History – California Southern Baptist Convention

Prior to California’s admission as a state in 1850, Baptist ministry had begun in the Golden State. The first Baptist ministry dates from 1849 when the First Baptist Church of San Francisco was organized on July 6 by Osgood Church Wheeler, who was commissioned by the American Baptist Home Mission Society.

Southern Baptists, after their organization in 1845, considered California as part of their “domestic missions” responsibility. In 1851, a pastor from Alabama organized the First Baptist Church of Santa Clara and in 1853, a pastor from Arkansas organized the El Monte Baptist Church.

Southern Baptists labored effectively in California from these early days until the Civil War, when depletion of funds and personnel caused them to retreat closer to the South.

Not much happened in Baptist life for several decades until Southern Baptist work in California began anew on May 10, 1936 when 16 members constituted the First Baptist Church in Shafter. The San Joaquin Valley became the center of Southern Baptist ministry in those early days.

On September 13, 1940, the Southern Baptist General Convention of California was organized at the Independent Orthodox Missionary Baptist Church of Shafter (which later became First Southern Baptist Church) with 13 churches participating. In 1988, the Convention voted to change its name to California Southern Baptist Convention.

Through the years California Southern Baptists have grown considerably. With more than 2,200 congregations, CSBC has become one of the largest evangelical Protestant denominations in the state, with headquarters offices located in Fresno.

In communities throughout the Golden State, CSBC member congregations minister to the spiritual and physical needs of their people, with assistance from Convention missionaries and staff.

During times of disaster, California Southern Baptists come to the aid of victims by preparing and serving meals, providing counseling and helping put lives back in order. In 1994 after the Northridge earthquake, California Southern Baptists prepared and served more than 1 million meals to victims in the greater Los Angeles area. Disaster Relief volunteers also were instrumental in responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Ike along the Gulf Coast. Since beginning Disaster Relief in 1983 in response to the Coalinga Earthquake, California volunteers have responded to dozens of disasters in California, throughout the United States and internationally.

In addition to its churches, CSBC is affiliated with California Baptist University and The Baptist Foundation of California.

Founded in 1950 and located in Riverside, the university provides liberal arts education in a Christian environment. The Foundation is based in Fresno and provides trust management, money management for individuals and churches, and limited church financing.

Here are the latest reported statistics for CSBC.

CSBC Churches/Missions2,364
African American451
Other Ethnic/Multi-ethnic334
Cooperating Congregations1,082
New Congregations in 201959
Total Church Baptisms in 2019 (most recent)12,470 (+2.58% from 2018)
Total Membership in 2018 (most recent) 407,881
Languages Preached/Distinct Ethnic Groups Reached Weekly77/60
Field/NAMB Missionaries/ Ministry Resource Center Staff41 – MRC (30); Field Missionaries (2); NAMB Church Planting Catalyst (9)
Disaster Relief Units36, including a Rapid Response Kitchen, mobile kitchen trailers, recovery trailers, and shower trailers
Trained Disaster Relief Workers750 active