North Topsail Shores Bapt. Church
Thursday, June 20, 2024
Loving, Learning, Living

North Topsail Shores Baptist Church


The first service of the West Onslow Beach Baptist Mission was at 11:00AM on August 28, 1983 at Rev. Paul and Helen Merritts’ beach cottage on New River Inlet Road. The cottage was on the ocean just in front and to the South of the church building as it stood at 1156 New River Inlet Road. During the summer prior to this gathering, Mel Johnson Jr., a member of Surf City Baptist Church had led resort mission youth groups in conducting Backyard Bible Clubs on the beach along with other outreach ministries. The service consisted of hymns, prayers and Mel Johnson bringing a message from God’s Word. In attendance were Rev. and Mrs. Merritts, Mr. and Mrs. E.L. Green, Mrs. Bessie Mullis, Irene Johnson and Timothy Osborne.

Rev. Merritts along with his wife Helen had a deep passion to see a church planted at North Topsail. Paul’s efforts included providing his cottage for services up until 1987, donating the property on which the building sat, and helping set the pilings for the building. His greatest contribution however, was of himself, Paul had a unique way of inspiring, encouraging and challenging those around him to trust and serve the Lord. He had a powerful and lasting influence in setting the course for the future of North Topsail Shores Baptist Church.

 A missions Committee comprised of persons from Salem B.C., Surf City B.C., Bethany B.C. and the New River Baptist Association began to strategize and work with the emerging mission congregation to develop a plan for the future. In May of 1984, the Mission Committee met with Rev. Mark Douglas to interview him for the position of Mission Planter. Mark, along with his wife Karen, joined the Mission on June 24, 1984 as planter pastor. It was in these early days that the mission was renamed North Topsail Shores Baptist chapel.

Under the leadership and hard work of Mark Douglas, the mission congregation filled the little cottage and began to dream of bigger things to come. With much prayer, the group contacted the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and laid out their vision. They received a loan for the construction of a building and in April 1987 began construction with labor provided by members of the mission along with the Baptist Men and ladies from churches in the western part of the state. The new building dedication was in November 1987, with representatives from every partnering church and organization in attendance. Mark continued to serve as pastor until March 1988 when he was led to another church.

During the summer of 1988, the late Rev. E.J. Hines, then Associational Missionary of New River Baptist, served as interim pastor. His commitment to Christ, to the building up of the church and to touching the lives of people was a tremendous blessing. His passion for the work at North Topsail never ceased and through the years, he was always behind the scene praying, serving and encouraging.
In early August 1988, the mission felt led to call Rev. Dwayne Collins as pastor. Dwayne, his wife Jeanne, and their son, Joel, joined the church on August 14, 1988. A few months later, in May 1989 their family grew when Jeanne Marie was born. Dwayne, who served a tour in the Marine Corp in the late 1970s, felt a special calling to minister to those serving in the military.  From 1988 until 1992, this vision for ministry to military personnel and their families was a major focus at North Topsail. In 1992 as troops returned from the First Gulf War, the number of military living on the island significantly decreased and with it church attendance. This marked the end of a chapter in NTSBC’s history and the beginning of another.

The church regrouped and began to reach out to the new people coming into the community. In this period, from 1992 until 1995, resort missions began to flourish. The church hired a summer missionary each year to coordinate youth groups for nine weeks during the summer. The youth groups conducted backyard Bible Clubs in condo complexes, on the beach and in the community. Over 300 children attended these backyard Bible Clubs each summer and many more came to the outdoor concerts at the St. Regis resort and in other locations. Around 1994 the church began the project of enclosing the space underneath the church for a fellowship area, classrooms and accommodations for youth mission groups. Plans were in place to develop a retreat ministry as well. This chapter in the life of the church came to an abrupt halt in 1996 when two consecutive hurricanes came on shore.

Hurricane Bertha hit the island on July 12, 1996 and just when things were being put back together Hurricane Fran came ashore on Sept. 4. This category 3 storm did major damage to the church building, but the church family held together. It took six months to repair the building during which time the church met at Dixon High School. The church used the time to reevaluate and brainstorm for the future. Part of that planning was to find property on the mainland for the purpose of a future relocation. In 2000, the Lord opened that door and the Church took a five-year note on 24 acres of property on Old Folkstone Rd. In May 2005 as the note was coming due God blessed NTSBC with the ability to pay off the debt. This left the Church with only its original loan from the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention for the construction of its building. A goal was then set to retire this debt and the Lord honored the church’s commitment in an amazing way. One week before the Church’s anniversary that same year, this note was also paid in full. On October 16, 2005, following the morning worship service, the church shared a fellowship meal and then gathered around a small urn underneath the building. Rev. EJ Hines, then Associational Missionary of New River Baptist Association along with Rev. Don Horn, then pastor of Surf City Baptist Church, NTSBC’s mother church, looked on as Charles Shelton, a charter member of the Church, and one of the signers of the note set it on fire. As the flames consumed the document, applause and cheers rose from those in attendance. Another chapter in the history of North Topsail Shores Baptist Church had closed and a new one was already beginning.

The current chapter in the history of NTSBC started at the ministry meeting on July 13, 2005 when the pastor asked the congregation to pray and seek the Lord’s direction concerning the relocation of the Church to 808 Old Folkstone Road. He gave four reasons for this relocation.  First, he cited the substantial growth that was taking place off the island and its potential for the church’s growth.  Second, he pointed out the church’s need for more Sunday school and Fellowship space. Thirdly, he expressed the desire to be in a position to minister to the needs of the community in case of another hurricane on the coast. Fourth, he stated the necessity of placing the church in a secure location, where it would not be in danger of losing its building or property in the event of storm damage.  At the Ministry meeting on November 16, 2005 the church voted in favor of placing the beach property on the market and relocating the church.
By March 2007, the sale of the Beach Property was final and the time for moving was at hand. Preparing the new property for habitation took most the month of April. Under the leadership of Homer Prince, a pine forest was cleared; ground cover burned, trees cut down and limbs ground into mulch. The work of grading and site preparation began next which was done at the same time that the building was readied for its move. The last service conducted on the beach was April 29, 2007. The church building was moved to the new site at 808 Old Folkstone Road on Sunday May 27, 2007. The church met at the Sneads Ferry Community Center from May 6 through September 30, except for three Sundays when they met at the Dixon High School Auditorium. Then on October 7, 2007, the first worship service was conducted in the Merritt Building at its new location. This was the introduction to a new chapter in the life of our church, and what a chapter it is! At Homecoming in October 2007, ground was broken for the new Worship Center and Educational Space. By November, workers poured the footing and foundation, and it was time to start building upon it. The month of December saw the walls rise and the interior framing take shape. In the first week of January, a truck bearing the roof trusses arrived, and the delicate task of setting them in place began. Then came the sheeting, tarpaper and finally the shingles – all dried in by the first week in February. The Steeple and the Baptistery were set in their places in March along with more framing electrical, heating/air, and plumbing. May brought the beginning of the interior finishing work with the sheetrock, lighting, plumbing, painting, flooring and final touches. While things were moving swiftly along inside the building, Homer and his dedicated crew were hard at work on the parking lot and walking trail. The first service in the new Worship Center was August 31, 2008. This service focused on giving thanks and praise to God for His protection over the workers and for their excellent work.

The dedication service for the new worship center was at Homecoming on October 19, 2008. David Temples, a former member, who now pastors a church in Florida, brought the morning message. Many who played vital roles in the growth of NTSBC through the years were present. This began a year filled with blessings. These included the first Christmas and Easter Services in the new worship center, the largest Vacation Bible School in our history with over 100 in attendance, the paving of the parking lot, the beginning of work on a recreation area and pond and much more. Thirty-four people have joined the church since last October, thirteen of these by baptism. The greatest thing, however, has been the spirit of love, which has enabled us to weather the difficult and painful times and allowed us to see the opportunities Christ has laid before us.
We invite you to join us on this spiritual journey:
Loving God and others
Learning his will for our lives
Living as witnesses of Jesus christ