The Bethel Baptist Church was organized on July 25, 1961, and met in an unfinished addition to the carport at 4655 Apple Cove in Memphis, Tennessee. The house at that address was used as the pastor’s home and as an educational facility for the first sixteen months. On September 1, 1961, Dr. Roy Westmoreland came to Bethel as its first pastor and was paid the meager salary of $ 25.00 per week. The attendance on his first Sunday was thirty-two.
His dear wife, Mrs. LaVerne Westmoreland was a vital part of the ministry of Bethel Baptist Church, as well as their three sons, Monty, Dr. Ron, and Timmy. They had left a thriving work in Arkansas with a better than average salary to take this work because he felt the call of God to do so. No one but the Westmoreland family can know the hardships of such a move, but the blessings of God on their lives as well as the lives of thousands of church members will only be revealed in eternity. Untold thousands have been saved and baptized either in Bethel Baptist Church or through its outreach ministries and many have surrendered to the special call of God and are now serving the Lord in various parts of the world.
1961 – Bethel Baptist Church was organized, and the membership reached sixty-two.
1962 – The membership amounted to 115 and the first auditorium was completed with a seating capacity of about four hundred. Educational space was also provided in this building.
1963 – The membership reached 209 and the church purchased an additional three lots on the east side of Apple Cove for parking.
1964 – There were 290 members and an adjoining educational building was erected to the auditorium. The first church bus was purchased.
1965 – The membership reached 389 and the house at 4634 Apple Cove was purchased for educational space.
1966 – There were 540 members and the auditorium was remodeled so as to seat another 125.
1967 – The membership grew to 766 and the church purchased additional lots on the west side of Apple Cove.
1968 – The membership is now 995 and a new auditorium is erected with a seating capacity of 850. The church remodeled the old auditorium for educational space and purchased a plot of land behind the church property to provide parking for growth.
1969 – Membership totaled 1252. The church acquired four lots on the south side of Shelby Drive and extended the bus ministry to three buses.
1970 – The church grew to 1575 members and bought four acres of land northwest of the present property for future expansion. The church also purchased the two story house on the corner of Shelby Drive and Apple Cove and increased the bus ministry to eight buses.
1971 – The membership is now 1740 when the church erected the new 17,000 square feet educational building and instituted Bethel Baptist School, kindergarten through twelfth grade.
1972 – On the eleventh anniversary in October, Bethel Baptist Church had a high day of 2389. Two months later in December, this record was broken with 2501 in attendance. The bus fleet was increased to 20 buses.
1973 – The membership grew to 2170 making this the greatest year of growth in the history of Bethel Baptist Church. Tri-State Baptist College was instituted.
1974 – Bethel Baptist Church erected the new high school building and gymnasium as Bethel Baptist School grows to over six hundred students.
1975 – The first Thanksgiving offering of $ 4000.00 was received and would be continued on for many years. These unbelievable offerings helped pay off indebtedness on our property in the future. Many miraculous testimonies can be given by members of Bethel for their grace giving and what God did in their lives. The Thanksgiving offering idea has been expanded to many other independent Baptist Churches as a help to their ministries.
1978 – The church purchased five acres of freeway property at the corner of Goodman Road and I-55 for $125,000.
1987 – Dr. Ron Westmoreland was called as pastor, and Dr. Roy Westmoreland became the co-pastor. Dr. Ron Westmoreland is a tremendous Bible expositor and is a great contender of the faith. His wife, Mrs. Kim Westmoreland is a great asset to her husband and to Bethel Baptist Church as well as the originator of our yearly Ladies Conferences.
1988 – Ninety- six acres of land at the corner of Goodman Road (Hwy. 302) and Hwy. 301 was purchased for future growth of Bethel Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Schools, and Tri-State Baptist College. These ninety-six acres were paid for with the sale of two and a half acres of the Goodman Road and I-55 property.
1989 – The old Bethel Baptist Church property was completely paid off and the mortgage burned!
1994 – Bethel launches out in faith to accomplish her goal of building debt free on the new property in Walls, Mississippi.
1995 – Construction began in March on the new facilities on the ninety-six acres at 6001 Goodman Road, with Bro. Monty Westmoreland as the general contractor, donating his time and resources and not charging the church any money, which saved the church thousands of dollars to be applied to materials needed for the completion of the building. After a four month delay due to inclement weather and other detainment, the concrete slab was poured and the official ground breaking took place on July 2, 1995.
1996 – The sale of the last two and a half acres of the Goodman Road and I-55 property was sold for $425,000. This money was used to continue the new building debt free.
1997 – In March, the downstairs part of the new building was finished, and part of the upstairs, with a cost of $1,400,000, so the church could begin making the move from Memphis to Walls. Hallelujah! Wednesday, August 25 saw a great caravan of cars and buses travel from the old property in Whitehaven of Memphis to the new property in Walls. On Sunday, August 29, the first service is held at the new property in Walls with a new vision to reach DeSoto County with the Gospel. Two months after our move to DeSoto County, Dr. Roy Westmoreland graduates to Heaven. He had served Bethel Baptist Church faithfully for thirty-six years.
1998 – A spirit of revival spreads through the church as a great host of soul-winners hit the streets of DeSoto County and God brings in a great harvest of souls. Salvations and baptisms begin to be an every week occurrence.
1999 – Tri-State Baptist College dormitories are completed (the LaVerne Westmoreland Ladies Dorm and the Carl Hatch Men’s Dorm) with the potential of housing for forty-eight students.
2000 – This year brings construction to the second floor of our main building. This allows expansion for college classrooms and adult Sunday School classes.
2001 – The addition of a bus and maintenance facility. At this time, Bethel Baptist Church has a fleet of five buses, two shuttle buses, and two vans. This year saw the beginning of the Baptist Heritage Conferences, to give honor to our Baptist Heritage. As a result of our conference, many regional conferences were begun. This year, Mrs. LaVerne Westmoreland was promoted to Heaven. Mrs. Westmoreland was the wife of our first pastor, and led the Sunday School of Bethel Baptist Church for forty years, as well as being known as America’s greatest lady soul-winner.
2003 – The Family Life Center opens with 21,000 square feet of space and a cost of $ 500,000. Paid for through the Thanksgiving Offerings, this facility has hosted many banquets, church services, and ball games for Bethel Baptist School and Tri-State Baptist College.
2004 – On our forty-third anniversary, we had a great Homecoming Service with an attendance of 2,582, and Dr. Carl Hatch preaching. This attendance broke the all time record under Dr. Roy Westmoreland in 1972. We saw 148 saved on this day with 33 baptized. Tri-State Baptist College has a record year of ninety students enrolled in classes.
2005 – Again, a new record on our Homecoming Service occurred this year with 2690 people in attendance. We had 177 saved and 46 baptized, which were both records. Our Thanksgiving Offering brought in $ 230,094 and helped pave the way for the beginning of a new auditorium for Bethel Baptist Church.
2006 – The church breaks ground for a new 60,000 square feet, one thousand seat, debt free auditorium and is greatly helped with a record Thanksgiving Offering of $ 264,121.
2009 – Dr. Carl Hatch, our long time evangelist friend, who preached for us for thirty years was promoted to heaven. Construction continued on the new auditorium on a debt free basis.
2010 – Bethel Baptist Church has had souls saved every week and baptisms every week through 2010 since coming to the new property. We have had fifteen years of construction and with the completion of our new $4,000,000 auditorium, we will have 143,000 square feet of facilities. Because of the giving of our membership and the Thanksgiving offerings, our church has been able to build debt free. Bethel Baptist Church was privileged to host the first “Passing the Mantle “ Conference.
2011 to present – The blessings of God continue to fall on Bethel Baptist Church, a church built on great preaching and soul-winning. We have had the privilege of hearing two wonderful pastors preach to us each week plus some of the greatest preachers of America have come our way. Because Bethel Baptist Church believes in church the way it used to be, and in doing things according to God’s Word, the future continues to look bright.