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Kelly K. Burkhart – Senior Pastor

Kelly Burkhart was born and raised in Midland, Texas.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion from Baylor University and a Master of Divinity degree from George W. Truett Theological Seminary in December 2004.  While attending seminary, he was recognized and awarded as a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Leadership Scholar.

More about Kelly

Edward Crowell – Director of Music

Edward Crowell has served as Director of Music since January 2016, and served Baptist Temple in a similar role from 2005 to 2008. He is a graduate of Hardin-Simmons University, was licensed to ministry in 2004, and ordained in 2014. He has served churches throughout Texas in music and worship leadership roles.

More about Edward

In 1908, Judge T.M. Kennerly and Rev. Frederkck F. Huhns discussed the need for a church in the Houston Heights.  These two men led a meeting in a hall above Simon Lewis’ store at 403 West 19th Street on May 31, 1908.  At the meeting, nineteen people agreed to organize Baptist Temple, and Rev. Huhns was called to be the church’s first pastor.  The congregation continued to meet in this space for the next five years.Rutland_Building

Then in 1911, Baptist Temple began work on its first building at the corner of 20th and Rutland Streets, land which had been donated by the Houston Heights Company.  This is where the church has been located ever since.

dr. t.c. jester

In 1927, T.C. Jester became the church’s fourth pastor.  Dr. Jester was recognized as a leader in his church, in his denomination, and in civic affairs.  Under his leadership, the Baptist Temple became one of the leading churches in Houston, and most of our present church buildings were either built or remodeled during his tenure.

During the next decades, Baptist Temple prospered under a series of remarkable pastors.  Despite the decline in the number of people involved in our weekly activities, the church added new facilities and undertook new mission and ministry projects.

Today, led by Pastor Kelly K. Burkhart, Baptist Temple is still building on the great legacy and heritage of faith left by these predecessors.  We have a healthy respect for our rich history and tradition, but we are also firmly planted in the present.  We desire to be the presence of Christ in our community and our world in ways that are relevant and accessible to all people.  Recent days have been marked by growth, vision, and a focus on the future.  These days are marked by a prayerful awareness of God’s movement among us and plans being enacted to consolidate our current footprint and fully renovate the T.C. Jester Building.  We have committed ourselves to the task of rebuilding, renewing, and restoring this congregation to fully realize its God-given potential.

Nineteen members had a vision for a powerful community of faith in the Houston Heights for the 20th Century.  That vision carries us on into the 21st Century.

Our Mission

Baptist Temple Church is a Christian community of believers who meet weekly for worship and spiritual growth. Our mission is to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ, minister to human need, and assist Christians in their ever-growing faith and commitment to God.  We seek to do this in an environment of love, compassion, and acceptance.

Our Vision
Baptist Temple Church seeks to be recognized by the surrounding community as a neighborhood church, which ministers Christ to all people, even as we continually strive to enhance ministry to our members.
Established in the free-church tradition of Protestant Christianity, Baptist Temple does not require its members to sign or recite a creed or specific statement of faith. Following the earliest Christian confession of faith, we unite around the simple affirmation that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

That does not mean the church endorses any and all beliefs. Baptist Temple’s faith is rooted in the fact that Jesus Christ is the pre-existent Son of God, was born to a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified, buried and resurrected and now reigns in heaven with God the Father.

The most comprehensive confession of faith in which most Baptist Temple members would find agreement is the 1963 Baptist Faith & Message, which may be read in its entirety here.

Church Property and Mailing Address

Baptist Temple

230 West 20th Street
Houston, TX 77008

108-Year Old Heights Church Set to Renovate

— Baptist Temple Church in the Heights finalized a sale of property on Friday, May 10 that will facilitate a $3 million renovation to its premises at 230 West 20th Street.

Renovations will impact nearly all of the 65,000 square feet of worship, classroom, and office space in the T.C. Jester building. Plans call for a new 300-seat sanctuary, a new entrance and foyer, new learning and play areas for infants and children, and numerous modifications that will bring the entire building up to Americans With Disabilities (ADA) standards and other city codes.

The sale to Braun Enterprises includes two buildings: the original church sanctuary built in 1912, and a larger 1,300-seat sanctuary built in the late 1940s. Both buildings, located on the northwest corner of Rutland and 20th Streets, will be demolished to make room for retail space planned by Braun, the same father-and-son firm that purchased Harold’s in the Heights clothing store last year and has owned the Yale Pharmacy since 2007.

“We look for opportunities in areas that are good or getting better,” said Dan Braun, president. “The area around 19th and 20th Streets has not changed much in the last 20 years, but we love the demographics and the neighborhood. The strong interest in our Harold’s space indicates that the church property could draw the same attention.”

Braun said the firm was predisposed toward building new retail and restaurant space on the site in keeping with the character of 19th Street. He said the firm recently passed on a national restaurant chain that expressed interest in the Harold’s space in favor of a lease to Torchy’s Tacos, a quirky Austin-based eatery that plans to build an outdoor patio and a small organic grocery store there.

For Baptist Temple, the property sale completes the final leg of a long journey that began with a 2005 retreat, where members took a hard look at their purpose in the community and whether or not the church could or should survive.

“We basically took stock of what we had, where we wanted to be, and made some tough decisions,” said Pastor Kelly Burkhart, who was called to the historic church in 2004 and expects to earn his Doctor of Ministry degree from the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University this year.

Founded in 1908, Baptist Temple Church began with 19 people who met in a rented room above a grocery story on 19th Street. As Houston grew with the opening of the Ship Channel, a bourgeoning oil and gas industry, and air conditioning, the church thrived as well. By the 1940s and ’50s, it had become one of Houston’s largest Baptist congregations along with South Main and First Baptist.

During its heyday, regular Sunday services drew more than 1,500 to worship. The church owned nearly the entire block on 19th Street where it had first rented. And it channeled millions of dollars toward overseas missions, as well as seed money for a new church in West Houston called Tallowood Baptist Church. But by the 1960s, urban flight to the suburbs along with a national trend toward decreasing church membership began to reduce the congregation and its influence. By the turn of the millennium, fewer than 300 hundred members remained, and the gymnasium, school, office building, and two sanctuaries that once served thousands had become superfluous. In fact, the structures began to drain precious resources from the dwindling core of faithful by way of repairs and compliance with city code.

Still, members were sure that the church did have a purpose, and those that remained knew they needed a plan. Priority one was to determine what was most important to this new  congregation. The next question was what to do with numerous buildings and tens of thousands of square feet of meeting and worship space the church could no longer fill nor afford to repair.

After months of brainstorming, meetings, soul searching, and what the apostle Paul might call, “admonishing one another with all wisdom,” church members and leaders arrived at a consensus in 2005. Baptist Temple would sell, consolidate, and focus all of its resources on its newest old building, a mighty three-story structure built as a fall-out shelter for the Heights in the early 1950s and named for its influential pastor, T.C. Jester. Moreover, members decided they needed to unite in purpose and spirit before they could help anyone else.

“It was a difficult time,” said Ray Elliot, a deacon who was later selected to head up the renovation committee. “We had four different generations of people represented in the congregation. Some, like me, had been members all their lives, along with our parents. Others were new families resettling in the Heights from all over who had never heard of Baptist Temple. They loved the church too, but in a different way. We just had to agree on the parts that were important to all of us.”

With a plan in place, the church set about the task of implementation. They hired an architect, sold one tract of land, and put half of the money needed for renovation in the bank. That was the summer of 2008. With another sale pending that would provide the remaining half, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 777.68 points on September 29. It was the largest one-day market decline ever. Recession ensued. The second deal fell through. And the faithful waited five more years to sign the deal they finalized last week.

“The 2008 crash was hard for everyone,” said Burkhart. “The next part (demolition) won’t be easy either. But we have deep roots here that go beyond buildings, and property, and holdings. We believe this church is special, and we have been called to a new chapter filled with exciting possibilities. So it is essential for us to walk by faith, even though it hasn’t always been easy.”

Burkhart said the church will combine the proceeds of this sale with funds it earned from the sale of the property in 2008 to pay for the renovation. The remaining costs will be funded through giving and the sale of commemorative paving stones that will adorn the main entrance to the new foyer.

Although the church parking lot on 19th Street — a favorite of 19th Street shoppers and merchants — was also up for sale, Baptist Temple earned enough from the deal on Friday to keep it. Burkhart said the parking lot will remain open for public use during and after the renovation, except for a brief period when new greenery and a new monument are added as part of the master plan.

Burkhart said that the church has undertaken a massive effort to save and incorporate elements from both buildings into the remodeled T.C. Jester building, including the cornerstone from the first sanctuary, many pieces of stained glass, select lights and fixtures, and even a section of hardwood flooring made from Red Pine, a species of the tree that is now extinct.

“In keeping with Heights tradition, our goal is to restore something historic and make it useful and beautiful again,” explained Burkhart.

Builders estimate that the renovation will take 12 months. Both the demolition and renovation are expected to begin this summer.

“When that is finished, our real work begins,” said Bettie Clark, a church trustee and member since 1954. “This is not the same community it was 50 or even 10 years ago. But the principles we nurture and teach never change, and they appeal to this generation just as they did when the church was founded. In many ways, we find that the young families resettling the Heights today are searching for those principles now more than ever before.”

Indeed, Clark said church members seem to have a new focus today. Projects such as serving the needy and homeless in the Heights, efforts to end human trafficking in Houston, and an annual Deacon’s barbecue to raise money for the Houston Area Women’s Center, “Impact people we meet on a face-to-face basis.”

“We’re not as big or influential as we were when I first joined, but I like us now,” said Clark. “We are a family of believers that care about each other, and we are a light for lots of people in this community. I think that is all God wants from any of us.”