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 of 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, 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 of 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 two-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.
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. By the mid 1980s, the ministry added AWANA to its list of opportunities for a children’s ministry. AWANA has continued to date and is the longest continually running AWANA program in the state of Texas.
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. 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 of 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.
Since taking on the role as Senior Pastor, Pastor Robby has led our church through an extensive campus remodel project that began in 2018 and was completed in December of 2020. God has continued to bless the church through consistent growth even during this building project.
As the church looks back over the last six 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.