Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church has made a journey for over 155 years; that has been guided by God’s goodness and grace. The history is rich and fruitful, and has inspired its members to explore the past to gain insight for the present and strength for the future.
In 1860, two devoted and dedicated Christian believers, Brother Isom and Sister Agnes Gilliam-Sims opened the doors of their humble home because of the need to worship. As their leader, Isom Sims, known as “Deak” and the “Water Deacon” baptized the new converts. The known members were: Isom Sims, George Sims, Jack Jones, Nervie Sims-Luke, Ankie James, Tom Luke, Bob Gilliam, Agnes Gilliam-Sims and Ann Boykins.
After emancipation, a “brush arbor” was built which was called the “Block Church”. Later a plot was donated by John Flournoy for a church and cemetery. Woodley Lockett and Phillip Hall were trustee representatives for the church, with Tom Luke as their first pastor from 1865-1866.
In 1918, a frame building was erected and a cornerstone was placed at the church on July 26, 1925. A bell was also purchased and brought to the church by Matt Roach in a wagon from Shreveport.
On April 2, 1946, ten acres of land were purchased by the church from the Dantes family. The church’s name was changed from Bethany Baptist Church and a deed was issued under the name of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church. The church was destroyed by fire on August 27, 1951. Brother Fred Lee, a church member, was awarded the contract as Builder and a red brick church was erected. Bethlehem worshipped in that building from 1953 until 1988.
The present edifice building project began in 1987 with the Entrance and Dedication Service being held September 25, 1988. The church was moved from the corner of West 70th Street and Bert Kouns to its present location 6971 West 70th Street. It is located on a tract of eleven acres that includes a fenced cemetery and an access road that leads through the cemetery.
On January 16, 1999, Bethlehem became a legal entity and was incorporated. Since that time that church as experienced a number of accomplishments and growth. This has included several major upgrades to the facilities including: permanent siding added to the entire church, new carpet installed in the sanctuary, parking lot re-stripping, the marquee was updated and large flower beds were added for grounds beautification. In 2012, a sound room was built and new digital sound equipment was purchased.
Reverend Dr. Montrell Whitaker was elected as our Pastor on January 31, 2015. He was installed March 29, 2015. The current church officers are: Dr. Montrell Whitaker, Pastor and Deacons: Eddie Byrd, Lonnie Corner, William (Clay) Hill, Exie Russell, Anthony Thomas, James Thomas and C.F. Williams. Under his leadership the church has upgraded its multi-media capabilities by adding TV monitors and iMac technology for viewing during services. Church renovation projects are underway including a library and the upgrade of the computer lab. He has also spearheaded several reclamation and outreach initiatives which have led to consistent church growth.
For over 155 years, Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church has stood as a symbol of God’s goodness, grace and mercy. Let us continue to obey God, to recognize His holiness, majesty and respond in loving obedience to His leadership.
As we look to the future, we pray God our Father, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will continue to guide us with His goodness, and grace for many more years to come.
Tuesday Night's in the Truth
February 9th - March 22nd at 6pm
Pastor's 1st Anniversary
March 20th at 10:30am & 3pm
6971 West 70th Street, Shreveport, LA 71129
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