In February 1925, Dallas F. Billington joined thousands of others in the migration from the South to Akron where he began a ten-year career at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. In the early 1930′s, he assisted in the work of the Furnace Street Mission by serving as an usher and also taught a Sunday School class of boys at the Arlington Street Baptist Church.
In his autobiography, “God Is Real,” Billington wrote, “My first work for the Lord began with a Sunday School class of boys. I would go to the sandlot ball fields and invite boys into my class.” During these years, Billington served as a traveling lay evangelist, preaching in churches and rented public buildings. In 1932 he began broadcasting a weekly radio program on station WJW.
In the spring of 1934, Billington felt called to establish a new church. On the first Sunday in June 1934, he was able to rent a portion of the Rimer Grade School and held the first church service. Including the janitor for the school, there were 14 people present. Attendance doubled the next Sunday and in a month 81 people were in attendance.
On Easter Sunday 1935, the Akron Baptist Temple was formally organized with 81 chartered members. In August 1937, construction on the first building began. This building was dedicated Easter Sunday 1938. By 1939, the church and Sunday School had grown so rapidly that attendance was running between 1,600 and 2,000 every Sunday. In August of that year, construction was started on a two-story Christian educational building.
The church’s third building was dedicated the first Sunday in April 1949. By Easter Sunday 1950, the church had grown to a regular attendance of 4,000 every Sunday. In April 1957, construction began on a fourth building, which provided much needed space. In 1969, according to an independent study, the church’s Sunday School was declared to be the “World’s Largest Sunday School.”
In 1972, God called the founding pastor, Dr. Dallas Billington, home to heaven. The thousands of people who attended his funeral service gave testimony to his life of faithfulness and his commitment to brining people to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Charles Billington, the son of Dallas F. Billington, followed his father as the next pastor of the church. Dr. Charles lovingly led the church from 1972 to 1996. In 1996, Dr. Dallas Billington’s grandson the Rev. Dallas Billington, accepted the call to pastor the church and served faithfully until his resignation in 2006.
In the fall of 2006 the church called Ed Holland to serve as Lead Pastor. Since that time Pastor Ed and his wife Kathy have continued the wonderful legacy of declaring, “God is Real.” The church is experiencing a renewed passion for people and experiencing growth both in numbers and spiritual passion. On Pastor Ed’s first anniversary the church celebrated the retirement of it’s longtime debt. Together Pastor Ed and the good people who are a part of the ABT church family are pressing forward sharing the good news about Jesus Christ.