WARNER ROBINS -- Central Baptist Church was formed and found a home on the western edge of Warner Robins in 1955.
In 1955, that western edge was on Watson Boulevard across from where the big water tower now stands and where a growing Houston Medical Center sits.
Growing in numbers and having become landlocked, the church decided again in 1997 to look westward for a new home. In 2005 they opened new 90,000-square-foot facilities on a 155-acre tract at the intersection of Lake Joy Road and Russell Parkway.
They say two of the most difficult things for a church to do is rename itself or relocate, said Owen Bozeman, lead pastor at Central for 17 years, including the years of relocation. It was difficult and a lot of hard work but because of the vision of the people and of the founding members it was a smooth process.
Bozeman said when the decision was made, the church had no idea what property it would move to. He said the Lake Joy Road site was not for sale but prayer made the difference. After declining numerous times to sell, he said the owners approached the church with an offer.
Bozeman also said stories abound of the providential nature of the move, including ones like that of founding members Harrison and Jeannette Watson, who were riding around one afternoon and passed the property. Harrison Watson, who was ill and rarely communicated at the time, looked up and commented it would be the perfect place for the church.
They had no idea we were eyeing the property, Bozeman said. There were wonderful confirmations like that all along the way. Im not aware of one person who left Central because of the move. It was a real venture of faith we took together, the oldest members to the newest.
The church recently began construction of a 35,000-square-foot family life-youth worship facility. Bozeman said sports fields have also sprung up on the property, providing a home to growing recreational ministries, including Upward Sports programs.
Bozeman said Central Baptists is a multigenerational church, meaning it serves all stages of life. He said the church is committed to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, strengthening families and to teaching and preaching to the Bible.
He said worship and music is also a priority.
I think if you ask anyone at Central about our church, one of the things they will bring up in the first few sentences is our worship ministry, which includes age-graded choirs, an orchestra and one of the best contemporary worship bands in the area, Bozeman said. Thats largely due to Buddy Casey, whos been the minister of music here for 22 years.
Bozeman also said the church has a large ministry to preschoolers and children, including the Sonshine Preschool, which has been in existence since the 1960s. He said ministry to all age groups is strong but that student ministry is particularly thriving.
In addition, the church has helped begin other churches through the years and is particularly pleased with helping start fellowships for Chinese-, Filipino-, Hispanic- and Vietnamese-Americans. He said the church has also hosted long-term international ministries teaching English, Bible studies and citizenship.
Bozeman and his wife, Debbie, are from Alabama, though Bozeman grew up in Pensacola, Fla. They have been married for 33 years and have two married, adult children. Debbie is a pharmacist at Robins Air Force Base.
Bozeman earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He has served churches in Kentucky, Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
Aside from getting married and having children, the best thing to ever happen to me was coming to be pastor of Central, Bozeman said. I never would have imagined all we would experience together in God. Warner Robins is home. Its a place people come back to live and retire and Im happy many come back to be a part of our church. One of the special things about Warner Robins -- and I think about our church -- is everybody is welcome.
Another thing Bozeman said is special is the approaching celebration of Christmas.
Its my favorite time of year, he said. God coming to us wrapped in human flesh is the most amazing story in human history. We love Christmas because we love Christ, but Christmas isnt the whole story. We celebrate the cradle and his birth and the empty tomb where we he rose from the dead, but theres nothing more central to the Christian faith than what happened in between: the cross. God giving his son is the greatest sign we could ever have of his love for us. Its a captivating story.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.