History of Bethesda
In February of 1976, L. Paul Prather, a Southern Baptist pastor in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, was miraculously healed of terminal cancer. Following his miraculous and complete healing, L. Paul and his wife, Alice, left the Southern Baptist denomination and joined others to create a new church.
On July 18, 1977, 62 people met under a tent on member David Lee’s farm in Clark County. This was the first meeting of what was later to become Faith Full Gospel Church. Through the years, Faith Church met in a variety of venues, including L. Paul and Alice’s home on Winchester Road as well as the basement of the Farm Bureau Insurance building on Winsor Drive in Mount Sterling.
Eventually, the Lord opened up a way for the church to buy an old farmhouse and two acres of land three miles west of Mount Sterling on Winchester Road near where Bethesda now stands. In May 1978, the church met at this farmhouse for the first time after a wall had been removed, making a room large enough for meetings.
At the newly created church, L. Paul preached, led the Bible studies and often led the singing. Other members played piano, sang, or taught classes. Many speakers came to the new church to celebrate its first anniversary in 1978, including June Rollings, a local television personality, who shared her testimony.
On Easter Sunday 1979, Faith Church held a building fund day and ground breaking ceremonies for the construction of a new building. Twelve men, including L. Paul Prather, Paul David Prather, Harold Craycraft, and Don Sword, were on hand for the ground breaking. In October 1979, work was started on a new building. J. W. Maze dug the basement, and many church members offered their carpentry, masonry, construction, painting and decorating skills.
On October 24, 1980, the members of Faith Church carried their chairs from the old farmhouse to their new building for their first meeting. For those faithful members who had met under tents and in basements and in private homes, having a new building was a blessing. It was truly the house that the Lord built.
From 1980 until 1982, Paul David served as assistant pastor with his father, L. Paul. But in 1982, he was called to be the pastor at Pentecostal Grace on the corner of Prewitt Pike and Winchester Road in Mount Sterling.
From 1982 until 1996, Paul David and his wife, Renee, ministered at Pentecostal Grace. By 1995, Pentecostal Grace had experienced such a growth in attendance, they were having trouble finding parking spaces for all the members on Sunday mornings.
“Daddy had been pushing for a merger of the two churches for a while, but I didn’t know if that was the Lord’s will,” Paul said. Paul and Renee drove around many weekends looking for property for a new building for Pentecostal Grace. “We looked near the bypass where Rolling Hills Church of Christ now stands, and we looked near the Industrial Park also, but I felt like we needed to be out near Winchester Road.”
After much prayer, meditation, and discussion, Paul and Renee still had not come to any kind of definite direction about where to build. Then one morning Paul David received a revelation from God.
“I had just woken up. I was still lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, and I had a revelation that the merger was the Lord’s will,” said Paul David. Paul called L. Paul and Alice to tell them of the revelation. They immediately drove over to Paul’s house to pray and rejoice in the providence of the Lord. Pentecostal Grace agreed to move their members to Faith Church’s building and start a new ministry.
When the two churches merged, membership shot up to 150, and as many as 120 people were in attendance on a typical Sunday morning. The praise and worship teams from the two churches joined to create a 15-member band with a horn section, several guitarists and bass players, numerous drummers, and seven male and female vocalists. “There were times we were just falling over each other on the stage,” said Stacy Lyons, Bethesda’s praise and worship team leader.
After the merger, members built another twenty feet onto the building to provide additional room for seating and classrooms downstairs. L. Paul and Paul David shared pastor duties, preaching every other service and teaching Bible studies in their homes.
The first joint meeting of the new church was in May 1996, and a prophet and evangelist from Nashville named John Rohrer preached that first sermon. He preached about the healing at the pool of Bethesda from chapter five of the Gospel of John.
According to the biblical story, an angel would occasionally trouble the water of the pool, and the first person to enter the water after it was stirred would be healed. A great number of invalids lay about the pool hoping for a miracle. A man who had been paralyzed for 38 years suffered nearby when Jesus approached and asked him if he wanted to get well. Of course, the man explained. But he had no one to help him in the pool when the water is stirred. And Jesus said, “Rise! Take up thy bed and walk!”
As John Rohrer preached about the miracle of healing at the pool, Rohrer claimed that the newly merged church, combining both Faith and Grace, would be a church of healing, just like the pool of Bethesda. L. Paul, Paul David and other leaders had been having a hard time deciding on a name for the new church. After Rohrer’s sermon, they christened the new church Bethesda.
Over the years, there have been many changes. In 1999, L. Paul entered semi-retirement, but continued to serve as Pastor Emeritus in charge of wisdom, teaching and benevolence.
One of the prophecies given to Bethesda is that it is a church that teaches teachers, and many evangelists, preachers and pastors have gone out from Bethesda to start their own churches. Many members that now serve as pastors or people the pews in a variety of charismatic churches in Montgomery County came through Faith Church, Pentecostal Grace or Bethesda.
However, as all churches do, Bethesda experienced a season of heartache. In 2000, Paul’s wife, Renee, who had served faithfully as the praise and worship team leader and ministered by her husband’s side, was diagnosed with inoperable breast cancer. She was given two months to live. Through her will and faith, Renee lived five more years. In 2003, L. Paul’s wife, Alice, was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. In March, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in March, and she died two months later. And on October 2, 2012, two days before his 82nd birthday, L. Paul also went home to be with Jesus.
Today Bethesda is smaller than it once was. It enjoys a solid membership of 85 people with Bible classes for all age groups. We have an eight-member praise and worship band, and a thriving youth group, The Bethesda Believers. We also have a strong deacon and elder organizational base who supports several ministries including the Jail Ministry, the Ladies Group, and the Haiti Vision. Twelve percent of our offerings go to support the needy in Montgomery County and toward missions worldwide, and we are currently embarking on a ministry to provide a school for children in Haiti through the John and Joyce Hanson’s mission, International Outreach Missions. We hope to stay faithful to the lesson of God’s grace and unconditional acceptance.
“I’ve seen a lot of churches start and fail. I’ve seen a lot of preachers come and go, but 30 years later, this church has stood the test,” says Paul David. “God gave us a message and we’ve preached it. The church is still here, and we’re still standing. I believe what Jesus said, ‘It is he who endures to the end who will be delivered.’ ”