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History of Hope

The story of a local church, like Living Hope, occurs at the intersection of God’s holy faithfulness, His eternal gospel purposes in Christ, and His people. It happens in a specific place and time, and advances under His sovereign direction. It is flavored by prayer, tears, risk, joy, miracles, hard work, changed lives…and hope

In June of 1976, after much prayer and deliberation, twenty-six believers in Bowling Green sensed the calling of God to give themselves to pass the baton of faith to the next generation and to aggressively and creatively pursue the spread of Jesus’ gospel to spiritually lost people in their community and among the nations. This small group went out from Forest Park Baptist Church to band together in the formation of Living Hope Baptist Church.   

From the outset, the church utilized any space to serve as its home. The first worship service was held on July 4, 1976 at the Heady-Johnson Funeral Home. Over the next couple of years, under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Kelly Harris and Dr. Roy Boatwright, the church met at Covington Woods Park, the Bowling Green Electric Plant Board, Warren Elementary School, and the basement of Royal Music Store. Sometimes, calls had to be made on Saturday night  to let folks know where to gather on Sunday! The owner of the latter site allowed his space to be used free of charge in exchange for the church members’ work in cleaning up the mess left by an earlier flood. This was early evidence of Living Hope’s heart to serve and willingness to work. The church continued to meet in the music store until it moved to its present location at 1805 Westen Ave in 1978. 

Through the 1980’s (led by Rev. Billy Compton) and into the early 1990’s (led by Dr. Brad Johnson), Living Hope experienced remarkable growth, reaching more and more people. The church’s facilities for Christian education, ministry offices, and music ministries were expanded, culminating with the completion of the worship center in 1993. 

As Living Hope passed her 25th year of ministry and entered a new millennium, Dr. Jason Pettus was called as Senior Pastor in July, 2001. The Living Hope family continued to grow and seek ways to reach people. A continuing commitment to invest in children, students, and their families led to the construction of a new Children’s Ministry building (2003) and later renovations of additional space for that ministry (2011).

In 2003, the church purchased 88 acres off Lover’s Lane with the intent to relocate to a new campus. The theme of the capital campaign resonated with the mission that had shaped the church from the beginning – More Hope for More People. The planning process moved forward steadily for several years, but in time, it became apparent that this move was not the Father’s good plan for the Living Hope family.  

In January of 2008, the church purchased the adjacent properties of Holy Spirit Catholic Church. Renovations of that property provided the space for what is now the chapel, the Center for Biblical Counseling, and the Student Center. A little over three years later (2011), the Connection Center (a gym, walking track and more) was completed. 

Of course, this brief survey does not begin to tell the full story of Living Hope. That story is told in the people who have laughed for joy & wept in brokenness, given & prayed, served in unseen ways and expressed deep care, worshipped and worked, taught Scripture and shared the gospel, trusted God and wrestled with doubt, rocked babies and nurtured college students, led their families to love Jesus and lived their faith throughout our community and the world.  

Historical Testimony for Living Hope’s 40th Anniversary (2016)

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