Bethlehem Temple Missionary Baptist Church History
At Bethlehem Temple, with GOD as our guide, we have labored hard in the past, not that we might boast of any achievements, but with the hope that we might rescue virtuous actions by His wisdom. GOD has truly blessed us; he is the author of every season and the architect of the world. While we revel in acquiring another year, we are humbled by the ministry He has given us as a body of baptized believers. The history of Bethlehem Temple as set forth below, is a testament and long living demonstration of how the Holy Spirit has led and guided us throughout this journey. We look forward to seeing how the Lord will continue to lead and guide us as we ‘Lock Arms’ in unison and move forward into our future years, rooted in the word, with his grace and mercy upon us. To God be the Glory!
On March 9, 1969 at 4:00pm, the Bethlehem Temple Missionary Baptist Church was organized. Serving as the moderator was the Reverend Tremble with a council of four ministers, Rev. Albert Listenbee, Rev. Hugh Jackson, Rev. Arthur Woods, and Rev. George Hunt. There were thirty-five people in attendance for the movement. The charter members were: Mrs. Willie Smith, her daughter, Jennifer Smith her sons Jonathan and Jeffery Smith as well as Mr. Frank Boyd. The church being led by the Holy Spirit, recommended Rev. J. C. Smith serve as Pastor indefinitely. Mr. Frank Boyd served as the first Deacon. The church was located at 147th and Page Street in Harvey, Illinois.
Within three years of being at our location on Page Street, GOD began to move and blessed us with more workers in the vineyard. Our primary focus has always been the command issued in the ‘Great Commission’ and one of our biggest blessings has been the number of souls that were added down through the years. Bethlehem Temple has seen its membership grow consistently and at a steady pace since inception. We are prayerful that the Lord will continue to direct the paths of those who come across our threshold and that their passion for Christ convicts them to make Bethlehem Temple their church home. Although down through the years, members have come and gone, relocated and/or visited other congregations, they always find their way back home to Bethlehem Temple and/or consider ‘BT’, their home away from home.
A tremendous amount of dedication and service on the part of the leadership and membership has been portrayed over the years. This is evidenced by the number of souls added as well as by the numerous Associate Ministers licensed, ordained and currently serving with Bethlehem Temple. This is further evidenced by those who have been called to the office of Pastor under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. J. C. Smith and the many ministries established at Bethlehem Temple. We are grateful and thankful for the laborers who support those ministries on an ongoing basis.
In April 1972, the church moved to 150th and Paulina Street in Harvey, Illinois. GOD eventually blessed the church to purchase the entire block from Paulina to Marshfield Street. Renovation of the premises were conducted three times which we eventually outgrew. In 1977, He blessed us to begin our Transportation Ministry. Over the years, BT has purchased multiple buses to continue the work in the community by providing transportation to members, visitors and friends in need who wish to join us in fellowship. By the grace of GOD, we were able to burn the 150th and Paulina mortgage in December, 1982. Praise the Lord, He has done great things!
GOD has truly made himself known to Bethlehem Temple throughout its journey. On Sunday, June 4, 1989, ground breaking ceremonies were held at 147th and Ashland for the new Bethlehem Temple Missionary Baptist Church Complex. Our ultimate prayer and dream was for a larger facility as we moved forward in GOD’s Kingdom building ministry. Thank GOD on Saturday October 26, 1991 we were able to cut the ribbon and march into our new facility. We held our first services on Sunday, October 27, 1991.
In 1995, the Bethlehem Temple Community Development Corporation was organized and in May 1998, the ground-breaking ceremonies were held for the Bethlehem Village Housing Complex. In 2000, Bethlehem Temple Northwest in Elk Grove Village was organized. In the same year, Ashland Avenue from 147th to 159th street in Harvey, Illinois was renamed to Reverend Dr. J. C. Smith Drive by the city of Harvey, Illinois in recognition of Pastor Smith’s contribution to the community.
In March of 2011, Pastor Smith visited Monrovia, Liberia when invited by Pastor Wallah Wilsitoe. They established a strong relationship which led to Bethlehem Temple partnering with Pastor Wilsitoe and the St. Paul Baptist church on many initiatives in Africa. Bethlehem Temple provided support and prayer to the people of his community and the surrounding areas. In 2016, in recognition of the work on behalf of Pastor Smith and the Bethlehem Temple family, Pastor Wilsitoe led an initiative to create the Rev. Dr. J. C. Smith Academy. This school will be used to educate children and pastors in Africa. The ground breaking began in 2017, and the anticipated completion is in the fall of 2018. Through Pastor Smith’s outreach ministry, GOD has continued to bless Bethlehem Temple and we are truly honored to have reached other corners of the world through ministry.
Because his years were full of life, the Bethlehem Temple church family deems it right and proper to honor his life and legacy continually. In July 2017 Bethlehem Temple cut the ribbon on “Rev. Dr. J.C. Smith Legacy Library and also started the Rev. Dr. J.C. Smith Garden. The BT family is aware that our history can’t be told without honoring his labor. We are where we are spiritually, and we worship where we worship physically because of his faithfulness to GOD and his love for GOD’s people. We thank GOD for the Rev. Dr. J. C. Smith whom will continue to live on in our hearts forever. We will always love and cherish the time we had with him and take comfort in knowing that he led us for 47 years from infancy through years of growth and his legacy will live on forever.
As we embark on our BIG 50th year in the ministry, we will be forever grateful to Pastor Smith for laying the foundation, nurturing it and preparing his son, the Rev. Jeffery L. Smith to become our Pastor and Shepherd. Rev. Jeffery L. Smith was received as Pastor on November 6, 2016 and was officially installed on December 11, 2016. We are confident that he will continue to lead us forward as a guiding light as we journey towards greater works in GOD’s kingdom.
GOD has called us to do great things and we collectively move toward the ministry we’ve been commissioned to do. For we are “co-laborers together with GOD” and “commissioned to serve”.
To God be the Glory!