By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
LECOMPTE, La. (LBM) – Stewart Holloway has fond memories of attending various events and later serving on staff with First Baptist Church, Lecompte.
But not long after he returned to the area in 2008 to pastor First Baptist Church, Pineville, Holloway noticed his former church needed revitalization.
Now, FBC Lecompte has merged with FBC Pineville, with the final vote held at both campuses, May 1.
Holloway told the Baptist Message he was overjoyed at the bittersweet decision made by the Lecompte congregation and is hopeful for what lies ahead for the two bodies that now are one.
“We are really excited about what God has in store for both campuses as we move forward,” Holloway said. “This is my home church and I have been concerned about them. When I first went to seminary, I compared everything to First Baptist Lecompte and I was so proud of what that church was doing. To see them decline was disappointing.
“When they approached us earlier this year, I was very excited about that because I could see the potential they had,” he continued. “In fact, that church has way more potential than they and others may realize. Though it will take it a lot of work to get the church back where it needs to be, we know the church has a bright future ahead.”
A CHERISHED PAST
Holloway’s connection to FBC Lecompte can be traced to his childhood. His dad was a deacon, and his mother was Sunday School teacher who also served as Vacation Bible School director for many years. Holloway grew up attending church “every time the door was open” and enjoyed participating in Royal Ambassadors, VBS, church camps, children’s musicals and more.
After a merger between FBC and Trinity Baptist Church (both in Lecompte) in 1993, Sunday worship attendance reached 125-150 while Holloway was in high school (he later served on church staff in 1996-1998 while at Louisiana College).
The church began experiencing challenges by 2001, but despite brief glimpses of rebound the congregation gradually declined.
FBC Pineville attempted to help the church with revitalization efforts in early 2012. However, after six months it became apparent that the Lecompte church did not see the need for it, Holloway said. Still, FBC Pineville exited with hope for Lecompte’s success.
A BRIGHT FUTURE
In the fall of 2021, Louisiana Baptists Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist Sean Keith was interim pastor and led the church through a process to help them assess their future. They determined they needed more help and approached Holloway and his church leadership. FBC Pineville proposed that the two congregations merge to become one church in two locations.
This year, they both held separate votes to move forward: FBC Lecompte, Jan. 30, and FBC Pineville, Feb. 13.
Holloway has preached at both campuses each Sunday since April 3, and the two bodies have come together for periodic times of fellowship and meetings.
After the final vote on May 1, a joint celebration lunch was held at Tall Timbers Baptist Conference Center in Woodworth.
Betty Beard, a member at FBC Lecompte since 1978, said she is excited about the what God has in store for them.
“Stewart and the others at Pineville have this excitement that has been contagious,” Beard said. “The people in Pineville have welcomed us with open arms and we can hardly wait to see what will happen. And they have blended in with us seamlessly, which is a good sign for our future.”
Moving forward, Holloway said, “The future for our church is bright. As FBC Pineville and Lecompte, we want to reach central Louisiana for Christ. Getting to pastor people I’ve loved my whole life – who changed my diapers or played kickball with me as an RA – has been a tremendous blessing. I cannot wait to see what God will do as we do life together.”