Dr. David B. Heller has been our Associational Missions Strategist since November 1, 2014. A former police officer, Dave pastored in the Columbus Association for 18 years at Pleasant Plains Baptist Church, and has been in the ministry since 1982. He and his wife, Cindy, have three grown daughters and 1 granddaughter. Dave has also served as Senior Chaplain for the Columbus County Sheriff's Office since 1998
Mrs. Teresa Powell is our Administrative Assistant and has served this association since September 1, 2014. Teresa brings over 14 years of experience as a church administrative assistant and is a valuable asset to our association. A native of Columbus County, she and her husband, Gary, have 3 grown children and 7 grandchildren.
The History of the Columbus Baptist Association
Our Association dates back to 1805 when it was first known as Cape Fear. It existed until 1898. For a long time the Cape Fear Association included churches in Robeson, Columbus, Bladen and Brunswick Counties with some in Pender and a few in South Carolina near the state line.
This was 25 years before our Baptist State Convention was organized and 16 years after George Washington became the first President of the United States.
The southeastern part of North Carolina had been thinly settled, but along about this time a number of families had moved into this section from other parts of this and other states. During the prior half century many Scotch and Irish families had come from Europe and settled along the Cape Fear River and outlying territory.
Religious interest had been rather low in some of this territory and churches were few and far between. A few Methodist churches had been organized and Bishop Asbury made a journey through this section in 1801, organizing some other churches.
Some churches believed in missions and some others said that God would save people in His own way and time. In some churches there were men who held Calvinistic doctrine and beliefs of the Primitive Baptists.
Settlements and farms in this part of the state were widely scattered. Roads were poor and many of the people had very little education. Yet, people at that time, appeared to know their neighbors fairly well, although their homes might have been thirty or forty miles away. Their usual manner of travel was on horseback when too far to walk.
The churches that are members of the Columbus Baptist Association today that were members of the original association and the date of their acceptance are listed here: Porter Swamp (1830); Iron Hill (1839); Pleasant Plains (1836); Mount Tabor (Tabor City 1838); Macedonia (1839); Western Prong (1843); Cherry Grove (1846); Pleasant Hill (1848); White Marsh (1852 – which is also the oldest church in our Association, established in 1765); Whiteville First (1863); Piney Forest (1869); Cedar Grove (1870); Gapway and New Hope (1874); Bogue Chapel, which is now Hallsboro and Fair Bluff (1876); Oak Dale (1884); China Grove (1880); and Smyrna (1892).
During the period between the Civil War and the close of the 19th Century, there were increases in people, farming, roads and schools. There was more interest in church work and in most communities Sunday Schools were organized. Most of the people were poor and living standards continued low for many years. Public schools were available to most children, but usually for only two or three months per year. Many people were illiterate.
In 1888 the first Columbus Baptist Association was formed from churches withdrawing from the Cape Fear Association. This newly organized association remained in existence until 1898. Many of those still existing churches were members.
In the period before so many churches left the Cape Fear Association, there was always great interest in the annual meeting. Attendance was usually large and the sessions continued from Wednesday or Thursday until Sunday. Many delegates would attend from long distances, considering their means of travel. When the annual meeting was held near a railroad station, some would come by train, but in many cases they came by horse and buggy starting the day before the meeting.
The attendance was large and the people started weeks before in preparation for the great number of visitors they expected. It took quite a number of pigs and chickens to feed so many. Many of the homes took more guests than they could take care of, but they were glad to have the privilege of entertaining the folds from other churches. Many times the church building would not hold half the crowd and overflow services were held under the trees of the church yard. Many who attended the association were greatly interested in religious services of course, but the social features were an added attraction. Many of the churches complained if they could not host the association’s annual meeting every few years.
In 1936 the Columbus Baptist Association was reorganized with the following charter members: Antioch, Boardman, Bolton, Cedar Grove, Cerro Gordo, Chadbourn, Cheerful Hope, Cherry Grove, China Grove, Clarendon, Corinth, Delco, Evergreen, Fair Bluff, Gapway, Hallsboro, Hinson’s Cross Roads, Lennon’s Cross Roads, Macedonia, Mount Tabor (Tabor City), Mount Zion, New Hope, Oak Dale, Piney Forest, Pleasant Hill, Pleasant Plains, Porter Swamp, Smyrna, Union Valley, Waccamaw (Lake Waccamaw), Western Prong, White Marsh, Whiteville First and Williamson’s Cross Roads.
Currently, the Columbus Baptist Association has 52 churches actively participating in cooperative ministry. We appreciate our past and our heritage and we look forward to the future together. Our prayer is that God will continue to use the Columbus Baptist Association to accomplish great things for the kingdom!!
(Historical portions taken from Columbus Baptist Associational History 1805-1982)