Bethsaida ( beth-say-dah) the house of fisherman. The name of the “church beside the road that lights the path of men”. The church at 3700 Tates Creek Road.
Bethsaida Baptist Church has a rich history. The following gives you a brief glimpse of the legacy of Bethsaida. (For a detailed look at the history of Bethsaida and the Jonestown area, see the book entitled “History of Bethsaida Baptist Church and Jonestown Lexington, Kentucky” written by Sis. Betty Yates Smithers). As we celebrate 153 years, we have come to understand that faith has brought us thus far and it is by faith we will continue to move forward.
The space currently know as Jonestown was originally purchased in 1811 by Samuel S. Wilson. In 1866 Samuel L. Wilson inherited land from his father. In 1881 he sold 50 acres to Thomas Jones and the name Jonesborough was given to the area. Thomas Jones subdivided the land in 1893 and offered it for sale to interested Blacks. The first buyer was Pete Owens. The area was later renamed Jonestown after Thomas Jones. It was in this area that Blacks settled and the first church was built.
In 1933 under the leadership of Rev. Levi J. Johnson the first Homecoming of Bethsaida Baptist Church was started, organized by Sister Helen Ray Smith. The original purpose of homecoming was to help with the finances of the church to buy coal for heating during the winter months and to encourage fellowship.
Bethsaida has been under the leadership of many great leaders who all contributed to the spiritual and physical growth of the church.
In 1982 our current pastor Rev. (Dr.) Bishop Carter III was called to pastor. Rev. Carter has achieved much over the 36 years including some physical accomplishments: church van, various renovations to the church such as a roof, pew covers, pulpit chairs, choir chairs, rugs and tile in the bath and dining room. Purchased a piano and organ and kitchen stove and refrigerator. Under Rev. Carter’s watch, Bethsaida has seen the membership of the church has grown both spiritually and physically with God’s blessings.
In 1983, Vacation Bible School was restarted. The Blackburn Correctional Complex became designated as the Prison Ministry at Bethsaida. In 1993, The Katherine Walker Missionary Society published a cook book entitled “Cooking with Bethsaida “.
In 1995, the church received road front property in exchange for the old school property. August 1995 Groundbreaking ceremonies were held at Bethsaida for the building project that started in 1988.
March 31, 1996 the final Sunday services were held in the “old” Bethsaida Church building. It was Brotherhood Sunday and the Rev. J.D. Jackson and New-Vine Fort Spring were the 4 p.m. guests. Later in the week, prayer services were held as the fixtures and pews were removed from the sanctuary to allow the renovation to begin.
The improvements included: completely renovated sanctuary and a new addition having: new restrooms, choir room, office, and a second floor for Sunday School, and for the first time in Bethsaida’s 128 year history, the church has a steeple. The steeple was raised on Monday, September 23, 1996 and on December 1, 1996 Bethsaida moved back home!!
In 1997, we began to see the fruits of our labor. We had several people to join church with many expressing, for the first time, their desire to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. The first baptism in our renovated building was held on December 15, 1996 using our new baptismal pool.
In 1998, the Executive Committee was formed. This committee is comprised of the heads of each church auxiliary. In 1999, the church was placed on the information superhighway as we started our first web page.
In 2000, our pastor received his Doctorate of Ministry degree from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
As we entered the new millennium, 2001 brought many blessings to our church. Bethsaida’s Tuesday Night Bible Study continued to flourish as more people came to join in the study of God’s word.
Over the years God has provided increase in our church ministry. This increase came when two of our deacons acknowledged their call to preach the gospel! Dea. Rodney Bennett and Dea. Will Howard and Bro. Richard Harless returned home to Bethsaida as a licensed minister. All were ordained in 2008 with Bro. Bennett being called to preach at 2nd Baptist Mayslick. Additionally Lic. Michael Jackson joined the Bethsaida church family to continue his studies under Dr. Carter.
Having associates to share in the undershepherd experience brought forth a new era for Bethsaida. On Sunday October 14, 2002 Bethsaida hosted its first 8:00 am worship service. The associate ministers alternate Sundays allowing them to have opportunity to preach at their home church and allows Dr. Carter to focus on the 11:00 service.
At the end of 2008 Dr. Carter revealed his vision to Build God’s church from the inside out by announcing “Serve, Suffer, Sacrifice—It’s time for Action! Beginning with expanded studies and programs to first encourage spiritual growth, we have now formally entered into a building program to build a “physical” house while continuing to nurture and grow our spiritual houses. “We’ve Come this Far by Faith” and Faith will be the foundation of all we do as we continue Serving, Suffering and Sacrificing to build God’s church.
In 2020 Bethsaida Baptist Church celebrated 153 years of ministry.