Today would be a great day to visit a Missouri Baptist Historical sight, and Old Bethel, just outside of Jackson, is one place that every Baptist should visit. With a rich history and divine intervention, Old Bethel is a great reminder of Missouri Baptist fortitude.
As the frontier expanded in the 1800’s, Baptists began to move westward and many discovered the need for churches. In 1806, just three years after the Louisiana Purchase, the earliest recorded Baptist church west of the Mississippi formed at Old Bethel near Jackson. Times were hard for Baptists, as other denominations tried to deter them from meeting in the area. Under the leadership of a traveling pioneer minister by the name of David Green, Old Bethel was formed with around 10 members in 1806.
Old Bethel is credited for starting nine churches in their missionary effort to spread the gospel. One of those church, First Baptist Church of Jackson, MO still exists today. Old Bethel stands today as a great reminder of what missionary efforts can do to help spread the gospel. Sadly, as the years went by Old Bethel began to struggle, and in the late 1860’s was forced to close. The building went into disrepair and eventually was sold for the wood to a local farmer who used part of the wood and stored the remainder.
Approximately 17 years ago, a group of caring, historically minded Baptists began discussing options for restoring the historic sight. By 2002, word had spread that Missouri Baptists wanted to restore Old Bethel, and the restoration committee was notified that the original logs to the church had been found in a barn and were in perfect condition. The committee acquired the logs and reconstruction of the church began. In August of 2007, Old Bethel was completely restored and operational. Today you can visit this historic sight just outside of Jackson, MO.
To help keep this majestic historic site functional and operations, the Historical Commission is seeking the help of charitable individuals who can financially support the upkeep and expansion of Old Bethel. The Historical Commission hopes to bring city water to the sight and add public restrooms beside the church building to make the site more useable. If you’d like to contribute please send your donation to the Missouri Baptist Convention, designating your gift for “Old Bethel.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth of several articles commemorating Baptist history in Missouri, written by members of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Historical Commission.