The History of Bethlehem Baptist Church
of Shady Grove, Arkansas
On April 25, 1891, a small group of prominent Christians met at the Wofford Schoolhouse in Wooster, Arkansas for the purpose of organizing a Baptist church in the area. Beginning on May 24, 1891, at the Lance schoolhouse an assembly of people gathered and formally began the humble beginnings of Bethlehem Baptist Church. On that Sunday morning, Brother Elder P.H. Glover preached from I Corinthians 3:11, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ”. Bethlehem Baptist Church began with forty-two charter members and called Brother G.W. Ford as pastor. Soon after, coming from Pleasant Valley Church, Brother J.B. Davis was accepted as a deacon, and T.F. Clements was elected and ordained. Together they instituted the first leaders of our church.
The first church building was a white plank one-room building. Services were held on the second Sunday of every month and on the Saturday before that regular meeting time. Baptismal services were held in a small stream, Greenbrier Creek and at other churches until a baptistery was completed in 1971. The first baptismal service at Bethlehem was January 24, 1971. Brother Lyndel Allison was the first to be baptized in the new baptistery. From Brother G.W. Ford to Dr. Martin Jameson the church has had thirty-five pastors in service.
In 1960, a new church building was built. It was a concrete block auditorium with three Sunday school rooms. The church building was dedicated on the second Sunday in June of 1961, the date of Bethlehem’s annual homecoming. In 1968 an east wing was added to the building, and in 1974 the west wing was added. In 1981 three acres across the street and a mobile home were purchased for use as a parsonage. Prior to 1991 Bethlehem added the fellowship hall, kitchen, nursery and additional bathrooms. Due to growth in attendance and membership, on February 17, 1999 the church voted and approved unanimously in favor of building a new worship sanctuary. A year later on February 13, 2000, a dedication service was held in the new facility. Groundbreaking on a Family Life Center was held January 18, 2004 and has since been finished.
Bethlehem belonged to the ABA until 1950 when she became a member of the NABA which now is the BMAA. From it’s humble beginning to present, Bethlehem’s ultimate goal has been to reach the lost, to teach the saints, and to remain a true beacon of light in the community.