A Blessed History
In 1870, the Bethlehem Baptist Church was organized by Rev. Green Medlin. The services were conducted in various homes. This method of worshipping proved to be quite challenging. A Brush Arbor was constructed and the members worshipped there for a while. The Rev. Medlin remained as pastor for 22 years. In 1892, Rev. J. P. Phillips was called and he conducted services in the old school house located at what is now 1188 West Broad. There was still a need for a church facility. Arrangements were made to purchase a lot by Deacons Ben Wyatt, Link Briscoe, and Jerry Bush. Later, Mr. J. H. Wright deeded an acre of land to the church. More land was purchased from Mr. Herman Lawson. The land is located on what is now East Broad St. In 1896, a church building and a parsonage were erected. How happy the members were to have a place to worship God. There was an Amen Corner, a pot bellied stove, and a post in the center of the building; to support the structure. Rev. Phillips remained with the church until 1914 (22yrs.). Rev. Upshaw came and presided for a short time. From 1915 to 1917, Rev. H. T. Wise was the pastor. In 1917, Rev. W. A. Washington came and made a brief stay. He was followed by Rev. Spocks 1918-1919, Rev. Banner 1919-1920. During the period of 1920-1924, it is not clear who led the flock. In 1925, Rev. James Weaver accepted the pastorate of the church. He remained with the congregation until 1930. Rev. Flowers came and stayed until 1931. Rev. E. L. Pulluam came in 1931 and stayed until 1932. He was instrumental in starting a choir. In 1932, Rev. C. C. Carson came and the flock increased. Under his guidance progress was made. The church joined Zion Rest District Association and later the Elm Grove District Association. Rev. Carson remained for nine (9yrs.). In 1941-1943 Rev. C. C. McNeil served as pastor, Rev. N. R. Washington stayed 6 months, Rev. I. L. Smith, 1943-1945, Rev. T. P. Thomas, 1945-1946. In 1946, Rev. L. E. Billingslea accepted the pastorate. Under his guidance the
physical plant was remolded several times. He is credited for leading the initial effort of the development of homes on West Broad which was an unincorporated area called by some ìHarmony Hill.î Also under his leadership there came vibrant church growth and several sons in the ministry. Rev. Billingslea served the church faithfully for 26 years until ill health beset him and he was called home in February of 1972. In May of 1972, Rev. O. V. Hall became the pastor and remained until June of 1975. Under his leadership there came three sons to the ministry. In that year, all liens against the church were cleared.
In December 1975, Rev. C. D. Sammons took the helm of the Old Ship of Zion and directed a safe and progressive voyage. With his deep convictions and spiritual fervor, he aided the members in achieving the aspirations of the late Rev. L. E. Billingslea. During his pastorate the Willie Earl Brown Elementary School was purchased at 1188 W. Broad St. and is now our present worship site. Rev. Sammons served as pastor of this flock until called to pastor the Zion Baptist Church of Dallas, TX in April 1991. Under his leadership there came one son to the ministry. He also led the church through several renovation projects.
In May 1991, with a unanimous vote Rev. Michael A. Evans, Sr. was called to pastor the Bethlehem Church family. He was the youngest pastor ever called to serve at the Bethlehem Church at the tender age of 24 yrs. Since his time of service as the senior pastor, the church has been incorporated, we presently offer oversight to the BBC Education Enrichment Inc., which is a non-profit organization designed to enhance area childrenís ability to study and achieve educational goals. The church has spawned the creation of the Historical West Mansfield Community Development Corporation, a non-profit corporation dedicated to the on-going economic and community development of the West Broad Corridor. Also throughout his pastorate liens against the church have been cleared on several occasions. Pastor Evans has made it clear that as you work for the up-building of Godís kingdom it doesnít matter who gets the credit because, GOD IS THE MAIN ATTRACTION at the Bethlehem Baptist Church. Under his leadership the church has grown both spiritually and numerically. In 2000 the people believed together and completed the construction of the Community Education Center, which serves as an incubator for educational enhancement for residence of Southeast Tarrant County. In that same year the church provided space for the City of Fort Worth's Community Resource Center; providing basic essentials for the well-being of people who have fallen victim to harsh economic times. In 2005 the church began the planning and development process for the erection of the T.M. Moody Gymnatorium, named after Deacon T. M. Moody who served as the Chairman of Deacons under the pastoral leadership of Rev. C.C. Carson, Pastor L.E. Billingslea, Rev. Hall and for a time under Rev. C.D. Sammons. Moody was known as a local trail blazer who led in the fight to desegregate the schools in Mansfield. He was a leader and one of the founders of the Fort Worth City Wide Brotherhood. The facility has served as the temporary worship venue and permanent recreation and community gathering place for church members and community members. Pastor Evans has been entrusted with a vision to advance the West Broad Community beyond its rural heritage to include residential facilities for the Seasoned Saints of our community with the goal of constructing a multi-care facility for senior adults; to include independent living, assisted living and memory care services. Immediate short-term goals include the retirement of the debt on the T.M. Moody facility by 2014 with the hope of constructing of the 1,200 seat worship facility by 2016.
Under the present administration, thousands of dollars have been awarded to worthy high school graduated aspiring to attend college and post-secondary training, our church has expanded the concept of Baptist Training Union to Discipleship Training; an educational program for our children, youth and adult members that have helped to equip people for ministry beyond the walls of the sanctuary. The program has proven to be a source of spiritual strength for our church and community. The Bethlehem Baptist Church is swiftly moving to become a church that is known for her missions and ministry endeavors geared toward meeting the calling of the great commission of our Lord in accordance to Acts 1:8. Since 2000, we have sent missionaries to West Africa, South Africa, Spain, Japan and Austria. Locally we have partnered in the construction of the Caring Place Free Clinic, we developed the Hope House Community Service Network; helping 100ís of people rebuild their lives physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually through our Christian Women's Job Corp, Health Care Ministry. We also partner with the local homeless shelter organizations; We serve together with the Common Ground Community Service Network. We serve our future leaders through our T.M. Moody After School Program and through our recently licensed and accredited Bethlehem Children's Academy. Through our combined efforts God awarded BBC with the privilege to restore dignity to the Old Colored Cemetery, now known as the Mansfield community Cemetery.
Through much humility and recognition of the guiding hand of our Lord and Savior, our future as a fellowship of baptized believers is brighter.
Together we realize that the road will be tough, the battle will be hard fought, but with God, We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. As a unified church body, bound by the Father, challenged by the Holy Spirit, and encouraged by Jesus the Christ, we look forward to tomorrow with great promise. During the span of more than 142 years, the Bethlehem Baptist Church, that had itís beginnings with only a few members continues to serve the Lord.
According to the information given by various persons to the best of their knowledge, the church has been under the leadership of nineteen pastors, including the present administration. May God Bless Bethlehem and may God Bless You!