3728 East Berry Street
Fort Worth, Texas
P. O. Box 51240
Fort Worth, Texas 76105-8240
Worship & Study Schedule:
8 am-8:50 am Prayer Focus
9 am-9:50 am School of Discipleship
10 am Empowerment Worship Service
6:30 pm SundayNightLIVE!
Wednesday Nite Unplugged:
6-6:45 pm Family Meal
6:50 pm The REMIX
7 pm Pastor's Created-to-Win
THE GSSFC STORY:
OUR CHURCH FAMILY'S HERITAGE
The rainy and dreary weather of January 31, 1981, did not deter twenty-three persons of like-minded intent from gathering at the Pleasant Mount Gilead Baptist Church. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with assistance from local pastors, this brave band of believers covenanted together to form a fellowship of love, which they named Greater St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church. Joel C. Pullam was chosen as Pastor and Rubie Hazel Brown as Church Clerk.
Joel Charles Pullam, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, and a product of that city's Roy Miller High School, was licensed to preach the gospel by his Pastor, Harold T. Branch. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education, May 1974, at Texas a & I University, Kingsville, Texas. He later earned a Master of Religious Education, degree (May 1984) from Southwestern Theological Seminary, Fort Worth.
The newly formed Fellowship worshipped in the homes of Marilyn Collins and Olivia Terry. Many planning meetings and prayer vigils were held in the homes of the Orlander Browns and the Joel Pullams until the Bethlehem Center Annex, located in South Fort Worth, was secured for a meeting place. The small group grew steadily and met weekly for worship for approximately two months at this small yellow building until a permanent home was found.
Sunday, March 30,1981, while on the way to inspect a site on Vaughn Blvd., the Pastor's attention was drawn by the Holy Spirit to a small church building at 3800 East Berry with a "For Sale" sign prominently displayed. After many prayers and fasts, the site and building were purchased for $28,000.00 On May 5, 1981, the Greater St. Stephen Church Family occupied their first permanent site.
During our infancy, the membership continued to grow. The newly acquired building was renovated by the members and made usable for worship and Bible study. Those who had never served before stepped out in faith and did what their hands found to do. Through the inspired leadership of Pastor Pullam, God wrought much in our midst, and it became necessary to secure another building to be used as our worship center. During this time, an organ and piano were purchased. In June 1984, our Family Night (on Wednesdays) was actualized and the first meal was prepared solely by Pastor Pullam. Since that time attendance at our Family Night (which is now Wednesday Nite Unplugged) has increased significantly. Also, during Pastor Pullam's watch a 16-passenger van was purchased to help facilitate our transportation needs.
Reverend Joel Charles Pullam, the beloved pastor of our fledgling congregation transitioned from mortal life to life eternal on April 14, 1985.
Led in prayer by Deacon Orlander Brown, the membership extended a pastoral call to Dr. Michael "M.A." Bell on July 30, 1985, after he had served a brief interim period.
Pastor Bell assumed the reins of leadership in a commendable fashion. In the fall of 1985, our Church's name was changed to Greater St. Stephen First Baptist Church. In October 1985, we purchased the first lot on which our new Worship/Administration Building would eventually be located.
These were years of growth for our Church family. Much was done by way of land acquisition, planning, and sharpening the focus of our church. "The Sound of the Gospel,", our weekly radio broadcast ministry, was first launched on July 12, 1986, on KSGB 1540 AM, Dallas-Fort Worth, and continued on the air until KSBG became a Spanish-language station. Our Rhythmic Choir dedicated their first robes on November 23, 1986. Stanley Williams became our first part-time compensated (non-musician) staff person in October 1987. He was appointed Administrative Intern for Youth and Children's Ministries. In 1988, we set out in earnest to conceptualize our building objectives. On December 7, 1988,
we had our first-ever campaign banquet, in the old fellowship hall, culminating our Giving To Grow Campaign Stewardship Campaign. Our Stewardship Campaign goals were: $100,000.00 Victory; $150,000.00 Challenge; and $200,000.00 Hallelujah. Sacrificially, our Church Family pledge gifts exceeding our Challenge goal.
1989-90 were pivotal years for our congregation. Preparations were being made to enable us to meet the challenge of actualizing the first phase of our building objective. Actual construction began on phase one in January 1990. God wrought miracle after miracle to bring us to the completion of our Worship/Administration facility and west parking area. On July 1, 1990, our new facility was dedicated. Our entrance service was the following Sunday, July 8, 1990.
God smiled upon our Church Family in faith-building ways in 1991. Our church grew numerically and qualitatively. In December 1991, our second Capital Stewardship Campaign was launched. Again, our membership responded by giving of their time, energy, influence, and resources. Our pledges to this campaign exceeded the Hallelujah goal.
Our Church theme for 1992 was "Catch the Vision, Share the Vision!" Some of the years' highlights were: our First Annual M.L. King, Jr. African American Business Expo and Worship Celebration, held on consecutive Sundays, January 12 and 19; our Combined Choir sung, on May 2, at the General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, meeting in Fort Worth; Youth Alive!, our ministry to our youth and children, held its first annual youth retreat in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 19-23; and 269 persons attended our Sunday Bible Study's Great Day in the Morning on Sunday, October 25.
1993 was a remarkable year for our fellowship! Many new members were added to our Church Family and our commitments to missions and ministry intensified. Our '93 theme was "Actualizing the Vision: God Accomplishing His Will Through Us!".
1994-2000 were years of steady membership growth. We came together and paid off the Giving To Grow note; liquidated the indebtedness on our Baby Grand piano; expanded our women's ministry; remodeled Building 2 in order to better minister to our youth and children; initiated our third capital stewardship campaign, Your ABC (Above and Beyond Commitment). A number of capital improvements were made to our Church Campus. Our radio ministry, "The Sound of the Gospel," was inaugurated on KJTX 104.5 FM, Jefferson-Tyler-Longview, in June 1998. It is still being broadcast Sundays 7-7:30 A.M. In May 1999, we expanded our radio ministry to include KHVN970 AM, Dallas-Fort Worth, Sundays 6-6:30 A.M.
On Sunday, September 17, 2000, we added a 7:45 A.M. worship service. We also launched "United We Build", a capital stewardship campaign aimed at moving us toward the second-phase of our building objective.
These were years of quantitative and qualitative growth. We paid the church note off early in 2001 and, subsequently, contracted an architect and presented the drawings for the second phase of our building program in early fall.
Innovative ministries, such as Single Mom's Nite Out, Pit Stop Oil Change, and Men Under Construction, were strengthened in 2002.
In January 2003, Pastor Bell began leading us to become a "high commitment" church. High commitment churches project high expectations on its members. Plus, members of high commitment churches run toward not away from ministry opportunities. This paradigm shift helped us to move from the vagueness of good intentions to committed participation. "Membership", said the Pastor, "is a way of saying, I'm on the team! I share the vision! I'm here to serve with you!" Also, Pastor Bell was elected Chairman of the Tarrant County Board of the American Cancer Society in the spring. He was the first person of color to lead the organization.
Pastor Bell was elected first vice president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas on November 9, 2004.
We held our first ever Leadership Intensive on January 7-8, 2005. On Sunday, October 23rd, we hosted the opening service of the Brite Divinity School (Texas Christian University) Black Church Studies inaugural Preaching with Power: An Interdenominational Forum on Black Preaching. Pastor Bell chaired the forum. Pastor Bell was elected President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas during the convention's annual meeting in Austin, Texas, on November 14. He was elected by a 4-1 margin. As the elected leader of the convention, made up of 5,700 churches, representing 2.5 million Baptists, Pastor Bell was the first African American to hold the position in the convention's 120-plus years of existence.
2006 was the Silver Anniversary year of our Church. Loving God Back, our 104-week capital stewardship campaign, began on November 29th.
The annual Rhema Leadership School was held on the first weekend in February 2007. We purchased the 3316 Sydney Street property, just south of the Worship/Administration Building in April 2007. The GSSFC Endowment Fund was established.
In 2009, Buildings 1 & 2 were demolished debt-free and we began renovating the Founders' Mission House, 3316 Sydney Street. We combined both Morning Worships and folded them into One Big Morning Worship on Homecoming Sunday, July 12, 2009. In July 2009, Pastor Bell was elected President of the African American Fellowship of Churches, a consortium of over 800 congregations. In December 2009, he was elected Chairman of Texas Baptists Committed.
Renovations were completed on both the Children's Building and the Founders' House early in 2011. The note on the Church Van was liquidated. A new roof was put on the Worship/ Administration Building. New carpet was laid in the sanctuary. A new east sanctuary HVAC unit was installed. A campus surveillance system was installed. The GSSFC Memorial Wall was dedicated.
Into the Future
Greater St. Stephen First Church continues to be committed to ministering to the needs of our immediate community, city, state, country, and the world. We are dedicated to fulfilling the Great Commission and engaged in "re-visioning" the GSSFC dream. While we celebrate the rich heritage that has brought us together, we also praise our God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the fresh new possibilities that are on our horizon.