CHURCH HISTORY cont...


          On September 16, 1995, Steve Pruitt, led the area churches to conduct the “Harvest Crusade” and Toccoa Fest on the front campus of the church. It was largely attended and as a result, many spiritual decisions were realized. These meetings on the front lawn have been sponsored annually at Grace since then.

          Sunday School, beginning in the fall of 1996, under the co-director ship of Doug and Jane Higginbotham, began to experience an increase in attendance and interest. A nursery director/manager was hired. Total membership in the Church reached 435 and Sunday School enrollment was 250 with an average of 139.

          On February 16, 1997, Grace planned a Founder’s Day Homecoming to be conducted last week in April. The purchase of the first vans was a 1994 Ford diesel (15 passengers) at this time.

          Dr. Butch Franklin resigned as pastor effective on May 23, 1997, after serving 1 year and 8 months. On July 20, Rev. Max Patterson began serving as interim pastor. He served very effectively until November 2, when Rev. Joel Bradberry was called to be pastor of Grace Baptist Church. (11-2-97 – 3-5-05) Joel was a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Seminary and had served as associate pastor at a church in Wilson, NC before serving for seven years during somewhat of a transition from traditional to blended contemporary/traditional mode of worship in Grace Baptist Church.

           During the year 1998, a second van was purchased to supplement the transportation ministry. Pastor Bradberry implemented the By-laws rule that called for new members to attend orientation classes. Also, in 1998, Steve Pruitt, Minister of Youth, resigned to accept another position elsewhere. Patman Lester was called on November 28, 1998, to be Minister of Music and to succeed Loretta Fleming who was only part time. A “Great Commission Task Force” was begun with 15 members. In spite of 50 gains, the church lost a total of 47 members by letter and death bringing the membership total to 425. The Sunday School reported 18 gains during 1998 for a total of 251 members enrolled. Upon the death of Harold Burns, who had served as treasurer for 10 years and spent many hours in maintenance, a gazebo was erected in his honor in 1998 in the “Grace Prayer Garden” on the church’s east campus. On April 14, 1999, a revision of the By-laws, which had been tabled in Conference earlier, was brought forth and adopted, thus bringing church guide lines up to date.

           A Sunday School growth campaign began in August, 1999, provided a noticeable increase in interest and attendance. Patman Lester, Minister of Music, expressed his conviction the God was calling him into full time ministry of worship and music. On Oct.8, 2002, the church concurring, formally ordained him, thus setting him apart as a church minister and worship director. Patman's talented wife, Susan, serves as pianist and director of the children's music program.

           During the year 2001 to 2002, the church clerk reported to the Tugalo Association a membership of 453, baptisms 21, other additions 18. Sunday School reported an enrollment of 281 with average attendance of 170. On August 11, 2002, Bill Mallaleiu was called to be full time as Minister of Christian Education. Bill served in this position for approximately one year.

          In the Church’s Annual Report to Tugalo Baptist Association, on October 20, Grace was stated to have 495 members, resident- 415, baptisms 11, and other additions were 7. Sunday School enrollment was 242, with an average attendance of 135.

          Rev. Joel Bradberry, pastor of Grace for more than seven years, tendered his resignation on March 5, 2005 to accept a call to another Baptist Church in Virginia. Joel and his family had been a blessing to Grace Baptist and left many friends in our midst. The subsequent supply committee provided the church with able speakers at Sunday services and by July 2005, had employed Dr. Bob Claytor as interim pastor. Dr. Claytor faithfully and effectively served as interim pastor by stabilizing and leading the base membership of the church during this transition time. Dr. Claytor served for 17 months until the Pastor Search Committee had completed its search.

          On November 12, 2006, Rev. Ford Ash was called to be the new pastor of Grace Baptist Church. Ford and his wife Chris come to us from Gainesville, GA. The Pastor Installation service was held on November 12 with welcoming messages by Benny Turner of the Tugalo Baptist Association (Missionary), Bob Troup (mayor of Toccoa, GA) and Rex Anderson (Stephens County Board of Commissioners). Reverend Ash then began his ministry at Grace with the sermon "Settle for Christianity".

          Rev. Ford Ash served as pastor until September 9, 2007 when he resigned.

          Dr. Bob Claytor was called to be the pastor of Grace Baptist Church in October of 2007. Dr. Claytor has served as the Chairman of the International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention as well as serving as pastor of churches in Alabama, Rome, GA as well as Interim Pastor of Grace Baptist Church.

Dr. Claytor announced his retirement as Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in June of 2010.

Brad Bridgman accepted to call to be Pastor at Grace in July of 2010 and served thru April of 2011 when he accepted the call to become Pastor at the First Baptist Church in South Pittsburg, TN.

Dr. Kevin Burris was called to be the pastor of Grace Baptist Church in May of 2011 and served through October of 2014.

Rev. Shawn Croninger was called to be the pastor of Grace Baptist Church in November of 2014 and served until July of 2016.


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