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Lake Placid church thrives under leadership of Georgian Derek Spain


Gerald Harris

J.B. Graham, New York Baptists executive director, right, commends Pastor Derek Spain on his painting and the leadership he is providing at First Baptist Lake Placid. Church attendance has tripled since Spain’s arrival.

Derek Spain, who served as the pastor of the student ministry at Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, sensed the call of God to become pastor of the struggling First Baptist Church in Lake Placid, New York. At Hebron, a strong and influential church in the greater Atlanta area, Spain had the responsibility of directing an expansive ministry including more than 850 middle school-to-college age students.

In obedience to God’s call, Spain left Hebron church in the fall of 2001 to become the pastor of First Baptist Church in the New York resort town where the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympic games were held. One of the greatest moments in sports history took place in Lake Placid in 1980 when the U.S. hockey team defeated the Soviet Union by a score of 4-3 in what is often referred to as “The Miracle on Ice.”

In addition to serving as pastor of First Baptist, Spain also heads up the resort ministry for Baptists in this town nestled in the northeastern corner of the pristine Adirondack Mountains. The rugged mountain scenery, the heavy winter snows and pleasant summer climate make this Olympic region of New York a year-round tourist resort for 1.8 million people annually.

Since Lake Placid is home to U.S. athletes who aspire to compete in the winter Olympic games, there is a rigorous training schedule maintained by scores of Olympic hopefuls throughout the winter season. Spain conducts a Bible study for these athletes each Thursday night and is constantly building relationships with the residents of the Olympic Training Center.

Spain knew early on in the dialogue with the pastor search committee from Lake Placid Church that God was warming his heart toward the idea of becoming their pastor, but knew that God would also have to confirm His divine call by speaking to the heart of his wife. Kim, Derek’s helpmate, a quiet, beautiful young wife and mother (who is presently expecting their third child), was positively responding to God’s call at the same time her husband was nodding approvingly to God’s urging to go to New York.

When the Spains arrived in Lake Placid the church’s attendance had been reduced to about 40 in Sunday morning worship. It was obvious that there was much work to be done. Spain is gregarious and seems to draw people like a magnet. Within weeks he began to win the hearts of the people in the church and the community, and the Lake Placid fellowship began to grow.

Spain says, “God is building a church of committed believers whose primary passion is seeing people of all ages come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Our worship services are focused on Jesus Christ. The foundation of our worship is teaching from the Word of God.”

In just over two years the church has tripled in attendance with approximately 125 gathered in worship each Sunday morning. In fact, the growth of the church has necessitated a building program. In addition to a major renovation of the present facility, the expansion will include more rooms for Bible study, a library, office space, a nursery, a commercial kitchen and a 2,500 square foot multi-purpose room with an 18-foot ceiling.

Spain estimated that the building project would have cost the church in excess of $500,000, but instead will cost only about half of that amount because of the donation of building materials and volunteer help. The Lake Placid pastor remarked, “We have had 12 different mission teams come to help us with this project. Four of the teams have been from Georgia.”

Although much progress is being made, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done. Spain added, “Our library will be the only Christian library in Lake Placid. We want to make it available to the community. If anyone has good Christian books they would be willing to give to our library we would be grateful. They can contact us through our website at”