Yesterday, Today and into the Future
The grace of God was evident in the beginning of Graham Road Baptist Church. His grace was seen as a handful of people became burdened to begin a church in the Stow-Cuyahoga Falls community. The need came because the nearest church was the Methodist church at Third street and Portage Trail in Cuyahoga Falls. This burden was felt in the year 1923 when the only means to get to a church was to walk plus the fact that the dirt roads would turn to mud when the rains came.
Spring – 1923
In the spring of 1923, a group of neighbors met at the home of a Mr. and Mrs. Bower who lived at or near the present address of 792 Graham Road. Out of this meeting, an afternoon Sunday School was started with the help of a Rev. A.M. Dixon who was then pastor of the First Baptist Church in Cuyahoga Falls. As a result of being contacted by the concerned group, he and some of the members of his church offered to come and help them get a church started. An available building that once had been built as a chicken coup was the first meeting place of Graham Road Baptist Church. It was located across the street from the Bower residence and was put to use for the meeting as the building was found to be clean and in good condition. Thus the early beginnings of Graham Road Baptist Church was seen in its early formation, all by the grace of God.
May 6, 1923 – October 23, 1923
On this date it was agreed that they would begin as a non-denominational Sunday School and thus was organized as such, but later on in the year in the month of October, it was organized as a Baptist Sunday School.
May 2, 1926
Three years later, on this date, a council was called for from other area Baptist churches to examine the doctrinal statements along with the constitution and by-laws of the church. After being examined and commended as a duly constituted New Testament Baptist Church, it was recognized as such and thus Graham Road Baptist Church was now officially born with a total charter membership of 25 members.
May, 1926 – August, 1928
God began to bless the church and due to a growth in attendance, the chicken coup was not longer adequate for holding services. After a search was made, a vacant home was found on Homewood Avenue where a space was available for classes as well as church services. The purchase of the home was made for $18,000 along with the help of the Northern Baptist Association. Also with their assistance, a part-time pastor was recommended, Rev. E.H. Midkiff, who also was pastoring the Thomastown Baptist Church in the East Akron Terrace area. He would preach in the morning at Graham Road Baptist Church and in the evening at the Thomastown Baptist Church. Rev. Midkiff began his duties in May of 1926 and remained until August of 1928.
April, 1928 – February, 1930
Again, God blessed with another growth in attendance and there was another need for still a larger building. God graciously provided a lot located at 705 Graham Road through one of the members of the church, Earl Trowbridge, who donated the property. A bank loan of $2,000 was secured which enabled the members of the church to construct a new building that was dedicated in April, 1928. After Rev. Midkiff resigned, a Rev. Homer M. Hurst came to be the first full-time pastor in September of 1928. His ministry lasted until February, 1930 when, due to a lack of finances to maintain a full-time pastor, he resigned as pastor of the church.
1930 – 1948
In these years, six different men, all of whom were associated with the Northern Baptist Convention (now called the American Baptist Convention), pastored the church. Then in December of 1946, the Rev. George Rymer was called as pastor. Under his leadership, the church voted to withdraw from the Convention due to the inroads of modernism and liberalism. It was during this time that the deity of Christ and the inspiration of Scripture were being called into question and denial by the Convention. Because of this, the church voted to withdraw on April 21, 1948. Several months later, on September 29, 1948, the church voted to affiliate with a fellowship of independent Baptist churches known as the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. This association of churches, of which we are still a part, stood strong and has continued to do so, upon the doctrine of the deity of Christ and the inspiration of Scripture.
1949 – 1972
Two more men pastored the church following Pastor Rymer’s resignation in 1950 before extending a call to Rev. B.C. Jennings in September of 1960. Under Pastor Jennings’ twelve years of ministry, the church flourished with a great period of growth. Pastor Jennings’ years of ministry was the longest of any previous pastor. Souls were saved, the work grew and a new auditorium was dedicated on June 24, 1962 with a new education wing added in 1972. Members of the church enjoy these same facilities to the present day. Another milestone during his ministry was the beginning of a daughter church known as Grace Baptist Church in Kent, Ohio. Five families from the church willingly gave of themselves in starting this work which still exists to this day. Another significant ministry that was started during his ministry was the AWANA youth program that grew to almost 400 young people in attendance. Graham Road Baptist Church was one of the first churches in Ohio to use this program and today holds the oldest charter membership and has 200 young people in attendance due to other area churches that also started the program.
1972 – 1979
After Pastor Jennings resigned in September of 1972, the church was pastored by Rev. Thomas Hughes from 1972 – 1976 and then by Rev. Lawrence Smith from 1976 – 1978. When the church was without a pastor from 1978 – 1980, almost two years, the attendance declined greatly and was undergoing some major problems and difficulties along with the loss of a number of families.
1980 – 2012
In August of 1980, the church extended a call to its present Pastor, Larry D. Engle who had pastored the Grace Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio for 16 years. God, by His infinite grace, once again began to bless the church as attendance began to climb once again and finances increased. Some milestones that have taken place throughout the 21 years of his ministry thus far is the replacing of a complete furnace system, a new parking lot, padded pews, a new kitchen, a renovated auditorium of floors and carpet, a pole barn and the purchase of additional land west of the church for future expansion. Souls are being saved, young people have gone into Christian ministries, missions giving and personnel has increased, all to the glory of God. As a result of a handful of people back in 1923 who were burdened for the lost and had a great desire to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His cause being proclaimed not only in this community but also around the world, God has continued to bless this church and its ministries.
In 2012, Pastor Engle retired after 32 years of faithful service to Graham Road Baptist Church.
2013 – Present
In March of 2013 Graham Road Baptist Church gained the leadership of Pastor, Michael Lovett, who came fresh off the mission field in South Africa. In the short time that Pastor Lovett has been shepherding the church, God has blessed GRBC time and time again. Church attendance has grown in every service, many building projects have been funded and completed along with supporting new missionaries all across the globe.