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LEXINGTON - The First Baptist Church of Lexington congregation has voted to end its Baptist affiliation and will become Lexington Community Church in January.

"We believe that names divide," said Pastor Bill Brown. "Instead of being known as a Baptist or a Lutheran, the Bible teaches we should be known as Christians. Our message of presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ hasn't changed, but we believe the name change will make us more accessible, especially to the youth who are leaving denominational churches because many are teaching (men's) doctrine instead of the Word of God. The history of a church is found in the member's commitment to God, and we have no intention of compromising the history of this great church or God's Word on which it is based. The history established by those who formerly served the Lord at First Baptist Church of Lexington will continue to be lived out by those who are committed to faithfully serving the Lord in the Lexington Community Church."

Brown noted the trend to becoming nondenominational is growing nationally as the population becomes disenchanted with traditional churches. The Lexington church began withdrawing from the Baptist label over the last few years and left the American Baptist Conference in 2003 because the organization endorsed ordaining homosexual and lesbian pastors.

Brown pointed to Grace Baptist and Vale Baptist churches as congregations that also have moved from denominational affiliations.

"In the past, there was an advantage for smaller churches to be part of a denomination because it was easier to assimilate resources, such as a relief effort," said Brown. "This allowed smaller churches to be involved in a greater work than they could otherwise, but this is no longer the case. Christians are coming together and not isolating themselves to their denominations to participate in helping. The response to Hurricane Katrina showed that a lot of churches and individuals can come together to help, and denomination isn't an issue."

Brown has served the church for five years and seen the church swell to 200 members.

Despite adding a second service, the church has outgrown its present location, so the congregation has purchased 20 acres on the south side of town and hopes to begin construction of a 360-seat church.

"We're taking bids now and plan to have lots of classrooms, two nurseries, a family life center and a gymnasium for an intramural sports ministry," said Brown. "We may even build a Christian school, but that's a long way in the future."

Brown said the next step for the church is to apply for amendments of incorporation with the state and having the IRS change the tax-exempt status to reflect the new name.

"It seem like more churches are becoming nondenominational to be more open to the community," said church clerk Marlene Phipps. "We have to look to the future for our children and grandchildren. I've been going to this church for over 55 years, and I'm excited about the name change."

The church was organized on Aug. 23, 1856, in L.P. Scrogin's log cabin. Services were held in private homes and schools for the next 15 years until members decided to build a church building at the present site. The building was damaged by three fires and a tornado over the years, but continued to serve the community over the past 150 years.

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