Psalm 78:1-7 is an excellent guide for reading the history of our church:
O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old – what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power, and the wonders He has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
What follows is the story of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord at Beltway Park Church. As much as possible, we do not want it to be about us. But as much as possible, we do want you and your children and their children to see that in us God has worked mightily. Through His story at Beltway Park we pray and hope that you will put your trust in God. May we not forget his deeds! May we obey his commands!
It was the early 1980s and Abilene was still experiencing southward growth. Brother Jack Riddlehoover, the pastor of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church, drove south on Buffalo Gap Road and turned left onto FM 707, also known as Beltway South. His good friend and parishioner Reuben Rouse was with him. Most of the land they were passing belonged to the layman, and as they crossed the depression between the main road and the hill upon which Reuben’s house stood, Brother Jack pulled over. The long-time pastor looked out across his friend’s property with a sparkle in his eye. He believed God wanted to plant a church on the land.
Beltway Park Baptist Church began as a vision of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church. The first congregants were mostly Pioneer Drive members who had volunteered to help start the new project to share God’s love with what was anticipated to be a growing population of people who lived in south Abilene. On August 11, 1985, a little over 300 people attended the first service. That Sunday nearly 70 persons joined the new church family.
God brought Glen Schmucker to pastor the church in the Fall of 1985. By the grace of God the church began to grow numerically, and that October the church began having two services each Sunday. Beltway Park Baptist Mission was constituted as a church in April of 1986. The Child Development Center, a weekday ministry for children, was begun in 1989. Glen Schmucker served as Beltway Park’s pastor until June of 1991.
Due to various factors Beltway Park began a steady decline that lasted until 1997. It quickly dropped back to one service.
Russ Gibbs began his ministry as Beltway Park’s second pastor in March of 1992. Russ came to Beltway Park from a pastorate in the Panhandle. The church decline stabilized under Russ.
Beltway Park was a church with debt from the very beginning. One Elder described it as if the keys were handed over with one hand and the Note with the other. With its rapid numeric growth in the early years and its need to expand, the church was never able to get free of that debt. Some efforts were made to alleviate the debt, but all attempts proved inadequate. Most of the early 1990s was a time of financial hardship for the church. Though small staffed, the church was forced to hold checks until enough offering money came in. Special “Harvest Offerings” were held regularly for several years to simply pay the church’s bills. Business meetings were often times of conflict over financial issues. Once, there was even a fight over whether the church could afford to buy donuts for Sunday school classes or not, which ended in an unsatisfactory compromise. The lessons that the Deacons saw in this was that with congregational leadership, i.e. voting in business meetings, there are always losers.
The other primary issue of conflict for the people of Beltway Park was corporate worship. For years, the issue of worship style was a hotly contested topic. Compromise solutions led to continued member depreciation as people felt that they were not really being heard. The situation in January of 1997 looked bleak for the Park.
In 1997 the leadership of the church then turned to the Deacons. Knowing nothing else to do, they began meeting several times a week to pray. Some felt that the church was finished. In 1996 attendance had dropped to between 50 and 60 people. There was even some discussion of turning the building back over to Pioneer Drive. In their meetings, the Deacons heard the distinct call of God to worship Him and to stop talking about money.
By God’s grace, the church began to learn to joyfully worship God together. Additionally, community-wide college minister, Steve Hardin, assumed the interim pastorate. During Steve’s term at Beltway Park, God was pleased to renew growth in the church. Attendance grew to over 300 each Sunday and God graciously solved the financial woes of the church. Steve taught the congregation very practically, but he also taught the Deacons. Steve helped them to engage a study of leadership and the importance of accountability in leadership. During this time Membership Classes were begun, and the Deacons were given the responsibility of teaching in Wednesday night prayer meetings. The Membership classes included a confirmation of the faith of current and potential members. Steve Hardin served the church until David McQueen came as senior pastor in April of 1998.
When David McQueen came to Beltway Park, he did so with a passion for God’s glory in the Big Country and an understanding of the importance of shared leadership. The summer after David began to serve as Senior Pastor, the church voted to change their leadership format to an Elder leadership, where the Senior Pastor was one of the Elders.
David’s background illustrates the creativity and unity of God Himself. His background includes a Church of Christ upbringing, education at Abilene Christian University, and service in the Churches of Christ and a Non-Denominational church. As God was pleased to bless Beltway Park with numeric growth and spiritual growth, everyone was joyfully thankful (and surprised). The Elders continued to obey God’s call to worship and call to share the burden of leading the congregation.
Beltway Park Church has continued to grow steadily since 1997. At the same time, by the grace of God, the original debt of the church was paid off. Since 1997, we can safely and truly say that our God has simply been drawing us to Himself in many and diverse ways. Yes, buildings have been built and ministries have been added and numbers have increased, but, above all, God has shown us Himself. He has freed people from the bondage of sin so that they may behold His goodness. He has rescued people from the trap of self so that they may submit to His grace. He has made the broken whole. He has made the sick well. He has challenged the mature. He has blessed, and He has made us glad in Him.
It is our prayer that He simply continue.
There are other lessons we have learned through our history. Here are some of them: