As is the case with many churches, Houghton Lake Baptist began with a burden for the spiritual needs of a community. That burden was especially felt by the Rev. R. D. Chambers, a missionary with the American Sunday School Union. After surveying the area around Houghton Lake, Rev. Chambers became convinced that there was a need for a good Bible believing work. This burden was shared by the Rev. John Allen, formerly the pastor of Houghton Lake Fundamental Church. Both men began to pray…and to plan.
On December 7, 1942, a Sunday School was started in the Lake Township district of Roscommon County, just west of Houghton Lake. The first meeting was held in the home of the W. Hose family with seventeen people present. During these early days of ministry Rev. Chambers and Rev. Allen were assisted in the work by Rev. Allen’s daughter, Ruth, and Miss Dortha Armantrout. As these faithful servants ministered to the people and taught the Word, God began to bless.
In 1946, as the Sunday School grew, the Township Hall in Stony Hill was secured as a meeting place. It was also in this year that the people began to desire preaching services and Rev. Allen was called to serve as their pastor. He later reflected, “God owned and blessed the work, giving us souls for our labors, and we had the joy of baptizing a goodly number.” What had begun as a Sunday school was now organized into the Lake Township Gospel Tabernacle.
Preparations soon began for the construction of a church building. Once again God directed and guided the infant church. An empty house near the Town Hall was purchased and torn down. Much of the lumber was then used to help build the new building. On October 26, 1947, a special dedication service was held and the newly formed church, consisting of 27 charter members, was committed to the Lord.
Over the next several years, God continued to bless the Gospel Tabernacle. In 1954, the church changed its name to The Stony Hill Baptist Fellowship. In 1955, the name was changed again; this time to Houghton Lake Baptist Church. One year later, the church joined the Conservative Baptist Association.
In 1956, under the leadership of Pastor William Jeffires, the church purchased property on M-55 and prepared for a move. The Lord blessed and in 1956 the church moved into its new building. Seven year later, under the ministry of Pastor John Metzler, God enabled the church to finish paying for the building and to burn its mortgage.
These days were filled with many blessings… and many challenges. Finances were very tight for the small church in rural Northern Michigan. In a letter dated July 8, 1966, the church issued a call to Mr. Gregory Aspaugh to come and serve as pastor. The letter explains that the church would endeavor to pay Mr. Anspaugh $25.00 per week. Sacrifices were made by the people to pay their pastors and sacrifices were made by the pastors to come and serve the Lord among His people. Yet God remained faithful, and continually provided for the church. It was under the leadership of Pastor Aspaugh that the church was able to purchase land and begin construction on a permanent parsonage and during the 1970s the people were finally able to afford a full time pastor.
As time passed, the church continued to see God’s hand upon it. It withdrew from the Conservative Baptist Association and joined with other churches in the founding of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Association of Michigan. This change in associations helped establish the bound the church has today with the ministry of Camp CoBeAc.
With increasing growth came the realization that a new building would be needed. In 1980 under the leadership of Pastor Glen Arsnoe, the dome roofed building was built behind the original building. During the building process God provided in many special ways. Church members recall people stopping to see the construction and donating money on the spot. Once again, God was blessing.
With the completion of the new building the church had more room for ministry. The round building served for worship and Sunday School, while the old building was used for a fellowship hall and additional Sunday School classes. During these years God continued to bless and provide as souls were led to Christ and strengthened in the Scriptures.
God’s power was evident as the church saw great growth in the children and teen ministries. The church’s Awana program began to see increased growth. Through this ministry, children from the community were taught the Scriptures and exposed to Christ. Vacation Bible Schools were also especially effective in touching lives during these days. The youth group was strengthened and served the Lord in a number of ways, including missions trips.
In the 1990’s under the leadership of Pastor Tim Collard the Lord directed the church to begin making preparations for the future. The church purchased 13 acres of land across the street on Cloverleaf Lane and began designs for a new church building. Pastor Richard Szydlowski continued these preparations. Through a “Catch the Vision Sunday” and “Miracle Offering” God enabled the church to finish paying off the 13 acres of land. Once again, God enabled the church to “burn a mortgage”.
Currently, Houghton Lake Baptist Church is continuing to prepare for the future. In God’s time and with His help, the church will make yet another transition into a new building.
Houghton Lake Baptist Church remains committed to the original vision of Rev. R. D. Chambers and Pastor John Allen. It is the earnest desire of the church to remain faithful to the mission of reaching souls with the Gospel and seeing lives changed forever with the hope that Christ can bring. By God’s grace, the church continues to preach the Word, encourage the believers, and evangelize the lost. For over 60 years this work has seen God’s provision and protection and it is He who has given the increase. He has established the work of our hands. He has been faithful.