Jesus said “…upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Paul wrote “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” We believe that true churches of Jesus Christ have existed throughout every age. Our Lord is one that does not leave Himself without a witness (Acts 14:17, Rom 11:3). Jude exhorted the church to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.” We believe that the Church of Christ at Rocky Fork (sinners saved by grace), along with others of like faith and practice, are the descendants of the original, primitive churches, attempting to walk in the old paths founded by Christ and His apostles.
Called by a variety of names (not just “baptist”), we believe the Church of Christ as always existed outside of Roman Catholicism and those of reformation that sprang from Romanism. Early churches spread from Jerusalem to Asia Minor, Europe, and into the British Isles. Though labels don’t always prove that a church has pure doctrine and practice, before the term “baptist” was used, some labels may have included groups like the Novations, Waldenses, Albigenses, and Anabaptists.
Wikipedia records: “Prior to the 20th century, Baptist historians generally wrote from the perspective that Baptists had existed since the time of Christ. Proponents of the Baptist perpetuity view consider the Baptist movement to have always been historically separate from Catholicism and in existence prior to the Protestant Reformation.”
Some of the first baptists in America may have been those at assembling at Newport, Rhode Island in 1638, led by Dr. John Clark. One well known historical primitive baptist church was the old Welsh Tract Church near Newark, Delaware, having been constituted in 1701 in South Wales and emigrating as a body to America later that year.
Rocky Fork church was constituted as “Freedom” church in 1821, but changed their name in April 1822. Members have held meetings in in several different buildings and in various locations around the Columbia, MO area through the years. The current building was constructed in 1913 and a kitchen was added in 1967.
The church has never been large in number, being founded by seventeen baptized believers coming from churches that included Chariton church, in Howard CO, MO; Mt. Vernon church, Boone CO, MO; Little Bonne Femme church, Boone CO, MO; Freedom church, Gararre CO, KY; Mays Lick church, Mason CO, KY; White Oak Pond Church, Madison CO, KY; and Tates Creek church, Madison CO, KY. It’s a fascinating study to trace the the founding members from their former churches to some of the first baptist churches and pastors in America.
Rocky Fork church still holds to the same articles of faith it established in 1821. Our statements of faith are very similar to those affirmed by the first baptist churches in America as well as the 1655 Midland Confession of Faith and the Waldensian Confessions of Faith from 1544 and 1120. Rocky Fork was first called a “baptist” church, but after many baptists changed their beliefs and practices in the early 1800’s (many added Sunday Schools and parachurch organizations), we became known as an old school, or primitive baptist congregation. Learn more about the the stance old school baptists made in the 1830’s by reading the Black Rock Address.
Today, “Baptist” churches come in all flavors, including many that descended from English Separatists (reformers). Though there may have been some cross over, we believe these reformers are not from the same line of succession as historic baptists. Many modern Baptist churches, though once standing in the old paths, have since added modern ideas and changed doctrinal stances. Saying “Primitive Baptist denomination” is somewhat misleading. Primitive baptist describes our worship style and beliefs, but there is no national organization, convention or headquarters for PB churches, just fellowship among those of like faith and practice. The head of each local, autonomous church body is Christ.
We believe churches came from churches that came from churches….back to when Christ set up His church at Jerusalem. But it is very important to note that our understanding of this church perpetuity does not rely on the historical documents of man to prove church succession, but rather in the promises of Christ to have a witness and a church throughout all ages.
In holding to these beliefs, we do not desire to belittle or condemn other religious groups, but only to try to protect the integrity of the visible Church of Christ by walking in the old paths. We believe God has children out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. God does bless believers among various denominational groups; but there are surely special blessings in obedience found when joining a true church. Being a member of a historic baptist church body is not a prerequisite for heaven, but it is what God desires.
Here are some resources for studying baptist history. We recognize they are not inspired, (being written by fallible men), yet they can be very profitable for study. Many of these resources are hard to find in print, so have been made available online.
A Welsh Succession of Primitive Baptist Faith and Practice
Baptist History Series
Trail of Truth
The Trail of Blood