Houses of Worship

First Missionary’s goal: Experience the kingdom of God on Earth

pseligson@newsobserver.comMarch 28, 2014 

First Missionary Baptist Church is at Fourth at Caswell streets in Smithfield.


First Missionary Baptist Church in Smithfield is located just north of downtown, at the corner of Fourth and Caswell streets. Founded in 1866, it has a rich African-American history.

The church focuses on economic equality and education. First Missionary has been in the news recently for hosting an economic-empowerment summit and a march on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Location: 403 Caswell St., Smithfield.

Affiliation: Baptist

Contact information: 919-934-7007;

Congregation: 120 members

Pastor: Born in Little Rock, Ark., the Rev. Sterling Freeman became First Missionary’s pastor in February 2010. He earned his divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. He attended Davidson College for his undergraduate degree in economics and then earned a certificate from the London School of Economics. Before becoming a pastor, Freeman spent about eight years as a banker and seven years as as an executive for a leadership-development group.

Freeman, 43, lives in Durham with his wife, Michelle, who teaches Spanish, and his daughter Joia, who is a senior in high school.

What sets the church apart? Our church’s focus is to literally make the word become flesh (John 1:14). As such, we are known for intentional application of the gospel through ministries that address the plight of individuals and the societal structures that perpetuate inequities. The teaching, preaching and ministry activities we do are an effort to meet the material and spiritual needs of God’s people.

What is the church’s message? Our church’s mission is to communicate and actualize the gospel of Jesus Christ so that individuals and communities can experience the kingdom of God on Earth. Our message – rooted in Micah 6:6-8 and Luke 4:16-20 – is that the power of the gospel transforms lives and communities through love of neighbor and practical works to establish justice and affirm the humanity of all people.

Special programs: Sunday school, 9:45 a.m.; Bible study, noon Wednesday; music outreach; community garden; monthly women’s fellowship.

Special events: Men’s Day, November; Women’s Day, August; Martin Luther King Jr. week of activities and day of celebration; lecture series on global missions, April; justice summit, October; youth back-to -school program, August; community recreation day, May; Operation Inasmuch, a service project, April.

Worship service: 11 a.m. Sundays.

Last Sunday’s sermon: “A Welcomed Word” from Isaiah 40:1-8. We can take comfort in God’s word because it is liberating, gracious and true. It is up to us to live into our freedom in God and allow the presence of God in the world to manifest through our lives.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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