On a Saturday afternoon in August, 1937, approximately 35 heads of families gathered in a ball field in Ringers Park on old Route 8, south of North Industry. The purpose of this meeting was to establish a new church that was 1) Fundamental, 2) Evangelistic, 3) Independent and self-governing and 4) Baptist in its theology. This church in time was to be called the Canton Baptist Tabernacle.
The next 4 or 5 Sunday services in August and September were held in what was called the Old German Dance Hall. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Cleanse Me, Oh Lord,” “and “Amazing Grace” were all sung by saints of God standing in a wooden dance floor in a room smelling of stale beer and cigarettes. Various ministers came and preached until a permanent pastor was chosen.
Desiring a more “church-like” atmosphere, the Canton Baptist Tabernacle moved into what was called the Cobblestone Church building at 2237 6th St. S.W., Canton, for their Sunday services. Not yet having their own pastor, Dr. Dallas Billington, pastor of the Akron Baptist Temple, preached at their Sunday afternoon services.
On January 30, 1938, the church began its first organizational meeting. At this meeting the congregation of approximately 100 believers decided that hereafter the church would be called the Canton Baptist Tabernacle.
The Rev. Sim Martin was a Baptist minister from Young Harris, Georgia. Mr. Bob Gordon, one of the original members of the church, relates that he had heard the Rev. Martin preach at a family reunion in Georgia and knew that he would make a “great” minister for the young church, so Mr. Gordon brought him north. After hearing him preach for several services and after much prayer, the church elected him as their first pastor on November12, 1938.
In 1938 the congregation purchased the property at the corner of Alden and 15th Street. The church in its infancy could not borrow the money it needed for the new building. Rev. Sims Martin mortgaged two of his own farms to secure the funds. When more money was needed to complete the church building, Mr. Bob Gordon who was out of work at the time, drew half of his savings out to help pay for the needed materials. The following Monday Mr. Gordon was called back to work.
Ground was broken for the first building on Nov. 11, 1938. The cost of the building ($110,000) was greatly reduced by having the members do the work. After the day’s work was done on the building, the workers/members met at the place reserved for the altar and gave God thanks that no one was injured and asked God’s leading and guidance for the new church. The mud was knee-deep at the altar and just walking was difficult, but the zeal and dedication of these men was evident as they cheerfully went about their work.
During the next three years, under the leadership of Rev. Martin, the church grew and established itself in the community as a Christ-centered, Bible-believing church. As the church was developing, attention was given to promoting stronger bonds of fellowship among its members. Church picnics, Sunday School parties, and various seasonal gatherings were established.
In late 1942, Rev. Martin resigned as church pastor and on January 30, 1943, Rev. Mark Mitchell was called by the congregation to be their new pastor. Rev. Mitchell, like his predecessor, was a very able and knowledgeable minister of the Gospel. He was a widely known Bible teacher and evangelist, having held meetings in various churches and tabernacles throughout America.
Rev. Mitchell led the congregation until October 1, 1946. Rev. Bishop Willis first spoke at the Tabernacle on January 25, 1947. Shortly thereafter, the Rev. Willis was voted in as the new pastor. He was from South Carolina and his preaching was much like Bob Jones, Billy Sunday, and D. L. Moody. To many in the city he was a “hell-fire and brimstone” preacher. Bearing a great resemblance to the famous labor leader, John L. Lewis, his sermons created quite a stir.
Later in 1947 Rev. Bishop Willis resigned as pastor and returned to evangelism. The church was once again looking for another pastor to shepherd a small flock. At this time Dr. Dallas Billington asked the congregation to allow one of his own “preacher boys” to come and preach for a few Sundays. “This young man” said Dr. Billington, “is one you should hear.” This young man was Harold Henniger. After preaching for several Sunday services, the congregation of Canton Baptist Tabernacle elected as their new pastor Rev. Harold Henniger.
On November 2, 1947, he began what was to become a forty-year pastorate. He claimed the city of Canton for Christ and poured his life into his ministry. Under the leadership of their new pastor and shepherd, the church grew in numbers and in spirit. At the completion of his first year, the young church had 182 conversions, 282 new members, and $17,608.53 total offering. Always conscious of the spending of church funds, Rev. Henniger had the church books audited by one of the top auditing firms in the county, a practice which continues to this day.
Throughout the years, the Pastor’s wife, Carmine, has been a great helpmate to her husband. Always in the background, by design, she has been a strong spiritual and emotional support. During his early months, Rev. Henniger startled the members of the congregation with his prediction that the church would someday “run five thousand” in attendance. In the fall of 1971, the young pastor’s dream came true when the church’s attendance averaged over 5200 for ten consecutive Sundays.
Wayne Brown related: “I think the reason for the growth of the church was Rev. Henniger himself. He had a new car when he first came and wore it out visiting people. It wasn’t too long after that, the church furnished him with a new car.
Rev. Henniger had a personality that was out of this world! He always visited people and knew everyone’s name.” Rev. Henniger literally went out everyday and night visiting people. Beginning November 22, 1948, the church would change its name from Canton Baptist Tabernacle to the Canton Baptist Temple. The name was changed from Tabernacle to Temple in order to connote permanency.
Because the membership increased so rapidly, it was necessary to begin a building program. The addition, completed in 1949, substantially increased to seating capacity in the main auditorium to one thousand. The average attendance was now 1200 per Sunday.
Vacation Bible Schools were also started. In later years, some Vacation Bible Schools exceeded 2500 in attendance. A memorable Vacation Bible School had the theme of “Pioneering with Christ.” The church had a big parade the proceeding Saturday with the Pastor at the reins of a pioneer wagon drawn by a matched pair of white mules.
Monthly singings were held on Sunday afternoons with the church choir and local and national quartets. The Blackwood Brothers were always a church favorite and would always draw large crowds. The goal for Easter Sunday of April 6, 1952 was 2000 men, women, boys, and girls in Sunday school. The actual attendance was 2378 with 22 conversions, 25 additions and 28 baptized.
Because of the growth, a need arose for another, larger area to allow for further expansion of buildings and parking spaces. The church had outgrown its 15th street location and a search was made for a relocation area with room for still more expansion. On April 22, 1956, the Temple voted unanimously to purchase a 10-acre site for a new church to be located at 4th and Whipple Ave NW. An additional three acres would be purchased in the future.
This allowed for building a larger church to accommodate the membership, which was having an average attendance slightly over 2000. On January 1, 1963, the church dedicated its new sanctuary at 515 Whipple Ave. NW. Construction on the building began June 13, 1961, and took 1 year 7 months to complete. On November 3, 1968, the mortgage of $600,000 was paid in full on the one million-dollar building. Thus the tithes and offerings of the people paid off the twenty- year mortgage in just six years.
A need arose for a large multi- purpose building. The church purchased a supermarket across the street from the main church for $90,000 and completed the remolding of it on November 4, 1965.
On April 12, 1966, the church instituted the Christian Hall of Fame. The collection of 102 original oil portraits of Christian leaders traces the progress of Biblical Christianity from the time of the closing of the New Testament Canon, about 100 AD, to present day. Under each portrait is a brief history of their lives. “The main purpose of the Hall of Fame,” according to the Pastor, “is inspirational, not merely educational.
The October 11, 1968, issue of the Baptist Bible Tribune reported that the Canton Baptist Temple had one of the 10 largest Sunday Schools in the Untied States.
Believing that an effective and meaningful way to present the Gospel to young people was in the out-doors, surrounded by God’s handiwork, the church purchased a youth camp on October 4, 1969. The close fellowship of being with strong Christian leaders in a cabin or around a campfire or in an early morning devotional surrounded by the beauty of nature, had a way of establishing the power and might of the Creator. The main purpose of Camp CHOF (Christian Hall Of Fame) was to present the gospel to young people in a trouble free environment, away from the pressures of home, family and friends.
Continued growth made it necessary to again enlarge the seating capacity. A balcony was added and dedication services were held Sunday, August 11, 1963.
On September 1, 1974, the church completed its sixth expansion program and dedication ceremonies were held for their new $700,000 facility.
Pastor Henniger continued as Senior Pastor until August 1985 when his son, Jim Henniger was voted in as Co-Pastor. In December, 1989 at the age of 65, Harold Henniger retired and became Pastor Emeritus. He continued to be very active in the visitation ministry of the church and taught the Ambassador Class where over 250 people met each Sunday morning, including several members who started with him in 1947. On October 25, 2004, he met his Lord and Saviour that he had so faithfully served.
Upon Harold Henniger’s retirement in 1989, his son Jim became the Senior Pastor of the church and served in that capacity until September 1995. During Jim’s ministry, a one million dollar renovation was made to the Worship Center.
Upon Jim’s resignation, the church had prospective candidates come in to speak almost weekly. From July 6, 1997 through May 10, 1998 Stan Frye was the Senior Pastor of the church. Upon his resignation, the church began seeking other candidates.
Finally, in December 1998 Mike Frazier from East Ridge, Tennessee was called to be the Senior Pastor. Pastor Mike was born on June 28, 1966 in Japan to missionary parents. He was saved and baptized at the age of 7 and felt the call of God to preach at age 12. During his teenage years, Pastor Mike began to speak in youth groups, chapel services and in their mission church. In 1989 he graduated from Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, TN, where he met his wife, Rachel Shumpert, who is also a graduate of TTU. They were married August 15, 1987.
In January, 1999, Pastor Mike began his ministry as the Senior Pastor of Canton Baptist Temple in Canton, OH where the average Sunday attendance is 1,000. His strong mission’s emphasis has resulted in the church family giving on average $700,000 on an annual basis to missions. Throughout any given year the There are 18 families who consider Canton Baptist Temple their sending church. The church supports 170 missionaries, organizations and projects around the world.
The Christian Hall of Fame can be viewed through its own website at www.christianhof.org. Camp CHOF is a 40-acre facility operated by the church near Dalton, OH where more than 700 youth attended summer camp last year.
Pastor Mike has a great love for missions and missionaries which has led to him visiting over 27 foreign fields. He has started SENT, Inc., a mission agency that serves missionaries being called into missions from Canton Baptist Temple. He has previously served as a trustee for Baptist International Missions, Inc. and also for Piedmont Baptist College of Winston-Salem, NC. He has served as a Field Representative for various regions of the world for the Baptist Bible Fellowship International. In May of 2007, he was honored with a Doctor of Divinity from Trinity Baptist College in Jacksonville, FL.
Under the leadership of Pastor Mike, the church continues to reach the lost in Stark County. September 7, 2008 began another venture of faith for CBT. It was on this date that the church began a satellite campus in Summit County, 22 minutes north of the church. The Summit Campus continued until July 2012 and then was launched to become an autonomous local church. Canton Baptist Temple also purchased $1 million of property to the North of the current complex in preparation for future expansion.
In 2013, the church celebrated its 75th anniversary with a $700,000 renovation of the 250 seat chapel. On August 25, 2013 the chapel was dedicated as the Henniger Ministry Center with the late Mrs. Carmine Henniger cutting the ribbon of the new facility.
On August 18, 2019 Canton Baptist Temple broke ground for the Family Life Center. Just a few short months later, construction began on the $5+ million dollar Family Life Center. The Family Life Center consists of a full size college gym floor with ample seating. It also has a commercial size kitchen as well as an atrium that attaches the existing building to the new building. The Family Life Center was completed in the fall of 2021.