Under the direction of Dr. Lee Roberson, then the pastor of the former Highland Park Baptist Church of Chattanooga, Rev. C.B. Conn visited the Harrison community over 70 years ago, and found several families desiring to start a church. The first service was held in mid-August, 1943 under a brush arbor a few blocks up Hunter Road on the property of Mrs. Etta Thomas. Until the current building was built in 1965, the church was known as “Thomas Chapel”. Rev. C.B. Conn became the first pastor.
In 1946, Dr. Roberson chose Rev. C.B. Conn as the first Director of Camp Joy, located on over 90 acres across the street from the current Lakewood Baptist Church property. Over 100,000 kids from around the country were able to hear the Gospel through the ministry of Camp Joy.
The young church bought an abandoned store building in the triangle where Hunter Road and Short Tail Springs Road meet, and services were held there for over a year until a block building was erected. The block church building was very basic. For instance, there was no indoor plumbing and no air conditioning.
When Rev. C.B. Conn resigned after serving for three years, Jimmy Harris was acquired as the second pastor of then Thomas Chapel. Jimmy Harris was a Tennessee Temple University student at the time. He was a kind, genial young man with a young family. He served as pastor for two years.
Following Pastor Jimmy Harris was an older man, Jim Baker, who pastored the Thomas Chapel for three years. Brother Baker is best remembered for his passion for the second coming of Jesus Christ. He has since passed on to Heaven.
In 1965, during the pastorate of Dr. Douglas Cravens, the fourth pastor of the church, the present sanctuary and lower level of classrooms replaced the block building. The church was then renamed, by vote of the membership, The Lakewood Baptist Church of Harrison, Tennessee. Dr. Douglas Cravens and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, were warm caring people and much loved by the church. He pastored Lakewood Baptist Church for 22 years. During those same years he was Dean of the Temple Baptist Seminary. Though a busy man, he made time for the church and community. He conducted the marriage ceremony of David and Nancy Bragg on August 23rd, 1959 in the old block building.
The previous fellowship hall and upper tier of classrooms were added during the ministry of Dr. Bruce Lackey. Dr. Lackey was a gifted preacher and teacher, a notable pianist, composer, arranger, author and Bible conference speaker. Under his leadership, Steve Nutt began our church’s bus ministry which flourished under his direction. Dr. Lackey was the pastor for 8 years.
While still a student at Tennessee Temple University, David Bragg joined the church in 1957 and served as music director, Sunday School teacher of the adult men, and teen leader. He sometimes filled the pulpit at Pastor Lackey’s request. When Dr. Bruce Lackey resigned in 1980, David Bragg was asked to serve as interim pastor, and in March of 1981, he was called to be the pastor of Lakewood Baptist Church. He faithfully served in that capacity for 32 years, 1981-2013. Pastor Bragg’s passions were missions and evangelism. Also, it was Pastor Bragg’s persistence and forethought (and much prayer on the part of the membership) that enabled Lakewood Baptist Church to purchase its property from Highland Park Baptist Church in 2009.
One of the final accomplishments of Pastor David Bragg’s tenure was the construction of a beautiful facility alongside the church for fellowships and to house the Harrison Faith Bible Institute. The building was designated the Bragg Ministry Center. For many years while pastoring Lakewood Baptist Church, David Bragg also served as Director of Camp Joy, located across the street. Ironically, Ronnie Gilbert was serving in that same position as director of the camp when he met Pastor Bragg in the early 2000s.
Pastor David Bragg and Ronnie Gilbert became good friends while Bro. Gilbert served as Camp Joy director across the street from Lakewood Baptist Church, and not many years later, God brought Ronnie Gilbert to Lakewood Baptist Church to serve alongside Pastor David Bragg as his assistant. Five years later, when Pastor Bragg officially retired on August 23rd, 2012 on the 70th Anniversary of Lakewood Baptist Church, Ronnie Gilbert accepted the responsibility of pastor. Since that time, his passion for souls and care for church members have highlighted his ministry. Under his direction, the church flourished and our people look forward to many more years under his caring leadership.