For over 110 years, South Main Baptist Church has been known for a strong Baptist heritage, active missions ministries both in Houston and abroad, and a progressive stance regarding issues such as civil rights and women in ministry. South Main’s history closely intertwines with the development of downtown and “mid-town” Houston- We Love Houston, as well as the nearby Texas Medical Center and Houston’s museum district.
South Main’s journey began in November 1903, when the Texas Baptist Convention invited Dr. Talliaferro Mays, a young and charismatic honors graduate of Southern Baptist Seminary, to come to Houston and preach a series of “tent revivals.” The plan was to stir up interest in organizing a Baptist church in the “south side” of Houston. Dr. Mays took the city by storm. In the midst of his services, he was called to be the pastor of the yet unorganized church, later named
Tuam Avenue Baptist Church. Tuam Avenue Baptist Church was founded on November 15, 1903, with 32 charter members. Under the direction of both Dr. Mays and Rev. D. R. Peveto, the 17-bed Houston Baptist Sanitarium (which evolved into the Memorial-Hermann Hospital System) was established. The church had grown to 139 members when Dr. Mays resigned in 1906. Following Mays, three young pastors guided the growing church: Charles T. Alexander, J.W. Loving, and A.D. Sparkman.
In 1918, Dr. Montrose Madison Wolf became pastor and continued in that role for 19 years. During his pastorate, the church changed its name to South Main Baptist Church and moved to its current location at 4100 Main Street, where it built the Romanesque sanctuary building that remains South Main’s architectural hallmark.
Dr. E. Hermond Westmoreland followed Dr. Wolf, serving the church for 33 years as pastor. The church sponsored seven mission congregations during this time which became independent churches: Almeda, Stafford, Algoa, Addicks, Willow Meadows, Bautista Hispana in Stafford, and Sugar Creek. Dr. Westmoreland’s pastorate also coincided with the launch of several important South Main ministries, including the South Main International Learning Experience (known as “SMILE” , our on-campus ministry to internationals, and Sojourn House , which provides apartments to patients who undergo long-term stays in the Texas Medical Center area. When Dr. Westmoreland retired in 1971, the church membership had swelled to over 6000 members.
Dr. Kenneth Chafin came to South Main as Pastor in 1972 from his previous positions on the faculties of Southwestern and Southern Theological Seminaries. During his 12-year tenure, South Main was named “Church of the Year” by Guideposts Magazine, largely because of the church’s incredible growth as well as its newly formed “Singles” program. During Dr. Chafin’s time at South Main, the church called a full-time Pastor to Internationals and ordained its first women deacons. The church participated strongly with the Institute of Religion in the Texas Medical Center and with neighbors in the Main Street Coalition of Churches, which founded the Emergency Aid Coalition in order to minister to families in need. Chafin left South Main as pastor in 1984 and returned in 1992 as Pastor Emeritus, a post he held until he passed away in 2001.
Dr. William L. Turner of Lexington, Kentucky became pastor in 1985. He led the church through transitional years as the neighborhood around South Main drastically changed and many other churches moved out of the downtown area. He and the membership announced their commitment to remain a downtown church. A multi-million dollar “Touch The Future” capital campaign in 1989 resulted in renovation of existing buildings and the addition of a new Welcome Center. The church expanded its mission ministries to the community and to the world, including through partnerships with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. In 2001, the church discontinued its affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Turner retired in 2002.
Our current pastor, Dr. Steve Wells (a graduate of Baylor’s Truett Seminary) became South Main’s ninth pastor in 2003. Under the last decade of his energetic leadership, South Main has continued to embrace a commitment to excellence, a heritage of diversity, and a passion for service. In the past decade, South Main undertook the “Next Wave” capital campaign (2009); built a new Youth Center, renovated all pre-school and children’s areas, and updated all remaining classroom buildings (2009-2010); launched missions partnerships with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in China (2005) and with Operacion San Andres (OSA) in Lima, Peru (2003); and inaugurated an outdoor chapel service, the “Manna” program, for worship with our neighbors who are homeless or hungry (2010).
God’s work continues today at South Main, and our life teems with evidence that great things are in store for South Main’s second century of service to God’s Kingdom. Our community welcomes you to join us.