The history of First Baptist Church


Our History

First Baptist Church was established in downtown Des Moines under the leadership of Reverend John Nash on January 18, 1851, and is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches, USA. Reverend Nash was a missionary of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. Over the years, First Baptist has been served by 23 pastors and has met in five different buildings.


Our mission is “Lighting the Way to Life by Centering People on Christ.” We exist to reach out and help people who are seeking to find, renew or strengthen a relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.


In the year 2000, First Baptist Church sold its building at Eighth and High streets in downtown Des Moines to began its next phase of ministry in an historic move to Johnston, Iowa. FIrst Baptist began meeting at the former Johnston High School on NW 62nd Avenue until our new building was completed at 8250 NW 62nd Avenue. The first Sunday worship service in the new building was held on May 5, 2002.

A Community of Christ

Many social and community ministries have begun as a result of the First Baptist Church of Greater Des Moines. These include the building of two retirement residences and a new day care center in downtown Des Moines. Ministries like the Skywalk Chaplaincy and the New Wine Cellar for youth were unique and meaningful ministry programs. In 2022, a section of the church’s east campus in Johnston was developed to establish garden plots for immigrants in the Des Moines area.


First Baptist has also responded to numerous other needs in the community, including sharing a space with a new African American church, using the Church basement as a temporary shelter for the homeless, and giving flood aid in Des Moines in 1993.  First Baptist Church is also a charter member of the Des Moines Area Religious Council and considers interfaith and ecumenical cooperation to be an important part of our work.