Twelve pastors have served Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Our current Senior Pastor, Reverend Robert James, preached his initial sermon at Zion on January 1, 2017. Zion has ordained and/or licensed 33 ministers and 66 deacons since its beginning. Currently, 46 deacons and 46 deaconesses are serving..
Zion Missionary Baptist Church, originally known as Zion Baptist Church, was organized in 1871 by a group of dedicated, African American Christians. Caucasian members from the Lebanon Baptist Church donated land for Zion’s first edifice, which eventually became a one-room structure that also served as a school. The first known pastor was Rev. William Jones. Fire destroyed Zion’s building in 1885, but the church was later rebuilt.
Expanding the Church
In October 1963, under the pastorate of the late Reverend P. L. Jones, the old Zion structure was torn down and a new edifice was built. While the church was being rebuilt, services were held at the Groveway Community Center and at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. The new church opened on February 16, 1964. That same year, Zion held its first Men’s Day celebration and Revival program. The following year, Zion celebrated its first Women’s Day. By the time Zion celebrated its centennial anniversary in 1971, the congregation had reached over two hundred members and was continuing to grow. This growth demonstrated that the labor of Zion’s legacy members such as Lillie Grogan, Josephine Blackwell, Alexander Nuckles Sr., Otis Orr, and many others, was clearly coming to fruition. This steady growth eventually required a large-scale church renovation in 1986 which included an enlarged sanctuary, pulpit, and choir stand as well as the addition of a baptismal pool, classrooms, and church offices.
Church Reaching for Higher Ground
Zion Missionary Baptist Church has continued to reach for higher ground in kingdom building. This great church is organized into several ministerial divisions with 45 auxiliary ministries, and we are blessed with eight choirs. Many spiritual and educational functions are used as vehicles to enhance the work of Jesus Christ through all our ministries. The LORD has continually blessed us, and a third regularly scheduled 6:00 PM Sunday worship service was added in 1992. New members, from all parts of the world, continue to come, taste and see the abundant goodness of God. As we continue to water, God has given the increase, and church membership has grown to approximately 2000+ souls since 1985.
” Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). In 1992, Reverend Lewis reiterated Zion’s Mission: “To win souls and to build up the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-16). Reverend (Dr.) Frank Lewis shared his God-given vision for this church:
“Zion is a place that continually offers mankind a refuge from the storms of life. She is a place to which people will be compelled to come, find Christ, serve God, and grow in grace. As Zion strives for perfection, it will be a model for others. She will be called on to do more and more. The members of Zion will be asked to do more and more in their Christian walk so that others may continue to see the goodness of God manifested through our good works, through faith in Jesus Christ.”
Praying, Serving and Building
Moving forward in 1996, we look to God for His infinite wisdom to guide our finite efforts. The vision remains and has now become a necessity. It is time to build; therefore, a Building Program Ministry has been instituted, and land acquisitions continue on Zion Circle. More importantly, our leaders marched across Zion Circle, stood on-site, and prayerfully claimed the land with the desire to realistically achieve the vision. What is the vision? The vision is the fruition of the building of a house of prayer that will more adequately meet congregational/civic-community needs allowing us to better serve the LORD. February 22, 1997, in conjunction with our 126th Church Anniversary Celebration, saw the groundbreaking ceremony for the new edifice that will house education, administration, and worship facilities for our growing congregation. An architectural firm was selected for the building project, and pledge forms were and are still requested. We, as a united Church Family, have committed to building these facilities with tithes, offerings, and sacrificial giving. On July 6, 1999, we witnessed the actual moving of the land and the tractors begin to roar. The Orr Youth Center was renovated and dedicated for our Youth Ministry and is utilized for Sunday Church School and other activities. In late fall of 1997, Hispanic ministry services were initiated to serve our immediate neighborhood and community, and this ministry elected to meet twice monthly, on the second and fourth Sundays at 2:00 PM in the main nave; and this ministry also offered a mid-week evening Bible Study Session.
We’re Marching to Zion
In 2001, Zion moved from its original location into a 77,000-square-foot building across the street on 888 Zion Circle. Since its relocation, Zion has created both youth and young adult centers, completed interior and exterior building enhancements, and increased its online presence by developing a Facebook page, an email broadcast, and online giving options. Zion Missionary Baptist Church has had thirteen senior pastors over the course of its history and was faithfully led by Rev. Dr. Frank Lewis for thirty-one years, until his death on August 5, 2014.
Despite the sudden loss of Zion’s beloved pastor in 2014, the church body endured. Between January 2015 and October 2015, Zion flourished under the leadership of an interim pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeffery Haggray. Pastor Haggray’s leadership ignited Zion to embark on new endeavors for church growth and improvement, including the Forty Days of Discernment program, cluster groups, and an elected Transition Team and Pastor Search Team. After over a year of steady prayer and seeking God’s will, Zion installed Reverend Robert James as its fourteenth senior pastor on April 30, 2017. With the installation of Reverend James, Zion established a new era—one that has already brought about vast changes in the priorities, structure, and culture of the church while remaining steadfast in a commitment to serve Jesus Christ and remain obedient to His Will.
For so many people, Zion Missionary Baptist Church is home. Zion’s spiritual, social, and economic influence in the Roswell and metro Atlanta community includes but is not limited to missionary and evangelical activities in local shelters, state prisons, the Urbana Student Missions Conference, and Habitat for Humanity. In addition, Zion’s members have engaged in international outreach and ministered to individuals from countries such as Haiti, Korea, Cuba, Mexico, Columbia, and Uganda. While the past and present influence of Zion Missionary Baptist Church is apparent in the city of Roswell and beyond, the spirit of Zion is not bound by a residence. No matter the location, Zion continues to fulfill her creed and serve as “a refuge from the storms of life” to all who walk through its doors.