The year was 1980. Jimmy Carter was president of the United States. The top TV show was “Dallas”, and Michael Jackson had the No. 1 hit with “Rock with You.” “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was No. 1 at the box office with $3.2 million in sales, and the Oldsmobile Cutlass was the top selling car. Interest rates were an astounding 21.5 percent, and a gallon of gasoline was $1.19. And 1980 was the year Willie Reid from Eatonton, Georgia founded Fellowship Bible Baptist Church in Buzzell Village, Warner Robins.
So much has happened since the church’s founding 42 years ago. Seven men have sat in the Oval Office since Carter, one of them a black man named Barack Hussein Obama. Who could have thought that possible in 1980? CNN went on the air June 1, 1980, and the Internet was on the cusp of being invented, but the general public didn’t have a clue.
In January 1981, Iran released 52 American hostages, who had been held since November 1979. The first space shuttle Columbia was launched and in September, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female justice on the United States Supreme Court. No one could have known that two shuttle flights would end in disaster in 1986 (Challenger) and 2003 (Columbia).
1982 saw gas prices finally relent to 91 cents a gallon, but the interest rate was 11.5 percent. The break-up of the AT&T monopoly was ordered during January (wouldn’t be complete until 1984). In 1983, the first mobile phones were introduced by Motorola and John Travolta was shaking his hips in “Staying Alive.” All the while, FBBC was growing. By July 1980, FBBC had to move to larger quarters, still in Buzzell Village, but by May 1, 1983, FBBC moved into its new sanctuary (now known as the Genesis Center).
The 1990’s was also a time of great growth for FBBC and is an example of planting seeds and allowing God to work on his time schedule. FBBC purchased 10 acres of land on Dunbar Road in 1981, but plans to build, what is now the chapel, weren’t formalized until 1988. The building wasn’t complete until 1992. The congregation entered its new facility without a mortgage. That same year, in April, rioting broke out in Los Angeles following the acquittal of four white police officers accused of beating Rodney King a year earlier. In August, Hurricane Andrew, blew through south Florida with winds up to 165 mph damaging $27 billion worth of property and taking 65 lives. The Georgia Superdome opened in September in Atlanta. Alas, it was demolished in 2017 to make way for the Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Pastor Reid ably guided FBBC until his death on May 4, 2012. A little more than a year earlier, on Jan. 16, 2011, Pastor Reid and the FBBC congregation marched from the chapel, across Dunbar Road, into the vision God had planted in Pastor Reid as the Dome saw its first worshipers. It’s hard to believe we have been in the dome for 11 years. As FBBC entered the Dome in 2011, a new kind of service was initiated, live streaming over the Internet. Soon, other churches would follow FBBC’s lead.
What’s next for FBBC? We have survived all the world has thrown at us. We were without a permanent pastor for three years and after an extensive nationwide search, Pastor Tolan Morgan was called to Fellowship by God. We are a growing church, in spite of the pandemic which kept us out of the sanctuary for more than a year. The ministries just adjusted as souls continued to need saving, FBBC reached out to the community with food drives and later vaccines. FBBC had drive-up services and pastor preached every Sunday, via stream, to an empty church. We zoomed together as bible studies went virtual. We now have a weekly food bank and Ship TV, and worshipers can access our services from anywhere in the world. We participated in the political landscape of Middle Georgia with Rev. Raphael Warnock campaigning on church grounds — and later spearheading the election of LaRhonda Patrick as Warner Robins’ first elected mayor who is both female and black — and a member of FBBC.
As we enter the church’s 43rd year, Pastor Morgan has outlined a clear vision: 2022 is the “Year of the Turnaround” and we launched “Project 11:9 (Based on Luke 11:9)” and Fellowship A.C.T.S., (Affecting Community Through Service). We will continue to live up to our name: Fellowship Bible Baptist Church and will continue affecting our communities through service and salvation.
Written by Charles Richardson