Covenant Baptist Church. On that same Sunday, the congregation of Saint Andrews ARP Church at 3131 Erskine Drive in Gastonia conducted their last worship service. God undoubtedly had plans for this place of worship to house another family of believers. Doors were opened that enabled one hundred thirty-six Baptist believers to meet there the following Sunday.
The early years of the church were filled with planning, organization, and change. An Initial Planning Group provided leadership in learning what had to be done to establish a church and in setting up internal structures such as organizations and church-related activities. Open communication was maintained between this group and the congregation.
The Fellowship adopted a Statement of Purpose on November 20, 1988, thus allowing the congregation to be declared a church. The congregation voted to affiliate with the Gaston Baptist Association (now the Greater Gaston Baptist Association), the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and the Southern Baptist Convention. Since that time, Covenant Baptist Church has also affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina. One hundred fifty-five signed the Charter on the first day declaring their desire to become members. By the closing of the Charter on January 9, 1989, there were two hundred five Charter Members.
Joe Roberts of Furman University in Greenville, SC accepted the church’s call to become the interim pastor on February 5, 1989. By mid-1989, the Covenant congregation had purchased the facility that they had been leasing from the local Presbytery. On October 1, 1990, the church called Dr. Wayne Wike as its first full-time pastor. During Dr. Wike’s service at Covenant, a major renovation of the narthex and sanctuary, including a baptistry, was completed and dedicated on March 29, 1997. Dr. Wike led the congregation until May 31, 1998.
Dr. Ron Williams of Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, NC became the interim pastor on August 23, 1998. During these years, emphasis was placed on children and youth with the completion of a playground. Reverend Olin S. Byrum, III began his service as the second pastor of Covenant Baptist Church on September 11, 2000 and served the church until August 25, 2016. While under his leadership, missions continued to be a strong aspect of ministry at Covenant Baptist. The completion of a kitchen and fellowship hall was done in March, 2004 and a prayer garden was finished in 2016. Plans were initiated and fundraising began for a new educational building.
On February 26, 2017, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new educational building. During this time of transition, the church focused on reorganization and looking to the future. Reverend Dan Freeman began his service as Intentional Interim Pastor on May 14, 2017 and led the church until April 15, 2018. Reverend Freeman, along with a Transition Team, guided the congregation on our hopes for the future. Fellowship, worship, discipleship, ministry, and missions continue to comprise the way we as a body seek to serve Jesus and reach others for Christ. While Reverend Freeman was at Covenant, the construction of the new educational building was completed debt-free and dedicated on September17, 2017.
Covenant Baptist’s third pastor, Reverend Chris Hensley, began his service on May 13, 2018. The next Sunday, the church dedicated a new picnic shelter. Later a basketball court was added. As part of the ongoing ministry to the Gardner Park community, the George Pettigrew Little Free Food Pantry was committed to the glory of God in March, 2019.
Many important decisions were made in those first years and continue to be made today. From early on, as now, a strong belief in the historical Baptist principles of the “priesthood of the believer” and the “autonomy of the local church” have undergirded the desire to involve this congregation in ministry and decisions. As we look ahead, we will continue to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in the Gardner Park community, Gaston County, and beyond. To God Be the Glory.