Unaka Baptist Church traces history to Sportsman Club

Published 8:47 am Friday, March 1, 2019

By Greg Miller
STAR Correspondent
According to the www.unakabc.com website, the Internet site of Unaka Baptist Church, the congregation got its start a little more than 65 years ago.
The website states, “On Jan. 15, 1954, a group of dedicated Christians from the Unaka community met at the Sportsman Club on John Alfred Loop to form a place to worship. Eighty-three charter members decided to construct a sanctuary dedicated to the worship of God for all Christians.
“Unaka Baptist Church was the name chosen for the new church. On Feb. 17, 1954, the church accepted land given by Bill and Delaney Elliott. The church financed $15,000 and a total of $17,000 was contributed by members to pay for the construction.”
The first meeting, according to the website, “was conducted in the new sanctuary on Sunday, Oct. 24, 1954, and the Rev. Earl Campbell was elected as first pastor. The first baptismal service was held on Aug. 14, 1955.” A note-burning service was held on July 28, 1963, to celebrate the final payment on the sanctuary. Following Campbell as pastor were the following ministers: the Revs. James Dampier, Russell Richardson, David Salley, Ferrell Brown, Stephen Presley, Mike Lester, Tony Griffith, Harold McNabb and F. Walker Roberson.
Interim pastors have included the Revs. Darrell Holly, Kenneth Jordan, Bill Powell and Tony Oliver.
In 2000, the Stanley Ensor Fellowship Hall and Missionary Cottage was dedicated for service to the church and community. The website states, “Brother Stanley had the foresight for this need and he was present for the dedication ceremony.”
According to the website, “In 2003, the sanctuary received a complete facelift, including new carpet, pew padding, stained glass windows and light fixtures. The parking lot was also resurfaced and striped. A new steeple was also resurfaced and striped. A new steeple was erected in 2006 and it is a glowing light to the whole community that UBC is a house of worship and prayer.”
A 2002 graduate of Avery County High School (North Carolina), current pastor, the Rev. Stephen Greene, attended Northeast State Technical Community College for two semesters, studying for his EMT Paramedical Degree. “God pulled me out of that before I got my degree,” he recalled.
According to Greene, the aspect of pastoral ministry he enjoys the most is “the fellowship with the people that God brings into my life, because for years and years and years, I was that guy that was always shut off, always cold and always separated from people. I just didn’t want to open up. I had no interest in people. I had no desire to have friends. I was content by myself.”
Now, however, he says, “I crave that. I enjoy that. That’s what I look forward to.”
Greene’s greatest challenge is “being all things to all people. It’s fitting into every role that God calls you into, and having a hat for every occasion. It’s difficult preaching funerals of people I’ve never met. It’s difficult going into nursing homes and doing grief counseling with people I’ve never spoken to before.”
Greene’s goal is for the church to reach beyond Stoney Creek. “We’re not satisfied keeping this ministry inside these four walls anymore,” he said. “Our job, our calling, our purpose is to spread the gospel to all nations, all tongues. Until we begin to reach out into the community beyond Stoney Creek, beyond Elizabethton, beyond Carter County, we’re not going to achieve that goal. Our goal is to touch lives, hearts, families and individuals as far as God will allow.”
Greene says his job as a pastor is to “equip every member of the congregation to go out and fulfill their calling in Christ. My goal is to allow God to change the lives of our church members by never getting in the way. Personal growth for me is not numbers on a board, it’s not money in an account. It’s not getting our name out and being the biggest church in the area. My goal as the pastor of this church is to see God move in the lives of people here in such a way that it’s completely unhindered. That’s personal growth. Personal growth is physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth.”
Greene says at one point he “hated” God. “I hated everything about God,” he said. “I knew that God was there. I knew the truth. My grandfather was a great pastor, a great example of what a Christian should be, but I hated the thought of ever submitting to someone greater than myself. I should have control. I should have the final say-so.”
At age 13, Greene began using drugs. Nothing was “off limits.” At age 14, he started drinking alcohol. “That just kind of grew and grew,” he said. “At 18 years old, I was spiraling out of control. I contemplated suicide multiple times.”
Greene recalls that one Friday night he was driving drunk in a heavy rain in Avery County. “For no reason at all, God reached down below the bottom, pulled me up and said, ‘This is not you. This is not the life I want for you. This is not the life I have set for you.’”
Greene pulled into the driveway, screaming loudly, “Leave me alone. I don’t want anything to do with you. I’ve been running to get away. Why don’t you move on to someone else?” He says the Lord responded by saying, “’I have a great work for you! I have something I want you to do!”
Finally, Greene relented and turned his life over to the Lord. “I’ve known since I was a teenager what God wanted. I just wasn’t ready to give myself up,” he said.
Greene’s wife, Kristen, is a nurse (LPN) at Family Physicians in Johnson City. The couple has been married 11 years and have two daughters, Sydney, 11, a sixth-grader at Hampton Elementary School, and Daizee, 9, a third-grader at the school.
In addition to Greene, members of the church’s staff include Pam Eggers, Sunday school director and church secretary; Kevin Peters, chairman of the budget-and-finance committee; and Josh Blevins, president of the board of directors. Bobby Joe Fletcher, Gary Arnold, Les Grindstaff and Mickey Rambo are the church’s deacons.
Worship opportunities at the church include Sunday school, Sunday, 9:45 a.m.; Sunday worship, 10:45 a.m. (average attendance 140-150 people) and 6 p.m. and Wednesday, 7 p.m. The youth service is held Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. A prayer service is also held for the community on Thursdays at 7 p.m.
The church has a food ministry and is in the process of starting an outreach ministry.
Unaka Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of about 200 people, is located at 1598 Highway 91 in the Stoney Creek community of Elizabethton. The church is part of the Watauga Association of Baptists, the Tennessee Association of Baptists and the Southern Baptist Convention.
For more information, visit the website, www.unakabc.com, e-mail unakabc@unakabc.com or call 423-440-1432.

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