In the summer of 1938 Beechmont Baptist Church started a neighborhood Sunday School class on Bruce Avenue. The next year Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church hosted a revival in the Auburndale community and held a Sunday School class at Auburndale Elementary School. By 1943, the Sunday School class, along with the help of Carlisle Avenue Baptist purchased land on the corner of Bruce Avenue and Third Street Road just east of the elementary school to build an auditorium. The church was located below the southeast corner of Iroquois Park and is the southernmost neighborhood in Louisville. The growth in the Auburndale community coincided with growth in the south side’s manufacturing stations used during World War II, when Louisville became “the biggest, busiest industrial community” it had ever been. To ensure a pastor on location, a parsonage was erected in 1947. The church officially chartered in 1951, leaving behind the assistance of Carlisle Avenue Baptist. Its statement of faith was The Southern Baptist Seminary’s Abstract of Principles, a summary of Christian doctrine composed by one of the seminary’s founders, Basil Manley Jr., and based on the 1689 Second London Confession. In the latter half of the 1950s the church campus expanded with the addition of its present buildings and three more parsonages.
Growth and Decline
The church’s peak in membership under its third pastor, Reverend Harry Mitchiner, in the 1970s coincided with peak of the city’s manufacturing jobs, which were forty-five percent of the city’s jobs in 1974. Local workers found a local church in their neighborhood to gather for worship. Living original members still remember when the sanctuary was filled with over 600 members. Though Pastor Mitchiner served for twenty years, from 1952 to 1972, membership slowly declined after Mitchiner’s departure. The church split in the mid-1980s, resulting in the formation of New Heights Baptist Church half a mile down the street. When the Reverend Brian Croft was installed as the church’s current pastor in 2003, active membership was in the thirties. Pastor Croft’s pastorate of nine years now makes him the second longest tenured pastor in the church’s history.
The spiritual direction of the church changed under Pastor Croft’s leadership. In 2004 the church covenant was revised to include a statement on the necessity of church membership from Hebrews 10:24-25. Pastor Croft began preaching expositional sermons, defined by Mark Dever, Pastor Croft’s mentor as, “preaching which takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” Membership rose by fifty percent, as new church members desiring to hear expositional preaching signed their names to the church’s covenant and statement of faith, a new practice initiated by Pastor Croft. By 2007 the church had a plurality of pastors. He took ownership of the seminary community that joined the membership and started a pastoral internship program that receives class credit at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also began a writing ministry that grow out of reaching the church’s needs of visiting the sick, counseling men struggling with pornography, training men for ministry, and performing funerals. At present, the church has sent out over a dozen families into ministry throughout the country.