Although the new building sits back a bit from the roadway, motorists traveling down Juban Road can’t help but notice it. The building catches your eye and attracts you to it. This is God’s house. And it is home to the Bethany Church-Livingston Parish Campus.
Located at 28115 Juban Road, Denham Springs, around the corner from the Juban Crossing shopping center, the recently opened church building is close to a plethora of shops and restaurants, a gas station and a well-known grocery store.
It is a spacious church with TV screens to view live services, a stage, modern lighting and sound systems, comfortable modern furniture, meeting rooms, a kids space and the chapel itself. And the service is broadcast for those who can’t attend. Bethany Church has come a long way from services held the previous six years in Walker High School’s gym and classrooms.
What started in February 2014 as a small community church using high school space on Sundays has grown to a 22,000-square-foot facility. By late January at the new location, the Rev. Cameron Wiggins, the Bethany Church-Livingston Parish Campus pastor, said, “We completed a beautiful, multimillion-dollar project off Juban Road. For a number of years, we have been encouraging the community to give donations towards this project and saved our money.””
Wiggins said the high school site necessitated the moving of desks, rearranging school chairs in classrooms, covering the waxed wood gym floors, setting up chairs and decorating all the areas for a more church-like atmosphere.
“For six years, we would arrive hours before service to set up the church in the Walker High School gym, flip classrooms for the kids ministry, hold services in the gym and then break it all down again for school use,” Wiggins said. “We had just a few hours to set it all up, including lights, chairs, a projector, motors to raise a large screen, 14-foot tall black curtains made of velour. We even did baptisms once a month by bringing in a portable tank with a liner (about 5 feet in diameter). And we hung fun colorful drapes and installed play mats to hide the classrooms’ furniture and décor. We set up seven classrooms in all.
“That school was precious to us. The site worked out really well for us, and the only interruptions we had when the basketball team played at the gym first. We got a lot of puzzled looks from parishioners but it still always went smoothly,” Wiggins said.
Then on Jan. 26, the newly built church building opened its doors for worship. Since that time, the attendance by worshippers and new members keeps growing.
The new “fun, energetic, family environment,” as the website says, makes for a state-of-the-art, modern church. And Wiggins said membership is growing fast since it opened its doors a few weeks ago. Members now average 600 or so people at each Sunday service.
“The high school just sat about 500 in the gym, so it limited our space. Now we have more space, and we’re over capacity at somewhere over 600 members (at the 10 a.m. service). That’s why we have an overflow area where people can watch the services live on big screens,” Wiggins said.
“It’s been really amazing to see what is happening. We used to have two services at 8:15 and 10 a.m., but now we’ve added a third one (11:45 a.m.) after that. The cool thing is that a lot of families who live here had been driving to our south location on Siegen Lane. But they are now coming here. It’s an answer to our prayers to have a location closer to these families and site we don’t have to unload and load for.”
Wiggins said this church campus is part of five Bethany Church locations. They are all overseen by pastors Jonathan and Angie Stockstill. It’s one more step in the Bethany Church mission of spreading the word of God.
Wiggins, age 36, and his wife Melissa Stockstill-Wiggins, have been with the Livingston Parish Campus church since its inception at the high school to the new facility today. He had just gotten married when he received the assignment. Today they have four children between the ages of 1 and 5 with another on the way. Melissa works in the women’s ministry.
A nondenominational entity, Bethany Church was first founded as Bethany Baptist Church because then pastor, the Rev. Roy Stockstill, Jonathan Stockstill’s grandfather, felt called to set it up in 1963. Wiggin’s middle son is named Royce as a tribute to Roy Stockstill.
The Livingston pastor said Bethany Church is a part of the community. “We have a lot of diversity with a little more emphasis on it,” Wiggins said. "Our founder said our church should look like it looks in heaven. It’s for everybody, and we have taken great strides in accomplishing this. We are very thankful for our diversity.”
The church also is known for its local outreach — visiting people at other city churches, visiting kids, cleaning, helping with parking and working with schools. For example, the team visited a widow’s house and painted the home and mowed the yard.
In addition, the church hosts mission trips, including one coming up in Cuba, where the church leaders have a connection with the pastors. Bethany Church members are planning to create small houses for the Cuban churches to move services out of their members’ homes — often the only place where services can held since it is illegal in some areas to build a church, Wiggins said. The work includes evangelism and testimonies, games for the children and services in homes (about 25 home locations).
While Wiggins delivers his sermon and makes announcement on the sanctuary stage, many members are huddled on comfortable, modern furniture in the lobby to watch live broadcasts of the service on large TV screens. Other people meet with visitors and share information or catch up with their neighbors.
One of those neighbor families is the Giordanos, Peter and Wanda and their 5-year-old granddaughter Alyssa. They’ve been members for about 10 years, moving from the south location of Baton Rouge’s Bethany Church to the site in Baker and now this church campus in Denham Springs. “The church is so big now,” Wanda Giordano said, looking at the crowd of people leaving the sanctuary auditorium. “It’s a lot of people, but it still feels like community and everyone seems to know each other. I live in Walker, so this is very convenient.”
Raised Catholic, Wanda Giordano’s sister invited her to the Bethany Church services, and they attended services with her at the Baker site for years. “I love the family-like atmosphere. It pulls us here,” she said. “People feel love, and it’s praising with a purpose. My granddaughter loves it and has made a lot of friends. My husband has a spinal disease, and they pray for him a lot — so we are family. They love to lay their hands on you, and they know you and know God’s love.”
But looking around at the crowd again with a small smile, she added, “Maybe they should have made the church bigger because every service is jammed. This church renews you, and our relationship with God spills over onto my grownup children and my grandchildren.”
Meantime in the lobby, Josh Chavers is welcoming guests and providing guest services and church information to visitors at the front desk. His wife works in the same capacity. And like many of the volunteers present, he is wearing a black T-shirt with the word “Welcome” in white across the chest. Chavers has been a member of the church since 2016 when he got engaged to his wife, who’s been attending since 2009.
In the rear of the sanctuary, trained staff and volunteers are busy running the sound and video boards for services. Bianca Davis, an employee, volunteers for this duty with other people who scramble around wires and blinking lights.
“It’s really a miracle how we prayed and got this property,” Wiggins said. While they first looked for a site to build the new church, the church’s leadership was invited to visit this one property near Juban Road and hold a prayer about it. The 13 or so members were wearing boots for the mud. Everyone thought it was the perfect site, but the owners didn’t want to sell to them. Jonathan Stockstill said not to worry, it would all work out. The owner found it was for a church and changed his mind.
“It just encourages our faith in the Lord. We were really trying to do this with him and not just with us under our own strength,” he said.
Besides a large room for the kids ministry, the new location has something the old site did not. A rectangular tank on wheels carrying a new baptismal is used on the first Sundays of the month for baptisms. About 20 baptisms were held at the opening of the new site. It’s a far cry from the baptisms held in a small tank at the school.
For information about the church, call (225) 774-1700 or visit bethany.com/campuses/livingston.