Sunrise Baptist Church started as a mission of Nellis Baptist Church on June 30, 1957. At that time a survey of the area revealed Church approximately 4,000 people lived in the same section as the church property. The survey showed only one other church group attempting to serve the spiritual needs of all these people.
Sunrise Southern Baptist Church was constituted and became affiliated with the Arizona Baptist Association and the Southern Baptist Convention on April 13, 1958, with a charter membership of 36 people. They met in a carpenter shop, an abandoned building without lights, water, sewer, or other facilities on the corner of Nellis and Meikle. Organizational council members were Troy Brooks, Robert Smith, Wayne White, H. Merritt, Virgil Reeves, and E. W. Hunke Jr. Other program participants were MSgt Virgil Clubb, who became the first mission pastor of the church. R. Loden, and Eugene Mockerman (1st Pastor).
During the summer of 1958 the church met in a store front in Nellis Plaza. On August 30, 1958 the church purchased the property on the corner of Betty and Kell. There was an existing building measuring 16 by 32 feet that was used as a church for the next two years. That building was in a serious state of disrepair, but had the capacity to hold 85 worshipers. At times benches were placed outside the front doors to accommodate additional worshippers.
The church bid $1.02 for the Little Theater building in Boulder City and the government accepted the offer. The structure was dismantled and transported the 25 miles to Betty Lane, where our first building unit was completed in 1962. The church purchased additional property totaling 3 parcels by paying the past due taxes giving us a total of 6 acres. The Home Mission Board funded $20,000.00 to the church to help pay the pastor and to build buildings.
In the beginning Sunday School classes met in huge packing crates borrowed from Nellis. When the weather permitted, they simply met outside and in cars and the house across the street. Once when Billy Graham was nearby in 1960, he came to the church property and prayed for our church growth. There was no formal meeting, he just came, met with a few people; they waded out in the mud and prayed for the church. The church had some serious problems through the years, as do many. Some were problems of our own making and others were not. Many years ago the church sold bonds to the members to raise money for a building project. The money was placed in a holding company in California. The holding company either went bankrupt or the men disappeared, and the money disappeared too. So we had to borrow money from a local bank just to survive. The finances were so low for several years that all we could do was pay partial interest on the loan causing the debt to grow. Eventually we had to borrow $98,000.00 from the Home Mission Board to cover the original loss and pay back the bond holders.
Sunrise Baptist Church The first sanctuary, a one-room building, was completed in 1960. The educational building, which is now our fellowship hall and the children’s wing, was completed in 1965. The third unit the current Worship center was started in the late 1970s, completed in 1985, and dedicated on September 22, 1985.
Sunrise was started by military people from Nellis Air Force Base, and has always ministered to folks from Nellis. The size of the church has been directly affected by military groups being assigned to or away from Nellis and on several occasions the church has doubled or been halved in size due to these impacts. There was a time when one of the Chaplains from Nellis joined the church.
In 1998 a major improvement project was started involving the completion of the offsite requirements (curbs and gutters), paving the parking lots, desert landscaping, and a major exterior reconditioning, designed to make all the buildings look alike. Many interior improvements were also made and the parsonage was turned into an administrative building housing all the church offices and support equipment.
The church has always had a strong emphasis on starting new works and has given freely of its resources to missions. They had 5 missions going at one time. Sunrise Baptist Church was responsible for starting Spring Mountain Youth Camp (1962), Desert Hills Baptist Church (1962), Central Baptist Mission, East Las Vegas Mission (64-65) (no longer in existence) and Sunnyside Baptist Mission (78, no longer in existence). In 80-81 Sunrise provided aid to Community College Baptist Church. On November 27, 1994, Sunrise Baptist Church called Rev. Russell Daines to be pastor of El Camino Baptist Church. For 5 years the church grew and on January 15, 2000, El Camino Baptist Church was officially constituted as a Southern Baptist Church in a special service held at Sunrise Baptist Church, the sponsoring church. El Camino was constituted on its fifth anniversary, the first Baptist church to be constituted within the Nevada Baptist Convention in the 21st century.
In 2006, Sunrise had the opportunity to open its door to a struggling biker church having trouble finding a place to meet; now called Rolling Thunder Ministries, this group of bikers’ minister to a special group in our community who ride motorcycles. Pastor Jim McKenzie keeps a special watch over his people as they meet at Sunrise on Saturday evenings.
Pastor Tony Forehand came to Sunrise looking for a sponsor to help him start a church that would reach out to the 20,000+ people who live in the Hollywood and Lake Mead area. Grace Baptist met at Sunrise and shared office space for a time, but now has worship services at 6450 East Stewart Ave.
Since the community has quite a few Hispanic families, a new work has started for those who speak Spanish. Iglesia Bautista Bethel, with Pastor Joel Gutierrez, is growing and they meet on Sunday afternoon at 1pm for worship and also have Bible study Tuesday at 7pm.
Over the years, the following men have served as pastors; MSgt Virgil Clubb (Mission Pastor 57/58) Eugene M. Mockerman (58-64), Dr. E. L. Pennington (64-66), Everett Moore (66-70), Don Oliver (70-71), Stanley Unruh (72- 87), Miguel Rodrigues (87-89), Roger Bannerman (90),
Dr. William D. Potts (8/90-2007), and James Griffitts, (1/2008 to 2010), Billy Crone (2011 to Present).