BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH HISTORY
Bethel first established as a mission in 1919 at Eleventh and Liberty Streets, Louisville, Kentucky. The Reverend J. Miles was the mission’s first pastor. Brothers Norman Newell and Ellis Ervin were among the early deacons. The mission was named Bethel meaning The House of God.
The congregation worshipped at Eleventh and Liberty Streets for several years until relocating at 1307 West Liberty Street, Louisville Kentucky. It was there, that the Southern Cross Lodge No. 39, Brother A.R. Ford and the Master laid the cornerstone in 1925. Reverend Miles served as pastor until his death in 1929.
Ten pastors have led the church: Reverends J. Miles, J.N. Watkins, John Lewis, David Pennington, B.J. Lancaster, J.F. Dawson, A.D. Jones, John R. Grider, Ronald L. Lockridge, Sr., and our present pastor, Reverend Dr. Joique D. Bell, Sr.
Although it is impossible to outline accomplishments of each pastor and the church prior to Reverend B.J. Lancaster, we feel very sure that each served well in his time and followed Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
The late A.R. Ford recalled that, after the sudden death of Reverend John Lewis, Reverend and Mrs. Lancaster were installed to lead the congregation. Under Reverend Lancaster’s leadership Bethel made much progress. The members of the Saint Luke Baptist Church merged with Bethel and strengthened the fellowship. Fond memories lingers in our hearts as we turn our thoughts towards our deceased sisters, brothers, and our beloved Pastors.
Reverend Lancaster restored auxiliaries and organized others. Many souls were added to the church as a result. He ordained many ministers and deacons. Our first piano, choir robes, and furnace were purchased during Reverend Lancaster’s tenure. The building suffered great damage during a fire and the congregation was faced with the task of rebuilding and refurbishing the church. Along with Rev. Lancaster, the congregation was strengthened by the task, drew great courage and kept working for God and their fellow man.
It was during the Urban Renewal program that Reverend Lancaster started the initial work for the church to purchase its present site. Then he heard the Master say, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant” and he was called home to glory. Reverend Lancaster served this church longer than any other pastor.
After the death of Reverend Lancaster, Reverend J.F. Dawson was called to lead us in 1963. He took up the challenge and completed the purchase of our previous church building at 801 South 40th Street. He converted the building into a place of worship. He installed a P.A. System, purchased our first Spinet Lowery Organ and pews. A large number of converts were saved and restored in this building. He ordained ministers, deacons, organized auxiliaries, and groups that were instrumental in aiding the church in its financial struggle. Reverend Dawson was a supporter of both the National and State District Associations, attending and sending delegates to serve. Evidence of this and Mrs. Dawson’s labor remain in the lives and conduct of the members who have firsthand memories from their works. Reverend Dawson served faithfully until God called him to his eternal home.
In 1970, the Reverend A.D. Jones accepted the call and challenge of leading Bethel’s flock. He brought to us his youth, and labored to climb, and carried us to new heights. Converts young and old came into the church and many restorations were made. He made additions to the P.A. System, purchased a new Baldwin piano, and did much to help us in his short stay of eleven months and three weeks. During his time, we burned the church mortgage. He then resigned saying the Lord had shown him he had to return to his previous pastorate, Corinthian Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky. This caused much sadness and some of Bethel’s members followed him. We missed him and his lovely family for a long time.
After much prayer and consultation, Reverend John Grider accepted the call as pastor of our church. He came to us the second Sunday in September 1971 and took up the cross to lead God’s people. Reverend Grider supported the District, State, and National Associations. During his time, we purchased a C-3 Hammond Organ. His wife was at his side willing and ready to work when and wherever she was needed. Sister Grider was elected as the Minister of Music and organized the music department forming a graded choir program. She presented all types of music, instructed a hymnology class, (free of charge), and brought many new ideas and programs to help the church grow. Reverend and Sister Grider brought with them vigor, strong convictions, and the willingness to do God’s work. Their strong convictions and hard work enabled us to worship in our present sanctuary. Reverend and Sister Grider with the vision from God for our church found the present site. On July 27, 1975, Reverend Grider announced his resignation.
We were again without a pastor and still at our 40th and Garland Avenue location. This was a challenge to the church body, without a pastor and not yet completed construction on the new church building. Being born again Christians and believing in Christ and His words that “On this rock, I build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”; we elected Reverend Squire Stevenson as interim pastor. With faith in God, we put our shoulders to the wheel and started working to finish our new church home. At this time, the Board of Directors was formed. Brother John Gardner was named chairman and Brother Theodore Burrell was the assistant. With heavy hearts and confused minds, we called on our Heavenly Father for strength and guidance. We knew that prayer would change things. We prayed and labored for one year, sometimes up and sometimes down, but always with the vision of the new church building in mind. On July 11, 1976, we were able to march into our present house of worship. We thanked God for all he had done for us, for we believed that if we walked upright for him, he would give us the desires of our hearts. To our members who stayed and weathered the storm we say, “God bless you and thanks for loving your church home.”
After much prayer and dedication, it was time to call a pastor. October 22, 1976, Reverend Ronald E. Lockridge, Sr. was called to lead the Bethel Church body. We were grateful to have Reverend and Mrs. Lockridge in our midst. Reverend Lockridge brought youth and great inspiration with the spirit filled messages he delivered. Truly, we believed our Heavenly Father abided in him. The Lord wondrously blessed us and saved many souls. We were extremely grateful for the achievements under the leadership of Reverend Lockridge.
During Reverend Howard’s service, church repairs were in progress and completed with the guidance of the Trustee Board. Such repairs were black topping the parking lot and extended area and installing new doors to the sanctuary.
“As We Continue to Strive Together, We Will Arrive Together”
In November 2000, God and the Bethel Baptist Church called Reverend Joique D. Bell, Sr. to the office of pastoral leadership. He was installed on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2000. Since that time, the Lord has been blessing Bethel and the ministries Reverend Bell established. We are “Writing the Vision” under the leadership of Reverend Bell.
God gave Rev. Bell the motto of our church; “Loving God, Loving People” for we can do nothing in the body of Christ without love. Jesus said, “You shall love thy Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang a law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40-NKJV
Under Reverend Bell’s leadership, the church has established the Bethel Community Development Corporation (BCDC). This non-profit corporation is responsible for reaching the social needs of our community. The BCDC instituted a home buying program open to the community that will enable low to moderate-income persons a chance to own their homes. To date 400 potential homebuyers completed home buying classes, 200 people pre-qualified for homes and 50 people purchased new homes. Also, the BCDC started the No Child Left Behind Failure Free Learning Program.
We have a vision for our church through Reverend Bell, our Pastor, which is to expand spiritually in fellowship and in the Word of God. Our vision for our ministry is so large it cannot be contained within the borders and perimeters of our present church home.
God gave Rev. Bell our goals as a covenant body of believers is:
- To worship Christ
- To lead the lost to Christ through evangelism
- To develop the saved through equipping
- To provide fellowship through activities
- To transform society
The growth of our ministries allows the members to play a significant role in the development of the church. Bethel Baptist Church is a 21st century ministry, with a spiritually upbeat worship experience. In 2005, our church purchased 7.03 acres of land so that we, the church will continue to flourish as God has ordained it at a new location still worshipping, praising the Lord and serving God’s people. We are excited about the direction in which the Lord is leading us.