Dr. Roc Collins (left) is senior pastor at Indian Springs Baptist Church Hill Road Campus, and Tiger Brooks is pastor of Indian Springs Baptist Church Glenwood Campus. (Credit: Ned Jilton II)
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Established in 1887, Glenwood Baptist Church is one of the oldest Baptist churches in Kingsport.
The original church building was destroyed by fire on Jan.1, 1939, but was soon rebuilt on the same site on East Center Street and Glenwood remained a strong presence in the community for many years.
In 1955, under the leadership of Glenwood’s then-pastor, Freeman Wright, as well as some others, Glenwood Baptist planted Indian Springs Baptist Church in the Indian Springs community.
Today, Dr. Roc Collins is the senior pastor at the Indian Springs (Hill Road Campus) and says that God richly blessed that new church plant and, through the years, Indian Spring Baptist grew.
However, in recent years, Glenwood Baptist began to experience a rapid decline in attendance numbers. The church that once had as many as 400 to 600 people coming through its doors on any given Sunday, was now seeing an average attendance of 45 to 50 people.
“Through the years people just started to move out,” said Nancy Cradic, whose parents first brought her to Glenwood in 1942, when she was an infant.
Cradic said part of Glenwood’s drop in attendance was attributed to the absence of young families with children in the church.
“You can’t grow unless you’ve got young adults, unless you’ve got children,” Cradic said. “We had the money to try to attract them, but old people don’t attract young adults. We didn’t know what to do to try and attract them because our thoughts are different than the young people’s thoughts today.”
Church members knew their beloved Glenwood was in trouble.
“We could see that we were dropping in attendance and everything we tried, it just failed,” said Lewis Barker, a long-time member of Glenwood. “We went to [Dallas Bivins, the assocational missionary for the Sullivan Baptist Association], and he put us in contact with several different groups. Some offered to give us money up front. But then, when we talked with Indian Springs, something just clicked. We knew that was where the Lord wanted us to be.”
Collins says talks between Indian Springs and Glenwood began in the fall of 2010.
“We discussed our options at length. It was not rushed at all. There was a lot to consider on both sides,” he said.
Because it was Glenwood that was responsible for planting Indian Springs Baptist nearly six decades ago, Collins says Indian Springs is the “child” of Glenwood.
Collins said he told his congregation at Indian Springs Baptist they needed to help their “mother.”
“That’s how I framed it to our church,” he said. “I said, ‘We’re not going in to help someone we don’t know. We are them. So, it’s not really a joining of two different folks. That’s us.’”
And in 2011, Collins says God orchestrated events that led to the merger of Indian Springs Baptist and its mother church, Glenwood Baptist, thus, as he describes it, creating one church in two locations.
Indian Springs Baptist provided leadership and financial stability to Glenwood so it could move forward with upgrades and renovations.
And it seems to have worked, as reflected in their motto, “Cultivating Eternal Relationships.”
Today, under the pastoral leadership of Tiger Brooks, who had been the student minister at Indian Springs Baptist, attendance at Glenwood is up to a weekly average of about 200. There are two services held each Sunday — a traditional worship service at 9 a.m. and a contemporary worship service with a praise band at 11 a.m.
“It’s been like a miracle. In the worship service now, we’ve got lots of young adults and children,” Cradic said.
However as anyone who’s been through change knows, it doesn’t come about easily. There were hurt feelings, and some folks left Glenwood altogether.
“Some people were upset by all of this change. But I kept saying it beats closing the doors,” Cradic said.
And those Glenwood members who remained behind, only want to look forward, not backward.
“I have the utmost respect for the Glenwood folks who came to this point,” said Brooks. “It’s not easy to say, ‘Glenwood is not going to exist anymore in the manner that we know.’ That’s not an easy thing to come to, but yet they did it because they knew if they wanted to continue the ministry that’s been going on for more than 100 years, then some change was going to have to come about.”
One of the biggest changes to come about was the church name. Today, Glenwood is known as Indian Springs Baptist Church Glenwood Campus.
“It’s not been easy. The sanctuary looks a little different now. It sounds a little different. But the fact Glenwood’s folks had this vision to resurrect the church and not bury the church was what was so inspiring to me,” said Collins. “And it continues to develop, but God has increased the numbers in an awesome way.”
Collins and Brooks meet weekly and develop their sermons together.
“We preach the same text. It’s just that Roc does it with his flavor [at the Hill Road Campus] and I do it with mine [at the Glenwood Campus], and it works,” Brooks said.
“It’s been an experience to be one church in two locations,” Collins added. “There’s a lot of sharing and a lot of encouragement going both ways and we think this is essential.”
Brooks is working hard to ensure Glenwood has a strong presence in the community in which it’s located.
Indian Springs Glenwood Campus partnered with Jefferson Elementary School to offer TCAP tutoring to students last spring. Brooks says the partnership will continue when school beings again in the fall.
A food pantry is open from 6 to 8 p.m., the third Tuesday of each month. The food pantry is also available for emergency situations, Brooks said.
Glenwood has also partnered with the Kingsport Fire Department to provide free smoke alarms to nearby residents.
“We want to do things so that people will know we’re here. We want everyone to come be a part of it. We want to reach our community,” Collins said. “We want to exalt the Lord Jesus. As Jesus said, we go to Jerusalem, Samaria and other parts of the world. We endeavor to carry that good news all around the world, but we want to start right here in Kingsport. We definitely want to start right here.”
“Above all else, we want to be a church, a campus, that is unashamedly preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and meeting and serving the needs of the community,” he said. “We are a Great Commission Church and the Great Commission says we are to take the gospel to the nations and to teach them and baptize them. But at the same time, we recognize that even though we’ve got a very aggressive strategy for international missions, we also want to serve the needs of our home church. When you consider that so many churches are closing their doors nowadays, we feel like [Glenwood’s] is a great story of church revitalization.”
Indian Springs Baptist Church Glenwood Campus’ traditional worship services begin at 9 a.m. on Sundays with Bible study for all ages following at 10 a.m. The contemporary worship services begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday evening worship services begin at 6.
Bible study, TeamKID and youth programs are held at 6 p.m., every Wednesday.
An Independence Day celebration will be held Sunday, July 7 at both Indian Springs Baptist campuses. On that day, there will only be one service at 10:30 a.m. at each church, with cookouts to follow the worship services. There will be no evening services.
For more information about Indian Springs Baptist Church Glenwood Campus, visit http://isbc.org/ and click on the Glenwood Campus link.