Highlights in Our History
- In the late 1840’s, members of First Baptist Church of Keyport began conducting Bible studies and other outreach efforts in the area of Matawan (then known as Middletown Point).
- On October 22, 1850, our church was constituted as The Baptist Church at Middletown Point. Job Gaskill was called as the first pastor of the thirty-two charter members. Many of their last names are recognizable as street names in Matawan and Aberdeen. They committed themselves to to a high standard of biblical faithfulness in the church’s founding documents and membership covenant.
- The congregation unanimously adopted the 1853 New Hampshire Baptist Confession as its statement of faith on March 22, 1856. (Because we continue to affirm these same biblical doctrines today, the statement was unanimously readopted on October 18, 2015.)
- On Sunday, February 14, 1858, the original church building (at 260 Main Street) burned to the ground.
- After the fire, the church purchased the land at 232 Main Street and began construction. The first worship service was held there on August 11, 1860. We continue to meet for worship services in this historic building today. Many expansions, additions, and renovations have been completed since then.
- On Sunday, December 25, 1859, three men publicly related their experience of conversion to faith in Christ—two following the morning service, and one following the afternoon service. (Very few Baptists at the time observed Christmas, so it was regarded as a Sunday like any other.) The congregation voted to baptize them and receive them into membership. The three converts were baptized (immersed) in the frigid Matawan Creek following the Sunday morning service on January 1, 1860. The church clerk noted in the record, “Weather intensely cold.” Many similar baptism stories are contained in our records.
- On October 1, 1866, Franklin A. Slater began a pastoral ministry that lasted over twenty-two years. His record went unbroken until 1996.
- On August 20, 1891, Dr. Ida Faye Levering, a member of the congregation, was appointed a missionary under the Women’s Baptist Missionary Society and sailed for Nellore, India. The hospital founded there during her ministry continued its work for more than 100 years.
- In 1893, the church officially changed it’s name from The Baptist Church at Middletown Point to The First Baptist Church of Matawan, reflecting the change in the name of our community.
- In 1945, the congregation allowed Garrett Detwiler to take a leave of absence as pastor to serve as a chaplain for the United States Army in World War II. He was deployed to Europe in the final months of the war and wrote letters home about participating in the liberation of Nazi concentration camps.
- In 1974, Lewis Kisenwether began his pastoral ministry at First Baptist Church. Dr. Kisenwether became the longest tenured pastor in the church’s history, retiring after more than thirty-eight years.
- Our current pastor, Daniel Wiginton, began his ministry here on June 9, 2013.
- In January 2017, the congregation voted to end its 156-year affiliation with a mainline denomination that had moved away from biblical fidelity and to seek membership in the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (FIRE).
- The First Baptist Church of Matawan remains faithful to the gospel message upon which it was founded. We seek to fulfill the mission that Christ gave to his Church in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8. We celebrate and spread the message that Jesus taught: “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).