In 1927, under the inspiration of God and leadership of Dr. A. W. Lamar, a need was felt for a church to be established in the four-square-mile area of Colonial Hills in East Point, Georgia. After five months of meeting in a home, a group of thirty-five began the task of acquiring property to build a church home. The first services were held in April, 1928. Dr. Lamar, though eighty years old, agreed to serve as pastor and remained for two years. Following Dr. Lamar, Rev. Alfred Pullen pastored from May, 1930, until August, 1932. In March, 1933, Dr. Jesse Hendley was called as pastor. His ministry was one of Bible teaching with emphasis on radio and evangelism. The church grew under Dr. Hendley’s ministry and resulted in a larger facility being built at the corner of Newnan and Knotts Avenues. In August, 1945, Dr. Paul R. Van Gorder was called as assistant pastor. When Dr. Hendley resigned to enter full-time evangelism, Dr. Van Gorder became the pastor in August, 1946. His was also a fruitful ministry as he faithfully taught God’s Word in simplicity and purity.
In 1948, feeling the call of God to send the Gospel to the ends of the earth, Dr.Van Gorder inspired God’s people to see the needs of the mission fields of the world. The first Bible Conference was held in 1945; in 1950, God used one of the speakers, Dr. Oswald J. Smith of Canada, to challenge the people with a Faith Promise Pledge for missions. This was the beginning of the present missionary program. The Annual Bible and Missionary Conference is held the first week in October each year and culminates with a pledge for missions from members and interested friends on the closing Sunday of the conference. At its highest point, Colonial Hills supported 170 missionaries and projects, giving more than $200,000.00 annually.
After Dr. Van Gorder’s resignation in August, 1969, Dr. David Cummins became pastor in June, 1971. Under Dr. Cummins’ tenure a new height was reached in the visitation program as members completed the course in Witnessing Evangelism. A printing program was also initiated. Each month a choice message was printed and distributed without cost to those who requested it. This grew to over twelve hundred individuals and several churches across forty states being blessed by this ministry. Following Dr. Cummins’ resignation, Dr. Ollie V. Goad and Rev. L. Douglas Wilson pastored Colonial Hills.
In 1994, realizing the ministry in East Point was coming to a close, the church began to explore the possibility of relocation. Dr. Milton L. Ker, the pastor of Gospel Light Baptist Church in Lithia Springs, Georgia, also became the pastor of Colonial Hills Baptist Church, with plans to eventually move the church to the Lithia Springs location. This merger between the two churches became official in June, 1995, with the sale of the East Point location and the churches becoming known as Colonial Hills Baptist Church of Lithia Springs.
The mission program continued, supporting approximately 116 missionaries and projects. In July 2000, Pastor Mark Smith was called as associate pastor.
After Dr. Ker’s resignation in June 2004, Mark Smith became the pastor. God blessed the ministry under Pastor Smith’s leadership.
Pastor Smith led the ministry until June 2011 when he resigned to await God’s leading to new opportunities. The church activated its search for a new Pastor.
Mark Ernst became the Senior Pastor of Colonial Hills on June 3, 2012, after seventeen years on the mission field in Mexico. Pastor Mark brought a wealth of experience and wisdom to the church. He is a very enthusiastic leader who loves connecting with people and building relationships. His expository preaching of passages from God’s Word brings out the accurate meaning of the scriptures and is filled with practical examples and applications to every-day life. Pastor Mark’s life-on-life ministry is having an impact on the congregation as the people under his ministry grow in the Lord and become more surrendered to Him. Pastor Mark’s wife Cindy is a vital part of the ministry, and their son John is very active in the ministry as well.
History of Colonial Hills Christian School
Colonial Hills Christian School was founded in 1959, under the leadership of Dr. Paul Van Gorder. Mrs. Lula Willis served as the first principal. Mr. Robert M. Miller was called as principal in 1966, and under his leadership the school grew to an enrollment of 436 in 1972, with grades K5-9. Under Dr. Cummins’ leadership, the school built a new educational building in 1973, and the school expanded to a full high school with an enrollment of over 600 students the next year. Colonial Hills Christian School relocated to Lithia Springs in 1995, and now has an enrollment of 420 in grades K4-12. Dr. Westley Smith was called as administrator in 1997, and the school grew to 480 students under his leadership. A 33,000 square foot high school building was constructed and opened for students in 2004. In January 2011, Dr. Smith resigned to begin missionary work in the Dominican Republic. The school board called the high school principal, David Hicks to step up to lead the school in the fall of 2011.
Sadly, the school was closed following the 2016-2017 school year after 58 years of providing Christian education to the Atlanta area.
History of Gospel Light Baptist Church
Rev. Bill Henderson and wife, Carolyn, founded Gospel Light Baptist Church in November, 1975. The first service was held on November 3, with approximately fifty believers in attendance. The church began meeting in a conference room of the Holiday Inn on Fulton Industrial Boulevard in Atlanta, Georgia. The church was chartered the last Sunday of December with Rev. Curtis Hutson bringing a special message. The church had a heart for missions and took on the support of three missionaries that day. The church adopted the motto: “Founded on the Word, Focused on the World.”
The congregation quickly outgrew the conference room and moved into a storefront building in Lithia Springs, Georgia, while searching for property in the area. The present property located on Mt. Vernon Road in Lithia Springs was purchased in the fall of 1976, and the building of a church facility was begun. The church had grown to about one hundred members. A radio ministry was begun with Pastor Henderson conducting a daily broadcast.
In the fall of 1979, the Gospel Light Christian Academy was started with seventy students in grades K5-12. Pastor Ferrell Dowdey joined the staff as associate pastor and school principal in the summer of 1980.
After many months of prayer and planning, in May, 1982, the Gospel Light Rescue Mission was opened on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta. Bro. Ernest Gignilliat served as the superintendent. Literally hundreds of souls have been saved because of the faithful giving of the gospel. This ministry continues today under the direction of King’s Way Baptist Church.
In October, 1984, the Gospel Light Rescue Ranch was dedicated on forty acres of property in Carroll County, under the direction of the Brian Lacey family. The lives of many young men were changed during the five years the ranch was operated.
Pastor Henderson resigned in March, 1991, and relocated to Texas where he continued pastoring and began a jail ministry. Upon his recommendation, Rev. Milton L. Ker was called to serve as pastor of Gospel Light.
This was a new beginning for Gospel Light Baptist Church. Although the church membership had decreased, the people had a heart for God and a desire to continue to reach souls with the gospel. God has faithfully blessed the work that He began at this location in 1976.