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The first pastor of Bethel was Phillip Blair Jones, a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the spring of 1962, Jones placed an ad in the newspaper seeking employment upon his graduation in May. The ad read, “Young seminary graduate wishes to start a church.” At the same time, the organizers of Bethel were seeking a pastor for their fledgling church. They found Jones could “preach very well, teach extremely well and play the piano.” They called him as pastor when he completed his classes, and he preached at the first Sunday service for the church on June, 3, 1962. He was hired on a part-time basis because the families (less than 20) could not afford full time pay. Also, he intended to return to the seminary in October of that year to continue his studies.
In the fall of 1962, a search committee was formed to find a full-time pastor, and Ed Blum, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, was offered the pulpit beginning January 1, 1963. Thus began a long association with Dallas Seminary that lasted through the 1990’s and supplied Bethel with another senior pastor and almost all of their subsequent associate pastors, youth ministers, and also many visiting professors who filled the pulpit during vacations and special events.
During his tenure at Bethel, Ed Blum was awarded his Doctor of Theology from Dallas Seminary, and in 1970 resigned his position with the church to become the Associate Professor of New Testament Theology at the seminary. A search committee was again formed to seek his replacement. Dr. Blum recommended his friend, Dr. Robert A. Tolson, who at the time was teaching at Philadelphia College of the Bible. Ed and Bob were fellow students at Bob Jones University and also at Dallas Seminary. In addition, Bob had won the seminary’s preaching award and had been a missionary in Africa.
In July of 1971, Dr. Robert A. Tolson became Bethel’s Senior Pastor and was a faithful servant of the Lord for thirty of the church’s fifty years until his retirement in 2001. His personal integrity, his commitment to studying the Word and his strong teaching from the pulpit, helped to mature the body of believers at Bethel as they applied their knowledge and served the Lord in all walks of life. The majority of Bethel’s growth occurred during the years that Dr. Tolson served as pastor.
In 2001 a search committee which was formed upon the announcement of Dr. Tolson’s retirement recommended the hiring of Dr. Michael Boys, the son of missionaries and a graduate of Masters Seminary in California, as Bethel’s next Senior Pastor. He began his tenure on September 1, 2002 and served until November, 2011, when his resignation was requested by the Elders of the church.
By God’s providence a former Associate Pastor at Bethel, Dwain Camp, who moved from Houston in 1991 to pastor the Dhahran Protestant Fellowship in Saudi Arabia, returned to Bethel in 2011. He agreed to become Interim Pastor in December of that year and served in that position until the Pastoral Search Committee (formed in January 2012) had concluded it's search in 2013.
After a 16 month search, in June 2013, the Pastoral Search Committee unanimously recommended and the Session unanimously agreed to call Wayne Smith for the Senior Pastor position at Bethel Church and was unanimously confirmed by Bethel's members on June 2, 2013.
A complete listing of pastors, associates and ministers of the church and the years of their service follows.
Many of Bethel’s Associate Pastors became Senior Pastors in other churches. This list includes:
The Session of Elders is responsible for the spiritual life of the church. They are the shepherds and policy makers for the body. Elected by the congregation, they serve a 5 year term on the Session, then rotate off but are considered elders for life. At the request of the sitting Session, they may return for an additional term or terms. Qualifications for elders and deacons are enumerated in I Timothy 3. Presently ten men and the interim pastor serve on the Session.
Over the years, the deacons have played a number of roles primarily focused around support and maintenance of the facilities. Early on, the deacons were responsible for taking care of all building maintenance from plumbing problems to maintaining the landscaping in addition to the Sunday morning activities. But in the 1990’s, staff was hired to help ease the load on the deacons with the addition of Jim Smith to manage the facilities and Javier Quintanilla and his team to clean and maintain the buildings. As such, the deacons have focused on the major activities of opening and closing the facilities on Sunday mornings, Wednesday summer Bible studies, and other special events. Sunday morning is when most of activity for the deacons occurs. In addition to opening and closing the facilities, they prepare and maintain coffee, manage the offering process and counting of the funds, serve as greeters to supplement the greeting staff, and serve as the go-to resource for any additional needs that arise. In addition to Sunday mornings, the deacons serve as hands and feet to set up and take down the facilities for major events such as VBS, conferences, and the Christmas pageant.
While the deacons are focused on supporting Bethel through handling facility needs, they also are actively involved in growing together and deepening their relationship with Christ. This is accomplished through the monthly deacon meetings where the deacons have breakfast, have a devotional, and discuss upcoming church needs. New to 2012, the deacons have also been meeting together under the leadership of Dwain Camp to have a weekly time of study, scripture memory, and sharing life together as part of a spiritual discipleship program. Deacons are elected by the congregation and serve a three year term.
Jim & Patti Fox, Rodney Bohls (Chairman), Mary Kay Coleman, Jonathan Craft, Norman Crook, Bill & Deanna Gibson, Rick Hadley, Cathy Oliver, Linda Robinson
Special thanks to Dick Denney, Bethel elder since 1969, for his written history of the early church and to the numerous Bethelites who contributed facts, figures, and remembrances for the compilation of this report.
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Address: 825 Bering Drive, Houston, TX 77057 [map]
Tel: 713.782.8948 Fax: 832.202.2996
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