Bethany Church, one of Louisiana’s largest churches, just got a little bit bigger, opening its Mid City church, with several hundred people worshipping at Baton Rouge Community College.

The new Mid City church, which launched Sept. 20, utilizes BRCC’s Magnolia Theatre and Performing Arts Pavilion for the main worship services at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sundays, and children and youth meet in the building’s Academic Learning Center’s classrooms.

Bethany’s lead pastor, the Rev. Jonathan Stockstill, said Baton Rouge is blessed with many “amazing churches” but in a city this size, there is always room for another church.

“We believe that there is still much need and room for people to hear and know Christ, that is why we decided to start the new campus in the middle of our city,” Stockstill said of the Florida Boulevard location. “We are so grateful for the opportunity to meet in BRCC’s Magnolia Theatre.”

Bethany is a nondenominational, multi-site church that serves about 10,000 people at large campuses in Baker and southeast Baton Rouge near Siegen Lane. A Bethany Spanish church meets in the south campus’ Welcome Center.

Last year, Bethany expanded into Livingston Parish, using the Walker High School gym for services attended by about 1,000 people on Sundays.

The Mid City church, led by Pastors Dustin and Kristin West, is modeled after the Livingston site where an army of volunteers meet very early Sunday morning to unload a trailer full of tables, chairs, banners and enough sound and video equipment to produce a high-tech, contemporary worship experience. After the services, everything is all taken down and stored until the next week.

“It’s really going great,” said Dustin West after a recent Sunday service. “We have a lot of young families, a lot of excitement.”

An accomplished singer and musician, Dustin West served as worship leader at the South Campus for the past several years and heads the worship department for the entire Bethany ministry. He said he looks forward to preaching, but he won’t have to very often because Jon Stockstill’s sermons are beamed to big screens at the Livingston and Mid City sites from either the Baker or South campuses.

“We’re between the North (Baker) campus and the South campus, so we have a lot of faithful Bethany families committed to helping us build a culture here,” Dustin West said. “But we’ve also seen a lot of new people. Last week alone at our Bethany Experience (a Sunday afternoon time of food and fellowship) we had 25 totally new people. That makes us really excited to see what God is doing for our city.”

Kristin West said they’ve already seen several people get saved and spiritually restored.

“It’s really exciting to see broken relations brought back to life,” she said.

Dustin West said they have already done some community visitation and will host block parties and other outreach events in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Bethany looks like the city

“It is such a unique demographic of people here,” Dustin West said. “There is poverty, there is wealth. There are so many different races and ethnicities represented within a mile of this campus. So whatever we can do to show the love of Christ to every demographic, every street, every neighborhood, we want to reach them. There is a place for everybody at our church. Today we had a 70-year-old African-American woman sitting next to a 15-year-old white girl.”

“The racial tension that exists in the world does not exist here in Bethany,” Dustin West said. “We want it to look like this city. We want it to look like heaven.”

A community experience

Steve Mitchell, a BRCC spokesman, said the college is “always glad to have people visit our campus. We are very proud of our facilities and it makes us happy when individuals and organizations in the community, like Bethany, are interested in renting space at one of our sites.”

On a recent Sunday, the first person to greet people out by the parking lot was Dominique Young, a launch team member who until recently attended the South Campus.

“This is a new church and God is going to do something great here,” Young said. “We’re thankful they’re allowing us to meet here.”

Just inside the front door, Patricia Franklin, a longtime Baker campus member, greeted everyone with a big smile and friendly, “Welcome to Bethany!”

Franklin said she’s attending here because she lives just off Florida Boulevard, and it was closer to home.

“It’s going great. It’s so well organized, it’s wonderful,” Franklin said. “The turn-out is a little bit less so traffic is easier here.”

The Bell family — husband Derek, wife Patricia, son Darian, 21, and daughter Diamond, 16 — have been attending Bethany’s Baker campus for many years but they’re now attending the Mid City campus because it is closer to their home.

“I love it,” said Patricia Bell. “I think it’s a good idea to meet here.”

Diamond Bell, who attends Baton Rouge Magnet High School, agreed with Dustin West’s assessment of the church reflecting the complexion and culture of Baton Rouge.

“You see people of all colors and walks of life,” Diamond Bell said. “I love it. It’s more like a home than a church here.”

Darian Bell added: “God is really moving here. I like meeting here at the college because we can affect young people like myself.”

“It’s not the building, it’s the people,” Derek Bell added. “We are the body of Christ.”

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