After serving 28 years as pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center, the Rev. Larry Stockstill plans to turn over leadership of the church his father started to son Jonathan next month.
“Not only will the next generation receive the leadership they deserve, but the vision of Bethany will multiply exponentially,” Larry Stockstill, 58, predicted in an email sent Thursday to announce the planned changes. “I feel it is important to recognize and release young leadership in the local church to tie our ministry to the next generation.”
While he no longer will serve as lead pastor, Larry Stockstill plans to remain on Bethany’s staff. He will focus on mentoring other pastors and leaders, planting new churches around the world and serving as needed as a teaching pastor at Bethany.
“It is definitely NOT a retirement!” he said. “I expect to be busier than ever, just in a different capacity.”
Jonathan Stockstill, 30, will officially become lead pastor on Oct. 2, when the multi-campus church will have a joint Bethany United service at 10:30 a.m. at the north campus, 13885 Plank Road.
Larry Stockstill said Bethany has three outside overseers — all older than 60 with more than 30 years of pastoral experience each — who were involved in the decision to choose a new pastor.
“Along with me, they recommended Jonathan to become our lead pastor,” Larry Stockstill said. “His pulpit experience, his demeanor of teaching, and his compassion for the needy greatly qualify him to be our new visionary leader.
“Believe it or not, I was 30 when I took over Bethany as well,” Larry Stockstill added.
Jonathan Stockstill has led music at Bethany since he was 17 and, in addition to serving as the church’s worship leader, is frontman for the Christian band Deluge. Deluge last year released its second CD, “Unshakable.” The band’s first CD, “Deluge Live,” was released in 2008.
Larry and Jonathan Stockstill have been working closely alongside each other since January in preparation for this change.
“The next generation is a very exciting generation with it’s technological genius and great longing for community,” Larry Stockstill said. “Jonathan will bring our services to another level, help enhance connection groups between members, and spark service projects that help families to unite between parents and children.”
Jonathan Stockstill’s brother, Joel, also will remain on staff as a teaching pastor.
“My oldest son, Joel, has a calling to reach the youth of America and is presently doing outreaches into 44 Baton Rouge schools,” Larry Stockstill said. “He has no desire to pastor but rather to expand his ministry into a national forum to reach America’s troubled young generation.”
Joel and Jonathan Stockstill’s grandfather Roy Stockstill started what was then called Bethany Baptist Church in the family’s living room in 1963. A chair served as the pulpit and 15 people were in attendance, according to stories in The Advocate’s archives.
Today, the church has thousands of members, with campuses in Baker and Baton Rouge as well as the Lifeline television ministry and a program of national and international missions. Three large crosses beside Interstate 10 mark the location of Bethany’s South Campus at 11107 Honore Lane.
Because of the demands of those national and international ministries, Larry Stockstill decided the time was right for his role to change.
“In the past five years, my ministry has become more and more to restore integrity to pastoral ministry in the U.S,” he said. His book, “The Remnant: Restoring Integrity to American Ministry” now has almost 200,000 copies in print. “And I feel a call to expand this outreach to the over 300,000 pastors in America and millions of pastors worldwide.”
Larry Stockstill credits Bethany’s Surge Project with starting 20,200 churches worldwide in the last 10 years. “As director of the project, my time for our local church, national outreach, and international church planting has stretched quite thin.”
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