Bethlehem Baptist Church had its beginning in the summer of 1918, when a group of believers met together for worship services under a brush arbor on Mr. Russ Jean’s property. In 1920, they began meeting in an old store building owned by Mr. Bryant. At that time, there were only two other churches serving the area, which makes Bethlehem the third oldest church in the community. They later relocated across the street from Mr. Jean’s to an acre of land on Will Holt Road, donated by Mr. John L. Honea. On December 19, 1920, eight charter members and two new members organized the church.
In 1924, Rev. W. H. Malone donated an acre of land on Elkwood Section Road. The membership erected a new building that still stands today. It was not until 1948 that electricity was installed. In 1967, they were able to add a vestibule, four classrooms, butane heat, a baptistery, indoor restrooms, a nursery, and air conditioning. A pastorium was purchased on Butter & Egg Road in 1965, but was later sold in 1975. The church bought a house and 26 acres where the present church building stands. Thirteen acres of this land was sold one year later to clear the debt on the property.
Several determined members, led by Mr. John Jones, had a vision for a new, larger building on the land and they made a covenant, “Together We Build,” in 1981. Four years after the groundbreaking ceremony of August 23, 1982, after much hard work, and unwavering faith, their vision was realized. The first service was held Easter Sunday, April 7, 1985.
From 1985 until 1992, Bethlehem continued an evangelistic outreach to the surrounding community. In the spring of 1992, with a renewed commitment to the power of prayer, our congregation began to explode with numerical and spiritual growth. With overflowing worship service crowds and attendance in Sunday School swelling to over 300 members, Bethlehem once again took a step out on faith. In the fall of 1992, the church voted to go forward on a giant project of building a Family Life Center, which included 15 additional Sunday School classrooms. After months of hard work, our contractors turned over the keys to our building in the fall of 1993.
In 1996, we continued to grow in membership. Because of this continued growth we moved from our 300 seat sanctuary to our gymnasium which seats 550. Our Sunday School finished the year with an average of 173. In 1997, a full praise band was formed with an overhead projection system was added. Our Sunday School finished the year with an average of 203. In 1998, our numbers continued to rise as we expanded our children’s and youth ministry. Our Sunday School finished the year with an average of 223.
As 1999 rolled in our Vision-Steering ministry team led the church to enlarge our parking lot and to build a storage facility on-site. The storage facility was built by volunteers, while the new parking lot was being prepared. In the fall of 1999, our new parking lot was completed. The top-level parking could now accommodate 163 spaces. The church added new lighting to the parking area. Our Sunday School finished the year with an average of 251.
The year 2000 was an incredible year of spiritual and numerical growth. On Easter Sunday of 2000, we became debt-free and burned the note for our “Sanctinasium”. In October, an Education Minister was added to our full-time staff. Our Sunday School finished the year
with an average of 287.
In 2001, we broke ground on our new Family Life Center. It included a full size commercial kitchen, youth café and game room, and much needed classrooms and office space. We expanded our parking lot(s) again to accommodate our growing crowds. Our Sunday School finished the year with an average of 359! 2002 was a blessed year for evangelism! We baptized 119 souls and saw another two hundred joined the congregation. We added another full-time staff member to help with our growing ministry. Our Sunday School finished the year with an average of 407! In 2003, 132 souls were baptized, and an additional 115 were added to our membership. Our average attendance in Sunday School was 433.
In 2004, we baptized 105 souls and saw another 119 join our membership either by statement of faith or by letter. Our Sunday School attendance continued to climb with an average of 499. 2005 was another great year! We added a Church Administrator to our full-time staff. Ninety- three souls were baptized into our fellowship with another 83 joining by statement of faith or by letter. Our average Sunday School attendance climbed to 544.
In 2006 we had a total of 111 new additions to our congregation of which 46 were baptized. Our average SundaySchool attendance was 506. During 2007, we were able to acquire 4.9 acres of land, which adjoins the northwest corner of our property. Lon Ostrzycki became our Senior Pastor in June. We had 260 additions to our church family with 209 joining by baptism. In 2008, a Children’s Pastor was placed on full-time staff for the first time. We continue to enjoy growth in our children’s department through outreach ministries such as Awana & VBS.
In 2009, Bethlehem Christian Academy’s doors were opened to children 3yrs - 4th grade to not only learn academics, but also to learn God’s Word on a daily basis. As we reflect over these past 92 years, the church has had 17 pastors and made many changes to meet the needs of our growing community. From its earliest days, believers made their way to Bethlehem Baptist Church –first by foot and covered wagon to a converted store building, and today by automobile and our very own church buses. With continued faith, sacrifice, and prayers of its members, the spiritual future of the membership of BBC promises to provide blessings to our community.