On November 2, 1960, a group of Christians met for prayer and started a mission in the Chicago Heights area. On November 5, a call was made to Brother William Powell, the Associational Missionary who met with the group. The first services were held on Sunday November 6, 1960 in the home of Brother Howard Pentecost. There were 44 present for the morning service and 33 present for the evening service. On November 13, the Sunday School and Training Union were added and meetings were held in the Chicago Heights Municipal Building. The Rev. Harold Lassiter was called as mission pastor and church named Central Baptist Church.
November 16, 1960 marked the beginning of a church when the Harvey Missionary Baptist Church (Now Central Baptist Church in Olympia Fields) voted to constitute the mission and adopted the church constitution. On August 12, 1961, the mission met and was constituted as a church. The Rev. Harold Lassiter was called as the first Pastor with the church having 59 charter members. October 19, 1961, the church purchased a 3 acre site on Exchange Street in Wood Hill, IL. The name was changed from Central Baptist Church to First Baptist Church of Wood Hill for incorporation; and later to First Baptist Church of Park Forest South. The groundbreaking ceremony was on July 1, 1962. The first anniversary was held August 12, 1962.
On November 14, 1962, the church left the Chicago Heights Municipal building and held its first services on the present site. Rev. Kenneth McDaniel began his tenure as Pastor on November 13, 1966. The church held dedication services for the new church on September 2, 1973. September of 1974 began the Pastorate of Rev. Hurstle Laxton. The church name was changed in 1977 to the First Baptist Church of Park Forest South. As the community of Park Forest South began to change so did the name of Park Forest South. Park Forest South’s name was changed in 1984 to University Park, IL. Shortly thereafter, First Baptist Church changed its name to coincide with the name change and was appropriately named the First Baptist Church of University Park.
After the service of Pastor Laxton, Rev. Ronald Shipley, Rev. Paul Tripp, Rev. Michael Taylor, Rev. Rick Wolfe, Rev. Everett Anthony (interim), Rev. Michael Arroyo, and Rev. Dr. Sam Enyia (interim) served First Baptist Church as her pastor. In 1988, Rev. Rodgers W. Jackson was called to serve this congregation as Pastor.
Under the Pastorate of Dr. Jackson, the congregation grew numerically and in ministry. In 1989, the church expanded and added .65 more acres of land. Under the Pastorate of Dr. Rogers Jackson, the College of Christian Education, and discipleship Training was initiated, and the Sunday School more than doubled in attendance. To accommodate the growth, the parking lot was expanded, a church van was purchased for outreach and ministry, and in 1993, the church added an 8:00 am worship service. The church also added 12 more acres to its property for a total of 16 acres of land on which the church sits.
In 2000, Dr. Jackson bid farewell to First Baptist as its beloved Pastor as he went to succeed his Pastor at the Immanuel Baptist Church of Chicago, Illinois. Succeeding Dr. Jackson was the Rev. Tony Banks (interim), Rev. Dr. James Warren in 2000, Rev. Walter Harris (2001), and the Rev. Dr. Clifton Montgomery in November 2002, and Rev. Walter Harris (interim) again in 2006.
In June of 2008, the First Baptist Church called the Rev. Reginald Williams, Jr. as her 12th Pastor since its inception. First Baptist Church has seen many highs and lows, many mountains and valleys. However, through it all First Baptist can truly say, “We’re Still Here” seeking to serve God by serving God’s people. To God Be the Glory for the things God has done!