• Dr. Mike Routt

Pollard Baptist Church is closing its doors

Pollard Baptist Church in Ashland, Kentucky is closing its doors.  From 1995-2002, I served at Rose Hill Baptist Church, just 3 miles from Pollard.  I used to drive by the church all the time.  Here are excerpts from an article in the publication Kentucky Today:

End of an era: Once vibrant Kentucky church closing its doors

By MARK MAYNARD, Kentucky Today

ASHLAND, Ky. (KT) – Once a bustling congregation of nearly 1,500 members, Pollard Baptist Church is closing its doors.

Decades of decline had taken their toll at Pollard, leaving five faithful members to make the heart-wrenching decision to pull the plug.

The final worship service will be May 1.

For the tiny remnant of believers, the closing creates a deafening silence from the pulpit where God’s Word had been proclaimed for the past 126 years.

“It’s heartbreaking; it really is,” said 70-year-old Linda Cornwell, who has known no other church. She was enrolled in the "cradle roll" as a baby and committed her life to Christ at age 15. “It was August 1962,” she said. “Twenty-five people were saved on the same night.”

Pollard had its heyday in the first half of the 20th Century, experiencing rapid growth that brought two new buildings. The structure where the church stands today was built in 1925. By 1929, membership reached 512 and during the next 30 years the membership soared to nearly 1,500.

Rev. William K. “W.K.” Wood was a powerhouse minister and state evangelist for 70 years. He came from western Kentucky to Ashland to be the pastor of Pollard Baptist Church in 1923 and spent 21 years preaching powerfully to a full sanctuary. He was one of the first pastors in northeastern Kentucky to have his own radio show that aired every Sunday night.

(Church member Fred) Boggs said the church was so crowded from 1942 to 1944 that on Sunday night those who couldn’t get into the main auditorium went into the basement to listen to Wood preach on the radio.

While the problems from the mid-1940s to 1955 may have been the beginning of the end, it wasn’t that Pollard was an ineffective church for the next 50 years. Church attendance wasn’t as steady and several pastors came and went. They always preached the Bible, but it also fell more out of touch with the community it served.

“Communities are going to constantly change,” Shamblin said. “If you have the mentality this is who we are and who you are is not who the community needs you to be, you will lose the community. If you have a drive-in congregation in the middle of a neighborhood, you’re in trouble.”

Shamblin said Pollard resisted making changes that would have necessary to reach the people living around the church.

“The community changed around them,” he said. “If they were going to be the church for the community of Pollard, that required them to change. If there’s a mentality that the community exists for the church and not the church for the community, that’s certain death. The community around them changed and unfortunately the church never did. Even when they made overtures of trying to change, that was resisted as well.”

“Pollard Baptist was no longer the church that community needed and instead of changing, they chose death,” Shamblin said. “I’ve done a lot of church consultation. Churches are making that decision all across America. ‘I will not change, even for my grandchildren.’ They won’t say it that way, but their actions will say that.”

When I read this article, I had two thoughts:

  1. No wonder over 1,000 SBC churches and 10,000 churches of other denominations close their doors every year.  Like Pollard Baptist, these churches would rather stay the same and die rather than change and live.  They resist change because their preferences are more important than reaching people with the gospel.

  2. I love our church family more than ever.  The people of GOD called “Circle Drive” chose to change and live rather than stay the same and die.  Our church family accepted the changes GOD desired for us to make to reach future generations.  I totally understand that we endured much pain and loss in this long process.  Yet GOD’s people here are spiritually resilient, willing to pay whatever price is necessary to put the gospel above our own personal preferences.  GOD has worked His sanctifying grace in our lives through this “difficult season” to prepare us for the remarkable season ahead of us.

We as a church family do have an amazing future because we chose to change and live rather than stay the same and die.  GOD is going to honor our obedience and sacrifice.  He is going to perform miraculous things in our midst in the days to come!  I personally cannot wait to see what GOD is going to accomplish through His people.  I thank GOD without ceasing for allowing me the privilege and joy of serving such a wonderful, godly, and gospel-focused church family!

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