WHEAT – Time magazine, BBC, Stouffer’s, State Farm Insurance and Jaguar are just a few of the names of companies that started in 1922.
Alongside these startups was the small and ambitious congregation that formed as the First Baptist Church in Wheatland.
Pastor Phil Benson, a native of Salem, Oregon, and a high school graduate in 1991, has pastored First Baptist Church for 11 years.
When Benson started, he says he didn’t know what God wanted him to do, so he attended community college and listened carefully to the Lord’s leading.
“I took different classes in elementary school and then medical classes just to see what kind of things resonated,” Benson said. “I ended up graduating from community college and one thing I learned was that I loved working with young people.”
The church he was with at the time hired him as a youth pastor and suddenly his ministry took shape.
“I went to Western Baptist College, just outside Salem, and got my diploma in youth ministry,” Benson said. “It’s an associate of arts degree, and then I went to seminary at Dispensational Theological Seminary in Forest Grove, Oregon.”
In addition to seminary, he did bivocational ministry and followed in his father’s footsteps as a plumber and completed an apprenticeship program. He was actually working as a plumber when he received a call from the Wheatland Church approaching him to apply for the pastorate.
Benson and his wife, Joyce, who met while attending vacation Bible school in Oregon, decided to come to Wheatland to find out more about the position. The couple, who married in 1997, have four daughters, Bailey, Mylie, Brooklyn and Emma.
The Bensons felt God’s direction to come to Wheatland and they loved where God had sent them.
Coming to a church approaching a century longevity was exciting for Benson.
“Looking back, I see the normal term for a pastor in that church was two years,” Benson said. “It’s hard for a church when you have that kind of rotation and different teaching. It was quite interesting the history of the church as a pastor put a loudspeaker in the original steeple of the church and it broadcast his sermons to the town. It wasn’t very popular.
According to Benson, there was a charter membership in the early 1900s, then there was a vacuum and Northern Baptist had a deed. The pastor at the time had to come and redeem the deed from the Northern Baptist Organization. At that time, plans were made and the construction program began in 1922.
The building that stands today at 1252 Pine Street is the original building that was constructed in 1922, although some additions and modifications have been made.
“This church has been through so much when you think about it,” Benson said. “There was the depression and the effect it had on the church and then the dust bowl and the effect it had on the farmers here. I mean the farmers in Goshen County have You can also look back in history and see where there was a church split.
According to Benson, this was the first Baptist church in Wheatland and he said satan wanted to destroy it all along, but it was able to stand the test of time and still exists today. Through the many wars America has gone through, fluctuating economies, and uncertain times, the doors were open to the people of Platte County.
“When I got a call from Terry Stevensen, it was actually a message on my phone,” Benson said. “Six months earlier, I had told my wife that I felt God wanted me back in full-time ministry. I had to pull out the map and find out where Wheatland was. What is so impressive to me is that God gives us divine appointments for different things. God brought me here for his reason. I officially started on November 16, 2010.”
While the 11-year pass is impressive when it comes to the national average lifespan of pastors and their churches, previous pastor Marlon Driskell was there for 24 years.
The church which in the past had week-long celebrations chose this year to have a ceremonial service with Driskell who came and testified about his time in the pulpit as well as testimonies from some of the congregants. Extensive research by Benson of former pastors revealed older gentlemen, some deceased or too old to travel for the celebration.
After the service, the church held a big barbecue in the churchyard.
As for what the church has on the record for the next 100 years, Benson was very clear.
“I think we just keep following God,” Benson said. “One of the things I try not to do is plan things for God. I just want to be where he wants me to be, and everyone asks me if I’m gonna be here for the next 10 years and I say I don’t know what God has for me but I know right now , I am where I am supposed to be.
Happy Birthday Wheatland First Baptist Church.
The First Baptist Church recently passed a major milestone as the congregation celebrated the 100th anniversary of its existence in Wheataland. Pastor Phil Benson is the current pastor of the organization. Church2 First Baptist Church looked quite different 70 years ago and went through several changes before it was 100 years old. While this photo was being taken, the pastor would place a loudspeaker in the steeple and broadcast his sermons to the town. Church3 Pastor Phil Benson has led the First Baptist Church for 11 years. He has seen a lot of growth since he was in Wheatland and many lives that have been touched by the gospel of Jesus Christ.