In the spring of 1954 the First Baptist Church, with Dr. Peyton Thurman as pastor, was having an intensive study training program. Stanley Cobb, a member of the missions committee, asked that the church consider starting a mission and offered his commercial garage on East Ninth Street as a meeting place. The following week, the missions committee composed of Stanly Cobb, Dr. & Mrs. Gabe Payne, Rita Harvey and Mrs. Elizabeth Trabue met to discuss the possibility of such a mission. They presented their ideas to the deacon body and upon their recommendation, the First Baptist Church voted to sponsor Ninth Street Chapel. The garage was cleared out and furnished with equipment from the old educational building of First Baptist Church.
On July 18, 1954, eighteen members from First Baptist Church met in a dedication service. In addition to the missions committee, some others in attendance were Pollard White, Gilmer Pursley, Mr. & Mrs. P.S. Humphreys, Mrs. Stanley Cobb, Mrs. John Hanberry, Loys Williams & Carl McGee, who was to serve as treasurer.
The mission was to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of those in the neighborhood. Four months after organization, 74 people were enrolled in Sunday school, many of whom were children from low income families. A clothing room was established to meet the needs of the children.
By July 1955, the garage was outgrown and the property across the street was purchased. In September 1955, Jack Downs was called to be the mission pastor. With a full time pastor came a full time church program, including Sunday morning and evening services, Wednesday prayer meeting and BTU (Baptist Training Union).
Following the resignation of Brother Downs in 1956, Rev. Donald Long was called as pastor. In May, 1957, First Baptist Church voted to construct a church building on the Ninth Street property that would seat 260. By December 1957, it was completed at a cost of $39,650.
Early in 1958, Reverend Sidney Maddox, the new pastor of First Baptist Church, led a revival resulting in 26 additions and several rededications. Until this time, adults were outnumbered by children, but now people began to come from all around town. In May 1960, a decision was made to petition First Baptist to become an independent church. On the first Sunday in September 1960, Ninth Street Chapel became Hillcrest Baptist Church, with one hundred charter members and aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention.
In July 1961, the church voted to buy five acres of land on the corner of Ninth Street and Skyline Drive and to construct a sanctuary to seat approximately 400. Due to the lack of financial status, banks refused a loan, but on faith the members sold $97,000 in bonds. In 1962, the building was completed and the dedication service was held on December 9th. The speaker was the Reverend C.R. Daley, editor of the Western Recorder in Louisville.
The first education and administration building was added in 1962 at a cost of $30,000.
In 1965, Brother Long resigned. He had truly been God’s man for the time, not only leading the young church in physical growth but more so in establishing a firm Bible centered foundation and a loving fellowship.
Dr. Robert Dean was called to be pastor in 1966. He served until 1968, at which time he left to accept a position as a writer for the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville, TN. He later returned to serve as interim pastor on two different occasions.
Rev. J.E. “Buddy” Maddux succeeded Dr. Dean in 1969 and stayed until 1971. In May 1972, Rev. Wayne Newby came to serve as pastor, a position he held for almost eighteen years. God richly blessed Hillcrest through his ministry. A children’s building was constructed in 1974 to be called the Cobb building in honor of Stanley and Irene Cobb. It was built mostly by church members with Stanley Cobb and J.T. Rogers serving as general contractors.
The church continued to grow, so in 1987 at a cost of over $300,000, a fellowship hall, commercial kitchen, choir room and additional educational rooms were added and would later be named the Newby Building. On January 1, 1990, Bro. Newby accepted a call to become Director of Missions in Ballard and McCracken counties. During Bro. Newby’s tenure, Randy Thomas was called to be minister of youth and education. He was succeeded in that same position by Keith Stillwell. Alex Littlefield served for many years as music director during this time.
After a year and a half, through much prayer, work and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit the pastor search committee recommended that the church extend a call to Rev. Greg Giltner to be pastor. On March 31, 1991, Bro. Giltner began as the sixth pastor of Hillcrest. Under his leadership and ministry, God has richly blessed both numerically and spiritually as many souls are being won to Christ. From the beginning of eighteen members in 1954, Hillcrest has grown to a membership of over 1500 as God continues to add. Shortly after Bro. Giltner arrived, he appointed a long range planning committee which ultimately resulted in a proposal that the church enter into a capital funds drive aimed at securing finances for a new sanctuary and children’s building. The membership voted to do so overwhelmingly.
So in November 2003, work began on a new children’s building and a sanctuary with seating for approximately 800, and at a cost of almost 4.5 million dollars. Shortly thereafter, the adjacent tobacco warehouse was purchased, providing much needed parking space.
On February 15, 2004, the first service in the new sanctuary was held with 1265 present. Dedication service for the new sanctuary and children’s building was on April 4, 2004. All of our living former pastors were present including Bro. Long, Dr. Dean and Bro. Newby. This celebration took on added significance since this also commemorated 50 years since Hillcrest started as a mission in 1954.
Bro. Greg retired on May 1, 2011 after 20 years of faithful service and vibrant ministry. He and Sandy are still a blessing to the church family, living locally to stay close to children and grandchildren.
A full program of ministries is offered, which includes a vibrant children’s ministry (Hillcrest Kidz) and children's church (Kidz Jam), a strong and active student ministry (20/20) and an outstanding music ministry with an adult choir of over eighty voices.
In June 1991, Bill Houpt was named part time youth director and served in this capacity until becoming full time youth minister on January 1, 2000. He is succeeded by Cody Turner, who came to Hillcrest from Georgia in November, 2010. In July 1994, Brother Tom Drake was called to be Minister of Music and Education. In July 2000, Robin Henderson, who grew up in Hillcrest, was called to be our first part time Children’s Director. A new position to be filled was that of Associate Pastor/ Administrator when Brother Bob Sipper was called in October 2005. We are extremely blessed to have such a dedicated and Spirit led staff.
Prior to the retirement of Bro. Greg Giltner in May, 2011, the church extended the call to Bro. Cody Turner as Student Pastor. Under his leadership, the ministry staff and impact on our community has certainly been noticed. He continues to drive the ministry with passion and a focus on practical discipleship.
So from the beginning of eighteen members in 1954, Hillcrest has grown to a membership of over 1500 with potential for continued growth as we reach out to a lost world. In November, 2012, under the transitional pastor leadership of Bro. Don Mathis, the church reached its highest Sunday School attendance in its history with 1167 present.
On January 6, 2013, Hillcrest called a new senior pastor to lead the family into the next chapter. Dr. Joe Bufford, a Georgia native, joins the staff team in February, 2013, looking forward to a ministry that will glorify God and reach our area with the good news of Jesus. The future appears bright with a revitalized focus on missions, both locally and globally.
The most recent change to the church staff team happened this year in the calling of Bro. Tony Lewis as Discipleship Pastor. He is leading the charge in our educational area. As part of the realignment of responsibilities, Bro Tom Drake has added missions to his duties, becoming Worship/ Missions Pastor and Bro. Bob Sipper gives up the Wednesday night programming to be Administration/ Connections Pastor.
We draw from the entire city and county including Ft. Campbell, which has provided us with numerous military personnel who have become an active part of our fellowship. Hillcrest is indeed a blend of all ages, races and economic levels serving and worshipping together in a spiritually warm and loving relationship.
Our brief history shows how God has been at work, yet we believe He has even greater plans for the future.
To God be the glory!