THE BETHEL CHURCH
THE EARLY YEARS
In 1949, Richmond Heights was established as a community in the South Dade area. It was the first and largest private housing development built exclusively for African American veterans of World War II and was one of the first preplanned residential areas for African Americans in the country. Frank and Mary Martin (Richmond Heights’ founders) facilitated not only the creation of the African American’s Shangri-La, but also the creation of a community identity in the Spirit.
May 4, 1951, was a profound day in the spirit-realm. Bethel Missionary Baptist Church was founded by four men guided by the Holy Spirit. Reverends Butler, Grant, Tanner and Bailey embraced a “charge to keep” and glorify God by establishing this great institution. Rev. W.H. Faison was called for pastoral leadership in 1953. With a membership of 104, services were now being held in the public building on Pinkston Drive. At the termination of Rev. Faison’s leadership in March of 1955, Rev. L. Ross was called to pastoral leadership. Meeting the membership with eagerness, Rev. Ross expressed a great desire to build an edifice for worship. Ground breaking occurred May 4, 1958. Pastor Ross and the 183 members of Bethel marched down Lincoln Boulevard into its first edifice at our current location, 14440 Lincoln Boulevard, Miami, Florida 33186.
While the city of Miami was in the middle of political unrest as a result of the civil rights movement, school desegregation, race riots and other civil disturbances, Bethel was in transition as a church and social institution. In 1969, Pastor Charles Walker Sr. was called to the pastorate and began “expository preaching” and teaching of the Word of God. Under his leadership, Bethel underwent some changes within the spiritual and physical body of the church. The church was renovated to include a large sanctuary, fellowship hall, 12 classrooms, a recording room, 2 offices, a conference room and a prayer room. Pastor Walker instituted the church motto, “The Whole Word for the Whole World.” The growth continued at Bethel as Pastor Deerwood Hunter served as pastor from 1984 to 1989. During this time, the church celebrated a mortgage burning for several pieces of property owned by the ministry.
THE BEGINNING OF CHANGE
In 1990, Bethel experienced a fresh and powerful wind of change as our current pastor Apostle Carlos L. Malone, Sr. accepted the call as spiritual leader at Bethel. During his first year, Bethel’s membership experienced exponential growth increasing by 748 members. The following year brought many workshops, seminars, and classes designed to fortify and nurture the spiritual man.
In February 1993, Bishop Malone and the Bethel Family watched as the demolition of the old structure signified a new phase in the history of Bethel. Throughout the construction phase, worship services were held at Richmond Middle School. During this time, Bethel continued to experience the blessings of God. On October 9, 1994 the Bethel family once again marched down Lincoln Boulevard into a new edifice followed by dynamic Dedicatory Services held November 16 -20, 1994.
Bethel continued reaching for excellence in God. The Bethel Ministry evolved to meet the needs of the local body and the surrounding communities without compromising the Word of God. Being challenged by the Holy Spirit to address the needs of the incarcerated, homeless and downtrodden, the Bethel Outreach Center was launched. A duplex was renovated and transformed into temporary housing for the homeless. Through the dramatic arts, Bethel’s evangelism efforts were transformed by the stage productions of Jesus for the People (Easter Production) and O Come Let Us Adore Him (Christmas Production). Through these outreach efforts, over 1,000 persons accepted Jesus. Bethel has spearheaded many ministries designed to give God glory including: the Ronald C. Wearen Summer Camp, a safe, fun alternative for summer time activities for youth; and, Annual Youth Conferences to encourage and edify youth from all of South Dade.
As we entered the millennium and our new season of transition and growth, Apostle Malone further heightened our awareness regarding the Kingdom of God. This season of change not only touched the lives of the Bethel Family but, changed the direction of the ministry…no longer were we going to a new level in God, we went to a new dimension. The church name was changed to “The Bethel Church” no longer being identified by a religious demonination, but by our God ordained purpose. The elevation of Vision and corporate purpose led to the ordination of additional Elders to assist in the establishment of Kingdom Order. The ranks of the ministerial staff also have increased through the Samuel Group, training and impartation program for those called to the ministry. The Bethel Church has weathered many storms of adversity but continues to achieve greater success!
For sixty years, The Bethel Church has labored together to bring God’s Vision for the church to fruition. The Vision speaks to the hearts of the people: to acknowledge and accept their call to evangelize; to study the Word of God; to talk to God through prayer; to develop an intimate relationship with God; to worship and praise God; and, to buildup the Kingdom of God. Apostle Carlos L. Malone, Sr. has led The Bethel Church with great courage and is one of the most anointed, preaching, teaching, and gifted shepherds. We are blessed to have him as our pastor; we thank God for him. The Bethel Church gives glory and honor to God for sustaining us for sixty years. We are resolved to press onward in accomplishing God’s Kingdom agenda. We praise and glorify our Father in all that we achieve!!