Location, Location, Location
The history of South Main Baptist Church of Pasadena revolves around location. Baptists began their witness in Pasadena by building a place for worship and fellowship in 1902. That location was 224 South Main, the intersection of Main and Broadway. As the city grew south, the First Baptist Church of Pasadena voted to relocate to an address on Tatar Street (now Pasadena Boulevard). Subsequent to that decision a group of members decided to remain at the South Main location and organized a new church. That new church was constituted on May 12, 1954, with more than 500 charter members.
The new church, South Main Baptist Church, called Dr. E. Leslie Carlson, a professor at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas to serve as her interim Pastor. This short interim was concluded when the congregation extended a call to Dr. B. J. Martin to become her first pastor. Dr. Martin assumed this new responsibility on January 1, 1955, and served South Main admirably for 26 years (1955-1980). Although he left South Main to serve in an administrative position at Houston Baptist University, he and his wife Marylyn remained as active members here.
God blessed the ministry of South Main during the tenure of Dr. Martin. The church grew numerically. As a result several buildings were constructed including a Preschool Building (the Ann Martin Building named in memory of Dr. Martin's first wife) and a new Worship Center. This pastor and people worked together in such a harmonious way that a cooperative and sweet spirit became a part of the church's DNA. The legacy of their work is that this spirit endures to this day.
When Dr. Martin went to HBU, the church called as her interim Pastor another administrator from that university, Dr. Ray Mayfield, Jr. He led South Main for eight months until August, 1981, when the church extended an invitation to Dr. Ron Lyles to become her second pastor. One can detect the stability of the congregation in the fact that in the life of the church exceeding 55 years, she has been led by only two pastors.
Under Dr. Lyles' leadership the church has developed a mission vision that is both local and global in nature. Direct participation is the mutual element in these two emphases. South Main began her local mission ministry in 1983. This involves support of smaller mission and church congregations that seek to reach people for Christ away from the South Main campus. These are scattered across the Pasadena and Houston areas and include groups that are predominantly Hispanic, African-American, South Asian, Korean, and Russian.
South Main also has developed a global mission emphasis, one that seeks to support directly a mission work on four other continents including Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe. The support is offered through prayers, financial resources, and short term mission trips by Southmainers.
South Main began a strategic planning process in 1989 and determined to explore options for the best future of the church. As a result, the church officially voted to relocate its primary ministry location in September of 1989. After living in the same home for almost 40 years, the church family packed up their memories in October, 1992, and brought them to a new home at 4300 E. Sam Houston Pkwy S.
The relocation process became the initiative for new excitement and greater participation. Additional buildings to accommodate growth and to expand ministry were the Thompson Suite named in memory of a former associate pastor and his wife Sue (1995) and the Martin Building named in honor of Pastor Emeritus Dr. B. J. Martin (1998). The Martin Building includes the Family Life Center and the Kelley Preschool Suite (named in memory of a former Minister of Education, Diane Kelley).
South Main has occupied two physical locations in the city of Pasadena. The most important location that we occupy, however, is that we are a people “in Christ,” that is in relationship with and in union with Christ. What a great place to be.