A Historical Sketch of First Baptist Church of Zeeland, Michigan
First Baptist Church of Zeeland has its roots in Bible studies conducted in homes, often discussing prophetic themes. In the late 20’s two young men from Muskegon made a house-to-house canvas of the Zeeland and found that many people were lacking in the assurance of their salvation and many were interested in further study of the Word of God.
In December of 1929 the “Bible Witness Hall” was dedicated. A group of 18 met for Bible study on Sunday afternoons; George Huizenga and Herman Miller were among this group. With the establishment of a building to house the Bible studies, more people began to attend and soon a Sunday School was added, followed by both Sunday morning and evening services. On December 4, 1932, the first communion service was held.
In 1933 the names was changed to “The Bible Witness Assembly” and the first missionary, Angus Brower, was sent to the Congo in Africa. C. J. Tarvestad was the first fulltime pastor called and served from 1934 to 1936. Following Pastor Tarvestad was a series of pastor including, Clyde Wood, John Lanting, Chester Reich and Peter Nieuwkoop.
In December of 1951, Herbert VanderLugt accepted the pastorate. It was during his pastorate that the facilities underwent a great deal of remodeling and the name was again changed to “First Baptist Church of Zeeland” in 1952. During Pastor VanderLugt’s pastorate a daughter church was started in the Allendale area, an educational unit was added to the facilities at First and the first Vacation Bible School was conducted.
A time of growth continued through the pastorate Doug Gray and on June 6, 1965 the cornerstone was laid for the new auditorium and the auditorium was dedicated on January 16, 1966. Pastor Gray was followed by Dale Harris and Leon Rowland. It was during Leon Rowland’s pastorate that the church began to add additional staffing and under the pastorate of Bruce Stewart (1978-1986) the church added a fulltime Youth Pastor and part-time music pastor. Roger Best served as pastor from 1987 to 1992. In 1993 an Irish-Canadian, Michael Faris, accepted the pastorate. Just prior to Pastor Faris’ pastorate, the main auditorium was expanded, the Heart Auditorium(the gym) was built and educational space was added. During Pastor Faris’ pastorate, the church grew and grew and the church soon moved to two morning services.
In 2009 Clinton Echols accepted the pastorate at First and is currently serving as pastor.