At a cottage prayer meeting in the summer of 1943, the need for a church in this community was mentioned in a testimony. This was the early beginning of Oak Ridge Baptist Church. Outdoor services were conducted by Reverend Geter Poarch and Grady Hamby in the groves of the Mr. Cam Berry residence. This led to the organization of a Sunday School, which was held in the afternoon with surrounding churches participating. As Sunday School grew, a need for a church was seen.
In November of 1943, the Oak Ridge Baptist Church was organized in the home of Mr. & Mrs. Ben Zimmerman. The Associational Officers and officers from area churches were present. Mr. Perry Abernathy, the South Mountain Associational Moderator, presided. There were thirteen charter members present: Mr. Roy Aiken, Mr. Willie Knox, Mr. Garland Paige, Mr. & Mrs. Guy Smith, Mr. & Mrs. J.L. Smith, Mr. Joe Smith, Mrs. Zeb Smith Sr., Mrs. Argie Wilson Starr, Mr. & Mrs. Ben Zimmerman, and Mr. Berla Zimmerman.
In the early spring of 1944, work began on the church. Mr. Paul Decker and Mr. Guy Smith donated land for the church site. Area mills, churches and friends donated money, logs and free labor to keep the project going. In the fall of 1944, the building was partially completed and services were held with Rev. Grady Hamby as pastor. He served through 1945. Rev. Geter Poarch was then called as pastor and served through May of 1950. Additional work on the building was done. Rev. Ralph Berry served as supply pastor for a short time, then was called as full time pastor and served until 1959. Under his leadership, the church began a radio ministry on station WIRC, from 7:30 to 8:00 each Sunday morning. In February of 1956, the necessary amount of land for a new auditorium was secured with Mr. Cecil Lowman as contractor. Rev. Harold Whitener came as pastor in 1959 and remained until August, 1964. In 1959 the parsonage was purchased from Mr. Ernest Stephens. In March of 1963, plans were made for the Guy R. Smith Memorial Hall, known today as Smith Hall.
In November of 1964, Rev. Edward B. Smith came as pastor and served until June of 1966. In September of 1966, Rev. Edsel Mull came as interim pastor. In March of 1967, he became full time pastor, serving until November 1977. In May of 1970, additional land was purchased for parking and possible building expansion. In April of 1978, Rev. Keith Starnes came as pastor and served until May of 1985. In 1981, an addition was made to the church building including a baptistery, choir room, a new Sunday School room and storage room. In 1983, Smith Hall was remodeled with church members doing the work. Rev. Paul Lovingood came as interim pastor in June of 1985 and served until November of that year. At that time, Rev. J. W. Myers began serving as interim pastor and served until July of 1986. Rev. Scott Good began serving as interim at this time and continued until December of 1986. In December of 1986, Rev. Darrell Saunders was called as pastor. Although Rev. Saunders retired in September of 1997, he continued to serve as interim pastor until July of 1998.
To accommodate the church’s growing bus ministry, the number of youth going to Caswell each summer, and various other church activities, the approval to purchase a 30 passenger bus for $35,000 was also made on December 4, 1987. After much prayer, the church voted on February 12, 1989, to move from the South Mountain Baptist Association to the Catawba River Baptist Association. With a growth pattern evident, renovations of the church building and an addition to Smith Hall were approved on February 10, 1991. Like the original construction, the majority of the work was done by the church members. A dedication service was held on February 9, 1992.
In July of 1998, Rev. Mel Campos was called as pastor and served until 2004. During his pastorate, the church had a renewal to active mission work. Also, during 1999 Oak Ridge became involved with Habitat for Humanity in Burke County. The Kentucky Coal Mine Ministry, Meals on Wheels, the Birthday Ministry at College Pines Rehabilitation and Long-Term Care Center, Operation Christmas Child Shoe Box Ministry, local/state/national disaster relief, World Changers, and Foothills Service Project are among the projects that have continued as an ongoing basis. By October 26, 2000, an agreement was signed to purchase the adjoining property of 5.24 acres. The church unanimously approved the purchase as an essential need for future growth.
In October 2000, the Baptist Men organized the Fall Barbecue to support missions and ministries of the church. Through the efforts of Sunday school classes and The Mission Evangelism Team, the Shekinah Food Ministry began. On May 17, 2001, the first Shekinah Food Ministry distribution was held at Smith Hall. This ministry continues to serve families in need. In May 2001, the Women on Mission organized the Spring Barbeques to contribute to the Shekinah Food Ministry. By November 2002, it was announced at the Catawba River Baptist Association Fall Meeting that Oak Ridge would partner with Wilkies Grove to begin the work of a new Hmong mission. By May 2003, Wilkies Grove, the Catawba River Baptist Association, and Oak Ridge called Pao Ly to become the church planter.
In January 2005, Dr. Bob Shepherd served as interim pastor. During his tenure, ground was broken and construction began on the new worship facility and the Family Life Center. In May 2005, a Groundbreaking Ceremony was held for the new sanctuary and Family Life Center. Construction began in July 2005 with Carolina Shelter as builder. In August 2005, Oak Ridge Baptist Church called Rev. Darrell Webb as pastor. During his tenure, the church completed construction and moved into the present facility on October 22, 2006. The first service held in the new sanctuary was Homecoming.
In June 2007, the new playground, was named the Oak Ridge Children’s Park. A plaque was placed recognizing any child who died during the time he/she was a member or attendee of the church. In November 2007, the WMU began its involvement with the Catawba River Baptist Association Toy Store. Also, during this month, the annual community Thanksgiving service is held. In March 2008, the Associational RA Racer Competition was held at Oak Ridge’s Family Life Center. This continues as be an annual event. In May 2008, the annual church wide golf tournament was held. Monies from this event support the youth program.
Following the retirement of Rev. Darrell Webb, Rev. Michael Skinner served as pastor from February 2011 until September 2014. Then, from October 2014 through April 2015, the Rev. Dr. Bob Shepherd once again served as interim pastor with volunteer assistance from Reverends Gene Creamer and Matthew Taylor. In April 2015, Rev. Randy Taylor accepted the pastorate and served until July 2016. During this time, the Good Samaritan Clinic East opened and renovations to the playground took place. In October 2016, Rev. John Barnhardt served as Transitional Pastor. In August 2018, Rev. Nicholas Wilson accepted the call as pastor for Oak Ridge Baptist with a fresh vision to worship our Savior, grow spiritually and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. We are excited to see what God has in store for Oak Ridge Baptist Church in the future!