History of Hillside Baptist Church
In 1971, Hillside Baptist Church began with an ice-cream social in the home of James and Erma Davis. Don Pottorff, a student of Baptist Bible College, had a great desire to plant an independent Baptist Church in West Springfield. He spoke with Dr. W.E. Dowell, Dr. Gilming, and Dr. Cavin, who encouraged him to start this work in a building that had been vacant since 1956. During the ice-cream social, approximately 8 families gathered with the intent of starting a church in the vacant building in the Prospect Cemetery. This building was very primitive. The building had no running water, electricity, or bathrooms. So as the church began, they simply started holding services only on Sunday morning. Fourteen people chartered the church on July 18, 1971 that was called Prospect Baptist Church. They were Rev. Donald Pottorff, Linda Pottorff, Gail Pottorff, Erma Davis, Betty Arnall, Herman Estell, Lucille Estell, Leroy Climer, Virginia Climer, Randy Climer, Shari Climer, Keith McElroy, and Linda McElroy. Soon after the church began, they acquired a generator so that they could have Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services.
Many of the pastors at the beginning of Prospect (or Hillside) Baptist Church were young men who were still in Bible College. After their graduation, they moved on to start other churches or to pastor in other areas. So, soon after the founding, the church experienced many different pastoral changes. The church voted on October 20, 1971 to have Hershel Burns come as the Associate Pastor. Pastor Don Pottorff resigned as pastor on January 26, 1972. Bro. Fred Moody candidated for the church on March 1, 1972 and was voted in as the second pastor on March 5, 1972. He was instrumental in helping the church really grow and have a vision for future growth. During this time, the church bus ministry exploded and Sunday school classes were often held in the bus. He resigned on February 17, 1973. Hershel Burns resigned July 14, 1974.
Bro. Virgil Greenway became the next pastor on September 29, 1974 and resigned March 19, 1975. Bro. Everett Baty came as a temporary Pastor from June 1, 1975 through July 1975. Bro. Richard McDole was voted as the next pastor on July 27, 1975. He accepted and started two weeks later. They continued in growth despite the rough beginnings. They continued to grow and the church had a burden to own a building of their own. They found the current property located at 8366 W. State Hwy 266 and purchased it. Bro. McDole led the congregation to build a 30 x 60 building with a basement for approximately $27,000. During the ground breaking ceremony, former Attorney General John Ashcroft and Judge Max Bacon were among those that helped to give God the praise during the celebration. As they stood on the hillside that day, they were debating what to call the church when Bro. McDole
suggested since it was on a hillside to simply call it “Hillside Baptist Church.”
Although this building did not have any windows or hot water, it was an enormous step of faith for this baby church. They dedicated the building on September 12, 1976. Pastor McDole stayed as pastor with the church until his graduation from BBC. Upon graduation, he felt God’s calling to start a church in Enid, OK. Bro. McDole resigned on Feb. 22, 1977.
March 23, 1977 Bro. J.T. Hogue was voted in as pastor. J.T. Hogue led the church to incorporate as an institution. He resigned October 8, 1978. He was asked to return as pastor October 21, 1978 and resigned again on April 22, 1979. Bro. Raymond Askren came as Pastor April 29, 1979. He was voted out on June 24, 1979. Bro. Everett Baty again returned to the church to fill in on July 1, 1979. He was called as pastor on September 9, 1979. In 1980, God led Bro. Cecil Tolbert to come and help as Associate pastor and youth director. Bro. Tolbert graduated in 1981 and went to work in Mesa, AZ to help start a Christian School with his uncle. Bro. Baty resigned on June 26, 1983.
In 1983, the church found itself without a pastor once again after Pastor Baty retired from the ministry. So the church called Bro. Tolbert. Bro. Tolbert had resigned from his ministry in Arizona, and had no plans except to pack his stuff and to take a break from ministry when he got the call from the church in Springfield to come and candidate for the position of Pastor. Bro. Leroy Climer called him, then an hour later Bro. Othal Morrow called to ask questions and get further information. So the next day, the Tolberts left Arizona for Missouri and preached the last Sunday in July. The church voted unanimously to call Bro. Tolbert to be their pastor. Their first Sunday was August 7th, 1983 with 48 people present. By 1984 the church paid off their loans, purchased a van, and padded the pews. In 1985 they built the first addition on the building, a fellowship hall. The church continued to grow and by 1993, they found themselves needing a new building once again.
They built and dedicated a new sanctuary with a basement below for a fellowship hall. The building was 45 X 100 with a 45 X 70 basement. They remodeled the old sanctuary into Sunday school rooms in 1998. In September of 2001, Bro. John Bingham, the current youth and music pastor, came to the church to help in the work of the ministry. Every year for the last several years we have seen over 300 first time visitors come through the doors of Hillside Baptist Church and people saved and added to the church.
God has continued to bless! Most recently, due to the outpouring of God’s grace the church completed and dedicated a 17,000 square foot building to be used in worship, office space, and nurseries. It was dedicated in August of 2009. Throughout the decades that God has allowed this church to minister to the community, it has always been a beacon of light and hope for the community around us. Through the preaching of the Word (we still use the King James Version) and the singing of great hymns of the faith, God has used these efforts to bring people of all ages to Jesus Christ.