A Short History of Lavon Drive Baptist Church
Lavon Drive Baptist Church began when approximately 30 people met for prayer in Blaylock’s Nursery. After much prayer, they sensed God calling them to start a church on the north side of Garland. El Bethel Baptist Church held its first service in January, 1961, with 45 in attendance. Many preachers, including Dr. J. Harold Smith, helped fill the pulpit in the early days of the church. The charter for membership was closed in March with 106 charter members. On April 2, 1961, Rev. Tom Bridges became the first pastor of the church. After reaching over 200 in attendance in the first building, affectionately known as the “Boat House,” it became apparent that the church must secure additional property. The church secured 2.7 acres of property on Lavon Drive and began construction of a new 150 seat auditorium and educational facility. In July, 1962, the church moved to the new facility, and the name of the church was changed to Lavon Drive Baptist Church.
On the third Sunday of November, 1964, Dr. Gary Coleman became the new pastor of the church. The church enjoyed explosive growth, which made necessary the construction of a new 650 seat auditorium and educational wing which were dedicated in June of 1965. By 1968 the church had grown to the point that another building program for educational space was necessary. The men of the church worked together, doing much of the labor themselves, and in the fall of 1968, the Preschool Building was opened. In 1972, the church added to the campus again, building a 2-story multi-purpose building which is today known as the Keyes Building. This provided badly needed space for a fellowship hall and extra classrooms.
By 1971, with the weekly Sunday School attendance now above the 1,000 mark, there was an urgent need for a larger auditorium. The church purchased an additional 9.5 acres of land and began a massive expansion program, including the construction of a 2,200 seat auditorium. That same year the church voted to start a Christian Day School. Rev. John McCartt of Panama City, Florida, accepted the position of Associate Pastor and School Administrator. Garland Christian Academy opened its doors in the Fall of 1972 with a student body of 136.
By 1974, the church was the largest in Garland. As the auditorium neared completion, a gymnasium was built for the school. On August 18, 1974, over 2,500 packed the new auditorium for the dedication service. The church continued to grow and see numerous conversions. In August 1976, the church dedicated a new Transportation Center on Walnut Street with parking for over 30 buses and enough garage space to hold three buses at a time. By 1975, the church was seeing over 1,000 conversions annually and was listed as one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the nation. Garland Christian Academy continued to experience steady growth as well, graduating its first senior class of sixteen students and enrolling over 300 students for the ’75-’76 term. In 1976, the church began its first annual Youth Conference, which attracted over 300 teenagers. In December, 1979, the East Wing was completed. This provided space for an expanded nursery, adult Sunday School rooms and the middle school of the academy. The church continued to grow, and by 1980 added a number of specialized ministries including a Deaf ministry, Spanish ministry and the outreach to area nursing homes. During this time, a large number of young men started enrolling in Bible colleges to train for the ministry.
In 1984, an AWANA program was started to reach area children. That same year, the annual Youth Conference registered a record 1,244 teens, the church assumed support of its 100th missionary, the bus ministry added the 26th bus to its expanding fleet, and hundreds were saved. In 1985 Lavon Drive celebrated its 25th anniversary and began a successful campaign to reach every home in Garland with the message of the Gospel.
Highlights of the 1990’s include major remodeling of the building and grounds, the addition of baseball and softball fields, and the calling of Dr. John McCartt as Co-Pastor. All of this was accomplished as the church continued its mission to reach the people of Garland as well as those across the country and around the globe. In 1997, a young man named Robby Greene came to work at Lavon Drive as a maintenance and grounds intern. This summer intern would ultimately become the Senior Pastor of the church, but that’s later in the story! Pastor Robby was moved quickly into the children’s ministry and eventually assumed leadership of the Children’s and Bus Ministries. In early 2003, a 40,000 square-foot state-of-the-art educational building was completed. Named in honor of Dr. Coleman, the Coleman Center has provided much needed space for Adult discipleship and Garland Christian Academy. Recent campus improvements include a new Children’s Resource Center which was dedicated in 2012. A major remodel of the church offices and Garland Christian Academy’s elementary buildings in 2013 brought a refreshing aesthetic and increased functionality to much of the campus.Throughout the 2000s, Pastor Robby continued to serve as leader of the Children’s and Bus ministries and also assumed greater executive duties upon the retirement of Dr. McCartt as Co-Pastor.
In October 2013, Dr. Coleman announced his retirement as Senior Pastor and preached his last sermon in January, 2014 having completed nearly 50 years as Senior Pastor. At that time, Pastor Robby was called as the Interim Senior Pastor. After months of seeking God's will, the Pulpit Committee presented Pastor Robby to the church as its recommended candidate for the next Senior Pastor, and on October 5, 2014, the church decisively called Pastor Robby to that position. He was formally installed as Senior Pastor on November 16, 2014 - exactly 50 years since Dr. Coleman became pastor.
As the church looks back over the last five decades, we thank God for His many blessings to us. As we look to the future, we pray that this church will continue to be a lighthouse for the city of Garland, the Metroplex, and to tens of thousands around the world.