Its white facade shining in the morning light, the Brown Missionary Baptist Church south campus sits on a rise, overlooking Swinnea Road in Southaven at the street address 7200, just a few blocks north of Goodman Road. It is a beautiful building inside and out, with accommodation for over 1,000 of the total 12,000 member congregants.
The senior pastor, Dr. Bartholomew Orr, leads two Sunday morning services – 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.– and Saturdays at 6 p.m. The church also shares its main campus, located at 980 Stateline Road East, with a Spanish congregation.
“The history of Brown Baptist spans some 138 years, having first been founded in 1882 on the site that is today our main campus,” according to Dr. Orr. “Fire destroyed the first wooden building in 1987, which was then replaced by a structure of brick and mortar. However, in 1988, the church body split over the desire of some of the members wanting to relocate to Memphis and others wanting to remain in DeSoto County.”
Three churches came together to form a new body on the original site at Stateline and Swinnea roads.
The church purchased the South Campus building in 2014 to accommodate the growing number of members that were pushing 6,000. To date, every seven years, the number has quadrupled and now surpasses some 12,000 members making it one of the largest churches in DeSoto County.
Dr. Orr is not the first pastor to serve Brown Baptist, however, he no doubt began his ministry at the youngest age of any who have stood in the pulpit. “I preached my first sermon at age 11,” he smiled. “I was saved at age seven and felt God's call on my life to preach. Then at age 19, I was called to serve as pastor of Brown.”
The church is a dynamic body, serving on many fronts and not just on Sundays. There are 60-some ministries covering almost every conceivable need of the community, including education and housing. Of course, the church also sponsors missionaries worldwide.
“Our goal is to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole world,” Dr. Orr said. “When I had preached my first sermon at age 11, my mother – a Godly woman – gave me a little world globe. She told me that, in her heart, she knew that I would preach the gospel and that the impact would reach around the world. God has been good to me and to my ministry, and to us as a church body in allowing us to reach out to the world with the Word of God.”
But what of the man, Bartholomew Orr? Who is he? “Well, I'm married to my wife, Valerie, now 30 years and we have four sons, four grandchildren, and two daughters-in-law. My two oldest sons are musicians, and my two youngest are in college. I'm very grateful for them – all – and thank God for the blessing of my family,” he said.
The core of the Brown Missionary Baptist Church outreach is based on, “What we call the five M's,” according to Dr. Orr. “They are; the Message (Christ), Maturity (spiritual growth), Missions (digital discipleship, based on Acts 1:8), Ministry (community-based), and Mentoring (our 'Acts Career Center' and our 'Health Clinic'),” he explained.
Brown is a dynamic, healthy, vibrant church of stalwart believers, led by a dedicated and determined pastor. How long will Dr. Orr serve? “Until it's over,” he smiled. “I do want to eventually retire – I'm now 50 years old and but still doing the work of the Lord – and when He brings this part of my work to a close, I want to continue to serve Him in full-time mentoring and evangelism. This year, my first book will be released under the title, 'Orr-dinary Lessons,' “ he grinned. “The spelling of the word 'ordinary' includes the double-r's in my name.”
Dr. Bartholomew Orr has led and is leading a rich, full, rewarding life as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, serving his fellow man in numerous ways. And the church where he serves, Brown Missionary Baptist, is indeed 'a beacon set on a hill.'