THE HISTORY OF GRACE BIBLE CHURCH
Founder - Dr. Dayton Hobbs founded Grace Bible Church of Milton, Florida in 1951 and had been its continuous pastor for fifty years until he became Senior Pastor in 2001. Dr. Hobbs was an educator since 1954 and served as a principal and administrator since 1959. He served twice as president of the Christian Educators Assn. of the Southeast. He was also a co-founder of the Florida Assn. of Christian Colleges and Schools and served as the Vice-President of that organization from 1970 – 1990. Dr. Hobbs was also the inventor of the game of "Tee Ball," a baseball game played by youngsters throughout the United States and other countries as well. Dr Hobbs and his wife "Aunt Carolyn" founded Santa Rosa Christian School. Dr. Hobbs was considered to be a leading voice in Fundamentalism. He went to be with the Lord on the 19th of December, 2006.
God's work here really began when Dayton Hobbs, a young native of Santa Rosa County, received Jesus Christ as his Savior, April 5, 1950, and was called to preach. He studied for the ministry at Bob Jones University and graduated in 1954. He founded the church while still in college, driving from South Carolina one weekend each month to keep the work going until he finished school.
The first service was held August 1, 1951 in a renovated barn at Pace, Florida. The church began under the name "Free Methodist Tabernacle." Promise had been given by the building and landowner that the property would be donated and deeded to the new church, but when the pastor refused to take the church into The Evangelical Methodist church, the offer was harshly withdrawn. The pastor and a faithful few moved the church to a small rented building on Highway 90.
THE STORE FRONT ON HWY. 90
In June of 1953, services began in the second meeting place in Pace, an old, red block store building rented for $35 per month. The front of the store served as the church, and the back three rooms served as Sunday school rooms as well as housing for the pastor and his wife. With this move, the church name was changed to "The Independent Bible Church." The church organized child evangelism classes, and the Children's Bible Club began as a "live," weekly 30-minute program on the local radio station in Milton. In the spring of 1958, with little warning, the building was sold. With no other option, the church began to meet in the pastor's home. In summer the people met on the carport and in winter they moved to the living room. Adult Sunday School met in the living room and children met in the two bedrooms and next door in the Farrington's house. So it went until the next move in 1959.
THE BAGDAD YEARS
In September of 1958, the old Odd Fellows Lodge Hall in Bagdad was purchased and immediate renovation began. New wiring, plumbing, windows, paint and seating were just a few of the tasks the men had to tackle. "The Gospel Tabernacle" was dedicated January 25, 1959. An extensive youth ministry began and as finances allowed, buses were purchased to transport the young people to services and Saturday night youth rallies. In Bagdad, the first baseball program started and games were played with the owner's permission on lots adjoining the church. Santa Rosa Christian School was opened in 1962. The upstairs of the Tabernacle was renovated, divided into a hall and classrooms, and a metal fire escape was added to make it approved for school use. Soon more space was needed for the growing ministry.
THE MILTON COMPLEX
The present location on Hwy. 89 in Milton was purchased in 1965. The philosophy of the ministry was evident even in the first building - build for quality, practicality, economy and the glory of God, not for opulence, splendor or the prestige or praise of man. The building was completed and dedicated to the Lord's service on August 20, 1967. God has shown his hand powerful and faithful in the following years with the additional construction of the Field House, Academy Building, Learning Center, dormitory, swimming pool, gymnasium, print shop and maintenance shop. The Children's Bible Club wing was later added to the print shop and more renovations were completed inside the auditorium and worship area of the church. With the move to Milton in 1967, the church was renamed Grace Fellowship Church to place its emphasis on the fellowship of born-again believers rather than on church membership. After months of consideration and prayer, on June 6, 1991, the Board voted unanimously to change the church name to Grace Bible Church. This decision was made due to the climate of the country at this time, which seems to associate the word "fellowship" with the charismatic movement as well as with certain neo-evangelical ministries. The Board noted that any word can be misused, but that "Grace" and "Bible" could easily be understood. The Psalmist wrote, "O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! (Ps. 104:24)" Grace Bible Church is a living testimony to God's faithfulness and the wonders He has wrought.