First Baptist Church turns 100 years old

First Baptist Church just recently hit a milestone as the congregation celebrated the 100th birthday of their existence in Wheataland. Pastor Phil Benson is the current pastor of the organization. Church2 First Baptist Church had quite a different face 70 years ago and has undergone several changes on its way to being 100 years old. During the time this picture was taken, the pastor would put a loudspeaker in the bell tower and broadcast his sermons to the town. Church3 Pastor Phil Benson has been at the helm of First Baptist Church for 11 years. He has seen a lot of great growth in the time he has been in Wheatland and many lives that have been touched by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

WHEATLAND – Time magazine, the BBC, Stouffer’s, State Farm Insurance and Jaguar are just a few of the names of companies that began in 1922.

Alongside these startups was the small and ambitious congregation that formed under the name of First Baptist Church in Wheatland.

Pastor Phil Benson who hails from Salem, Oregon, and graduated from high school in 1991 has been the Pastor of First Baptist Church for 11 years.

When Benson started, he says that he didn’t know what God wanted him to do, so he attended a community college and listened intently for the leading of the Lord.

“I took some different classes in elementary education and then some medical classes just to see what kind of things resonated,” Benson said. “I ended up getting my degree at the community college and one thing I learned was that that I loved working with the youth.”

The church he was with at the time took him on as a youth pastor and suddenly his ministry was taking shape.

“I went to Western Baptist College which is just out of Salem and completed my degree in youth ministry,” Benson said. “It’s an Associate of Arts degree and then I went to seminary at Dispensational Theological Seminary in Forest Grove, Oregon.”

In addition to seminary, he did bivocational ministry and followed in his father’s footsteps as a plumber and went through an apprenticeship program. He was actually working as a plumber when he got a call from the Wheatland church who approached him to candidate for the pastorate.

Benson and his wife, Joyce who met doing a Vacation Bible School in Oregon decided to come to Wheatland to find out more about the position. The couple who were married in 1997 have four girls, Bailey, Mylie, Brooklyn and Emma.

The Bensons felt the leading of God to come to Wheatland and they loved the place that God sent them.

Coming to a church that was approaching the longevity of a century was exciting for Benson.

“Looking back I see that the normal tenure for a pastor in this church was two years,” Benson said. “That’s hard for a church when you have that kind of a turnover and a different teaching. It was kind of interesting the history of the church as one pastor put a loudspeaker in the original belltower of the church and he broadcast his sermons to the town. It wasn’t very popular.” 

According to Benson, there was a charter membership in the early 1900s and then there was a gap and Northern Baptist had a deed to the property. The pastor at the time had to come in and buy the deed back from the Northern Baptist Organization. At that time, plans were made and the building program began in 1922.

The building that sits today at 1252 Pine Street is the original building that was built in 1922 although some additions and modifications have been made.

“This church has gone through so much when you think about it,” Benson said. “There was the depression and the effect that had on the church, and then the dust bowl and the effect it had on the farmers here. I mean Goshen County farmers were pretty much obliterated. You can also look back in the history and see where there was a church split.”

According to Benson, it was the first Baptist church in Wheatland and he said that satan wanted to destroy it from the beginning, but it was able to stand the test of time and still stands today. Through numerous wars that America has gone through, fluctuating economies and uncertain times, the doors were open to the people of Platte County.

“When I got a call from Terry Stevensen, it was actually a message on my phone,” Benson said. “Six months before this I told my wife that I was feeling that God wanted me back in full-time ministry. I had to get out the map and find out where Wheatland was. What is so awesome to me is that God gives us divine appointments for different things. God brought me here for His reason. I officially started November 16 of 2010.”

Although the 11-year stint is impressive as far as the national average life-span of pastors and their churches go, the previous pastor Marlon Driskell was there for 24 years.

The church which in the past has had week-long celebrations opted this year to have a ceremonial service with Driskell who came and gave testimony as to his time in the pulpit as well as testimonies from some of the congregants. A lot of research by Benson concerning former pastors turned up older gentlemen, some who have passed away or too elderly to travel for the celebration.

After the service the church held a large BBQ in the church backyard.

As for what the church has on the docket for the next 100 years, Benson was very clear.

“I think we just continue to do is just follow God,” Benson said. “One of things I try not to do is plan things out for God. I just want to be where He wants me to be, and everyone asks if I’m going to be here for the next 10 years and I say that I don’t know what God has for me but I know that right now, I am where I am supposed to be.”

Happy Birthday to Wheatland’s First Baptist Church.

First Baptist Church just recently hit a milestone as the congregation celebrated the 100th birthday of their existence in Wheataland. Pastor Phil Benson is the current pastor of the organization. Church2 First Baptist Church had quite a different face 70 years ago and has undergone several changes on its way to being 100 years old. During the time this picture was taken, the pastor would put a loudspeaker in the bell tower and broadcast his sermons to the town. Church3 Pastor Phil Benson has been at the helm of First Baptist Church for 11 years. He has seen a lot of great growth in the time he has been in Wheatland and many lives that have been touched by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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