Life for Mt. Zion began in 1865 in the hearts of a group of settlers from various parts of the state.
In 1867, a little wood-framed church was built on Ferrell Street near the King’s Wood Elementary school off Academy Street in Cary, NC. This modest structure was given the name Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, which became a charter organization of the Cary community.
The church was a community effort, not really large in size, but strong in purpose and commitment. In 1918, Reverend Elmo Jones, a man of prayer, was called upon to become the church’s first pastor, serving the community and preaching one Sunday of each month.
Reverend Jones and the church members soon saw a need to move the church to a site on Academy Street, so another small wood-framed church, with backless benches, was built facing Academy Street. Reverend Jones led the small church for twelve years, preaching and teaching and encouraging them onward in faith and service.
In 1930, Reverend Will Smith became the second pastor. The church was heated by a pot belly stove and there were no inside bathrooms. Pastor Smith left the church after a short stay and was succeeded by Reverend William Spencer. Reverend Spencer’s stay was brief and Reverend Will Smith returned as pastor for a second time at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. It was under the leadership of Reverend Will Smith that another church was built facing Durham Highway. There were only outside bathrooms. Again, the church was wood framed, with a steeple that rang on Sunday mornings for Sunday Church School and church services once a month.
In 1956, Reverend Isaac Lee was installed at Mt. Zion fifth pastor. It was during his tenure that a concrete block church was built with inside bathrooms attached to the outside of the church. An oil furnace, new pulpit furniture, and pews were also installed. Reverend Isaac Lee served as pastor for many years until illness forced him to resign.
In 1969, Reverend Eugene Mason became the sixth elected pastor. Under his leadership, a Cub Scout Troop was charted. The idea of a new annex was a born, cathedral lights were installed, and a new piano was purchased. The Young Adult Gospel Choir was organized by Mrs. Viola Barnett. Reverend Mason remained pastor until his sudden death on June 5, 1979.
In October of 1979, Pastor J. Allen Lewis became Mt. Zion’s seventh pastor. He came to Mt. Zion with a young family: wife, Phyllis, and sons, Linwood, Timothy and Demetris; and his cherished nephew, Jessie. He had an exuberant passion for God’s word. Pastor Lewis instituted unity and family devotion with love for your fellow man, with dedication and commitment to God and religion worldwide. Pastor Lewis started his ministry at Mt. Zion with a drawing force for young people, as well as the old, to return to God and the church with faith and hope. With this growth came the renovation that included cushioned pews with hymn book racks and new hymnals, stained glass windows, central air conditioning with gas heat, the first telephone, an altar, new carpeting, the church’s first organ, P. A. system, and a new entrance to the sanctuary. With rapid growth in 1982, the guidance of God and the Holy Spirit, a new church Annex was erected which housed Sunday Church School classrooms, three bathrooms, a multi-purpose room, a secretary’s office, pastor’s study, a full kitchen, and a fellowship hall. The first dinner was served in the new annex on September 11, 1983, during the annual homecoming service. Since that time, the church’s sanctuary has received a complete renovation with a new church organ and sound equipment. A steeple and baptismal pool were also installed.
During Pastor Lewis’ tenure, the membership grew to more than 350 members. Other ministries joined Mt. Zion membership and served on the Ministerial Board until they moved or were called to serve as pastors at other churches.
In August of 1983, a Male Chorus, Junior Choir, Everready Choir, and Mass Choir were organized. The choirs and the church body traveled extensively with Pastor Lewis on speaking engagements, participated in local television specials, a prison ministry, and many other community-related activities.
In 1985, Mt. Zion purchased the old James Barnett property on Highway 54 on the southwest side of the church. The church sanctuary annex extends from Academy Street West along Highway 54. Mt. Zion became the only African American organization in the town of Cary, represented a strong community influence with much love and understanding for its fellowmen. In 1990, a child and senior day care facility was started.
In the late 80’s Pastor Lewis was led by God to restructure Mt. Zion. For years, the church belonged to the General Baptist State Convention and this association dictated pastor assignments, church organization, and theological practices. Pastor Lewis had a desire to lead Mt. Zion to a more biblical structure for the church and began the process of removing the trustee board that ran the church and replaced it with elders whom along with the pastor would oversee the church. Also, Pastor Lewis introduced female ministers into the pulpit but didn’t support women to become elders or pastors; a move that supported biblical teaching about the church structure. These organizational changes signified the break from the Baptist denomination but Mt. Zion didn’t officially become non-denominational until years later.
In 1998, God gave Pastor Lewis the vision that it was time to build and prepare God’s people for another level. With that vision, Pastor Lewis led Mt. Zion to purchase 24 acres of land in Cary. God was preparing us for the beginning of a new era.
After a prolonged illness, Pastor Lewis was called home to be with the Lord on October 18, 2001. Like the good shepherd that he was, he had not left his flock unprotected and for years prior had been grooming one who would follow and take up the banner. That one was Willie Harris Jr.
Prior to Pastor Lewis becoming sick he informed the church that upon his passing there would be no need for a pastoral search committee. Also, with the church haven broken away from the Baptist denomination, there wouldn’t be a pastor assignment from the convention. Pastor Lewis informed the church that its next pastor would be Elder Willie Harris. During his illness, Pastor Lewis would frequently call upon Elder Harris to preach on short notice and Elder Harris was always prepared. After the passing of Pastor Lewis, Elder Harris accepted God’s call to feed His sheep. On April 6, 2002, Elder Harris was installed as the eighth pastor of Mt. Zion.
Pastor Harris’ primary spirituality gifts include teaching, wisdom, knowledge, and shepherding. His passion is to transform the lives of people by helping them to discover their God-given purpose. The vision that God has given Pastor Harris for Mt. Zion is to be worshiping church that spreads the Gospel and serves the community.
Under Pastor Harris’ leadership, the church made steady progress in moving forward the vision of Pastor Lewis. By 2006, leadership was actively planning and drawing up plans with the Bobbitt architectural firm to begin construction! God was bringing the little white church into a new era.
A special Homecoming celebration was held on October 1, 2006, with the focus theme being “It’s Time to Build the Lord’s House.” Phase 1 of the Sacrificial Giving Campaign had ended and Phase II was introduced. The next phase of the “It’s Time to Build the Lord’s House” Sacrificial Giving Campaign ran from November 2006 to November 2007.
Mt. Zion Street Dedication & Groundbreaking Ceremony was held on February 10, 2007. Also, in 2007, construction on phase 1, the new edifice, serving as both sanctuary and fellowship hall, was completed. Mt. Zion’s last service at 8500 Chapel Hill Road, Cary, NC was held on Sunday, September 30, 2007.
On Saturday, October 6, 2007, Mt. Zion excitedly held an open house at our new facility located on 316 Allen Lewis Drive – Cary, NC. Oh, the joy as Mt. Zion’s members made their way to that first Sunday morning service in our new facility on October 7, 2007!
God has allowed us to construct a church build that encompasses more classrooms, training facilities, multi-purpose fellowship hall, administrative offices, nursery and eventually a gymnasium and larger sanctuary. But these facilities are not the end goal, but rather a tool to help us fulfill the vision that God has given us.
God has purposed us to be a worshiping church that freely glorifies, praises and honors God… to be a serving church that comforts that congregation and community; to be a growing church that intentionally and purposefully promotes discipleship; and to be a church that reaches out to spread the message of the gospel – both in word and in deed. In short, God’s vision for us is to…Worship Christ by spreading the Gospel and serving the community.
In keeping with this vision, the focal themes and some of the activities Mt. Zion participated in throughout the years are as follows:
2006 – “It’s Time to Build the Lord’s House”
2007 – “Going to the Next Level”
2008 – “Making Disciples of All People”
2009 – “Growing to Spiritual Maturity” (Mt. Zion closed its doors and put its “Faith in Action” by going out and serving the community; participated in Convoy of Hope)
2010 – “Impact the World” (Changed named from Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church to Mt. Zion Church and officially became non-denominational; Truth Project; Zion Live: on-line streaming; adopted West Cary Middle School; partnered with Word of Victory Christian Ministries-sponsored Ugandan orphans; Aids Caregiver Assembly project; helped earthquake victims in Haiti)
2011 – “Radical” (Mission trips to Ecuador and Haiti)
2012 – “Missional: Sent by God on the Mission of God”
2013 – “Multiply: Making Disciples Who Make Disciples”
2014 – “The Church on Mission”
2015 – “150 Years: Build Upon the Rock” (Mt. Zion celebrated its anniversary with many activities; Pastor Harris celebrated 13 years as pastor of Mt. Zion)
2016 – “Abide in Christ and Bear Much Fruit”
Mt. Zion has truly been blessed during our 150 years and more of existence!
Mt. Zion continues to be a Bible-based church that is committed to teaching, training, making disciples, and showing the love of Christ to all people; to be a church that reaches out and seeks to spread the Gospel both in word and deed.