It was Raymond Riggs who started the church in 1938. He would preach on the street and his wife, Winona, would play a pump organ on the back of a truck while people would surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. That first group was called the Highland Park Gospel Tabernacle. Soon after that they bought an old Mosque on Victor Avenue in Highland Park and called themselves Highland Park Free Will Baptist Church. Raymond remained the pastor for over 15 years until he left to become the first full-time director of foreign missions at what is now called IM inc..
A Season of Growth
After him Charles Thigpen became the pastor for four years, during which the church averaged adding 100 people per year. Praise God for the growth during that time! He led them to purchase our current property, but the building and move was later to come.
Moving to Royal Oak
Joe Ange was the church’s third pastor. He led the move to 2005 Rochester Rd. in Royal Oak and the name change to Central Free Will Baptist Church. Under Pastor Ange’s ministry the church continued to grow until his departure in 1968, when Raymond Riggs returned for a second term at Central Free Will Baptist.
The church started a school under Riggs’ second tenure, Central Christian School. It lasted for four years and closed a few months before Riggs’ departure.
Enter Milton Worthington, who would be the pastor to serve for the longest stretch of time—over 25 years! Under his leadership the church continued to send missionaries across the world.
Tom McCullough became the pastor in the early 2000’s after serving as a missionary sent by the church to France. He served for 13 years and led the church in a renovation program in 2008 that the Lord blessed. Tom led the church to invite Jacob Riggs to work as an associate and then replace him. That transition was complete in 2015.
A Restart of Sorts
Pastor Jacob Riggs was the man the Lord called here after hearing the story of the church from McCullough at Westy’s Grill in Memphis, TN. In the transition period, the church adopted a new constitution, statement of faith, and changed the name to Central Oaks Community Church. The name reflects our value of what God has done in the past as well as our desire to reach out to the community around us and help them follow Jesus.
Much more could be said about what God has done. There are many who have fond memories of “Central Church,” or even “‘the old Highland Park Church.” Thanks be to God to His faithfulness. And may His work in our hearts continue to grow us in His Word, the gospel, and our mission to help people follow Jesus.