About Us

A Brief History of Higher Ground

Seeds of Faith…

On September 4, 1988 six people met in a home in East Carters Valley, located just north of Kingsport, Tennessee near the Virginia state line. They shared their vision and their dreams of a church that would win souls, glorify the Lord and exalt Him, and agreed to talk among friends who may also be interested in organizing a new work. Word quickly spread, and within two weeks, the number had grown to 59.

One interesting fact is how Higher Ground received its name. Just one week after their first meeting, as the group fellowshipped together, the subject of a name for the church was mentioned. One of the ladies present mentioned that just the night before, with the reality of a new church burning in her heart, she “had a dream that seemed to last all night. I was in our new church up on a hill, and was in the choir singing about Higher Ground.” The leader of the group excitedly remarked… “that’s it- Higher Ground Baptist Church!”

On September 27, 1988 the group met at the East Carters Valley Fire Hall to begin the plan for the church. They voted to officially adopt the name, Higher Ground, appoint a temporary treasurer, a secretary, and a group of men to start the search for suitable property on which to build a church. At that meeting, $26,775 was pledged toward a land purchase, and the first “collection” of $807.02 was received.

After meeting for a few weeks at the Scott County Funeral Home, and outgrowing the space, a building was found to rent along one of the main thoroughfares of Kingsport, and the first service was held in the Warehouse of Toys building on Wednesday, October 26, 1988. The church was officially chartered with the State of Tennessee. Although the church did not have a pastor, local preachers were scheduled to come and fill the pulpit each week.

Steps of Faith…

A three acre tract of property was found to be for sale at 1625 Lynn Garden Drive and was purchased for $150,000. By December of 1988, only three months after its inception, Higher Ground Baptist Church was occupying its new building, which seated 300 worshippers. From the first service, the building was full. Higher Ground now had over one hundred and ninety five members, with hosts of visitors coming each week to see what was happening “on the hill.” God had begun a mighty work.

After discussing the growth situation, two portable buildings were purchased and used to accommodate the Sunday School and Children’s classrooms. When the subject was discussed on how large to build the sanctuary, someone suggested one that would seat 850. Another person said, “we don’t even have a pastor, and we’re wanting to build a church that size?” To which the man of faith said, “if we build it, God will send the people to fill it!.” Immediately, work began on the new sanctuary for 850, with classroom space for the growing congregation. This was finished and moved into in the early part of 1990.

Still, the Higher Ground had not called its first pastor. Evangelist Phil Hoskins had preached numerous times at the church, and each time the church was asked about calling a pastor, he would receive the most votes. He was well known in the area, having grown up in Kingsport, and well loved by the folks at Higher Ground. In January 1991, after much prayer, Phil Hoskins agreed to come to Higher Ground for one year. If the church did not grow during that time, he would return to evangelism.

Products of Faith…

God used Dr. Phil Hoskins as Senior Pastor during that time in a great way. Higher Ground became known for its unusual services. The Jesus that was preached was real, and the Holy Spirit was welcome in every service. People were saved on a regular basis, and it was not unusual for 15-20 people to come for church membership weekly. Dynamic music, as well as anointed preaching, played an important part in the life of the church, lifting the hearts of those discouraged, strengthening the weak, and helping bring victory to the defeated. Songs of praise, and hymns about the blood, the cross, and the Savior prepared hearts to receive the Word of God from the messenger of the Gospel. Believers were anointed with oil according to James 4:14-15, and many received their healing.

The church continued to grow, and a church staff was needed to assist in the day-to-day responsibilities. By 1995, the ministry staff was in place. An additional classroom and office building was built, and the growth in Worship required two morning services.

Visions of Faith…

The two Morning Worship Services temporarily helped ease the crowding in the sanctuary, but additional classrooms were needed for Sunday School. A second classroom annex was built, as well as the house that was moved to the back of the property was converted to classroom space.

Through God’s provision, the property adjoining the church (14 acres) was purchased, and a parking lot was developed. Pastor Phil cast the vision for the much needed Worship Center, and within one and a half years over one and a half million dollars was donated to begin construction.

Groundbreaking was held on September 14, 1997 and construction began on a 3,500 seat Worship Center. During the construction phase, God moved time after time, right on time, providing that which was needed. In July 1998, Higher Ground moved into its new $5.8 million dollar facility.

On September 28th 2014 (after 23 1/2 years in the pulpit), Dr. Phil Hoskins preached his last message as Higher Ground's Senior Pastor. After much prayer, he said he felt God moving him in a different direction in his life. Our Administrative Pastor at the time, Dr. Shannon Salyer temporarily filled this role until God sent us a replacement. Dr. Ronnie Owens became the Senior Pastor of Higher Ground Baptist Church on May 3, 2015 following a church member vote with 81.2% favorable. His first day in the pulpit as our pastor was on the morning of May 31, 2015.

The church has continued to grow. God continues to move in the services through His power and His Spirit. Souls are saved weekly, believers are being added to the membership, and the ministry heart and outreach of Higher Ground has never been greater. Preaching of the Word, Praise and Worship, and personal Ministry could be defined as the heartbeat of Higher Ground Baptist Church, with Christ being preeminent.


How to Become a Member of Higher Ground

Higher Ground Baptist Church is a body of believers united by our desire to follow Jesus Christ and committed to fulfilling the purposes set forth in our Mission Statement. If you desire to join with us and will be supportive of the beliefs, fellowship and mission of our church, we warmly invite you to become a member. Here are the three steps to becoming a member.

  1.  Present yourself for membership during any worship service when the invitation is given at the end of the message. Our pastor will invite those who desire to become members of Higher Ground to come to the front of the Worship Center.
  2. Express your desire for membership through one of the following means:

    Profession of Faith: If you have never received Jesus as Savior and Lord and/or never publicly confessed Him, you will be fgiven an opportunity to do so. After your decision has been confirmed, an appointment will be made for your baptism at Higher Ground.
    Transfer of membership from another Southern Baptist Church: If you are currently a member of another Southern Baptist Church, we will receive you as a member upon a promise of a letter from that church. Higher Ground will contact the church to notify them of your decision and to request your letter.

    Statement of Faith: If you know in your heart that you have previously experienced salvation by receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord, we wil be happy to receive you. It will be necessary for you to be baptized at Higher Ground if you have never been baptized by immersion after your salvation experience or if you were baptized in a church which holds a different view of salvation, baptism, or eternal security than Higher Ground.

  3.  Attend the 101 Class for new members. This special class for all new members will give you essential information to help you become a fulfilled, functioning member of our church. Charting out a plan for you here at Higher Ground, this class will show you how to begin building relationships in our church and will help you understand all the benefits and responsibilities of membership.

After you have completed these steps, we will joyfully receive you as a member of Higher Ground Baptist Church and you will begin to fully enjoy the benefits and blessings of being a part of our family of friends.