Prince Avenue Baptist Church’s growth calls for a new, larger worship center


BOGART, Ga., — When Josh Smith became pastor of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Bogart six years ago after 11 years at MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, he succeeded Pastor Bill Ricketts, who had served the church for 43 years.

Ricketts had relocated the church from downtown Athens to Bogart, a growing community approximately seven miles west of Athens. The church was poised for growth, but it would take the right kind of pastor to lead the church to its greatest destiny.

Josh Smith is a leader, a compassionate pastor, and has a Doctor of Ministry in Expository Preaching and his homiletical ability has contributed greatly to the church’s growth and need for additional space. During Smith’s pastorate, the church’s weekly worship attendance has grown from 700 in 2018 when he arrived to 1,900.

During that time the giving units have increased from 627 to 1,276, and the membership has doubled. Tim Luke, the church’s executive pastor, stated, “Josh is a gifted expository preacher and leader, and his leadership has attracted a superb staff. The consistent, weekly exposition of Scripture preached in the Spirit along with the work of a talented staff have combined with substantial growth in Walton and Oconee Counties to bring an influx of new church members and guests.”

To accommodate the rapid growth of the church, the congregation approved by a 99-percent affirmative vote a recommendation to construct a new worship center designed to have 1,800 seats.

Luke explained, “We intend to open the building with two services to give our people a choice regarding times for worship and small groups, and to provide plenty of room for growth. Projections call for exponential growth in Oconee, Walton, Barrow, and Clark Counties, all of which will impact our church’s future.

“Our current offices are in a modular building in a far corner of the campus. This was because the church built what it could afford in 2009 when it moved from Prince Avenue in Athens to the current location on Monroe Highway in Bogart. An office complex was not a part of the original construction. In addition to a new worship center, we plan to construct an office complex within our new church building. We also plan to add a new parking lot just outside the new church building.”

According to Luke, the capital campaign for the new facilities was $16.5 million. He praised the church for its substantial participation in the capital campaign and its consistent support of the general budget.

“We are on track,” added Luke, “to have a general budget surplus of approximately $2 million this fiscal year after having a $1.7 surplus last fiscal year, and since our capital campaign started in November 2022, we have received $12.5 million in pledges and gifts. Our current outstanding fulfillment of pledges is only $2.5 million, so our people have really responded.”

The church hopes to break ground in the fall of the year; and the anticipated construction timeline is approximately 18 months.