Dr. Keith Bell stated the church in the year 2000. Here is his story of his calling to be a Preacher and the beginning of our church, Texas Baptist Church. (Published in "The Baptist Magazine" in 2008)
November 1981, at the age of 22, I was working off shore on an oil rig for Global Marine Drilling Company. When I was off work, my time was spent selling drugs and living for the things of this earth. Rodney Gaines, one of my buddies that I worked with and sold drugs with, was saved during his three weeks off. The night we came back to work, November 18, 1981, he took a Bible and showed me the plan of salvation, and I trusted Jesus as my personal Savior.
After attending church for a year, I finally convinced my wife-to-be, Julie, that my salvation was genuine, and I was planning to live for God. We were engaged for about a year and we were married on March 19, 1983. At this time, we moved from Santa Barbara, California, to Phoenix, Arizona. There I join the United States Army and volunteered for the 82nd Airborne. While at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, we attended Berean Baptist Church under Pastor Steven Byrd. My heroes of the faith were Dr. Jack Hyles and Tom Williams. My whole outlook on serving God began to change, and soul winning began to become the priority in our families’ lives.
After getting out of the army, I became a Police Officer in Fayetteville, North Carolina, right outside of Fort Bragg. It was during this time that God began speaking to my heart about going into the ministry full-time. One night during a revival meeting, under the preaching of Ron Comfort, I went forward and surrendered to serve God full-time. My best friend, Gary Sables, my buddy who was with me in the army at that time, gave me a tape the next day entitled “Flies in the Ointment” by Dr. Bob Gray. I had never heard
anyone preach like that, so I told my wife I would be driving out to Longview, Texas, to see if God wanted me to attend Texas Baptist College and start preparing for the ministry. After hearing Dr. Bob Gray preach one chapel service, I came home and gave my two week notice to the Chief of Police. He told me that I could have my job back after I got over this “Jesus” thing.
We sold our home, and off to Texas Baptist College we went. While at college, I worked for UPS in the morning, went to class full-time, and worked until midnight at Pizza Hut. My wife homeschooled our three children, Aaron, Adam, and Sarah, and became a tremendous soul winner and bus worker. After getting my degree (thanks to Julie), I went to work for the next four years for Dr. Jerry Carter in Reidsville, North Carolina and Dr. Michael Stoddard in East Hartford, Connecticut. Working for these wonderful pastors help me see how God could build His church from the ground up by using pastors who truly love their people. In 1999, or family moved to Mocksville, North Carolina, where I went to work for one of my best friends, Dr. Darrell Cox. We became very close and we had a lot of great times together. At that point, Dr. Cox and I decided that I should go start a church.
After having to sell most of our belongings because of a mix-up at the Ryder truck rental we wound up in San Antonio, Texas. When we arrived in San Antonio, my aunt graciously allowed us to stay with her and gave my wife a job working for her company. After one month, God gave us a wonderful two-story house and we were ready to start the church.
I found a motel that would rent us a modest conference room for $50 a Sunday and set the grand opening for two weeks. We printed some flyers and started passing them out. We wound up with 150 people signed up for our grand opening. On February 27, 2000, 35 people showed up and Texas Baptist Church was started. The first Sunday morning we had 1 saved and no one baptized. That night after the evening service a new group of people came and we baptized six people in the Comfort Inn’s swimming pool. God surely was good to our church and in six months God had filled that conference room with around 70 people. We found an empty building for lease that, at one time was used as a bar and dance hall. All the men got together, and we built a baptistery and platform, walled off some Sunday school rooms and started having our services. While tearing one of the walls out, one of my men told me to be careful because that was where the kegs of beer were and there could be a water line in the wall. I, being the patient person I am, said, “Oh, don’t worry about it.” Three hours later we figured out how to stop the gushing water line that I had broken, and started vacuuming the hundreds of gallons of water off our new carpet.
We had our first Missions Conference, which Dr. Bob Bowen preached, and we had our first big day with 27 people saved. We had a contest between the men and the women and of course the men lost. As a result of this loss, I had to kiss a pig on the lips. I
thought they were going to bring a little pig in, but in came at 300 pound Arkansas Razorback, well, of course, he did not let me kiss him on the lips, and he became excited and ran loose in the auditorium. We had 200 people screaming and standing on the top of their pews, all the while the pig was crawling underneath the pews. Also, the pig left us a present at the altar; Dr. Bowen got a real kick out of that!
About 25 of us had been going out soul winning on an old airport shuttle bus. Mrs. Bonnet, the mother of Ted Bonnet, was stuck at church and had to go with us soul winning. She said she had never seen anything like this before. After we got back, and everybody stepped off the bus she said “Preacher, I need to talk to you.” Boy, I thought I was in for an ear full. Instead, she handed me a check for $3,000 and said go buy another bus. God has done many things like this In the past years. I can never express the words how good God has been to us.
In two years, God filled up the bar and we were just about to capacity with 150 people coming. Sometimes on Sunday nights, drunks wandered over from the Dance Hall next-door, to use our bathrooms in the middle of the preaching service. For some reason, I started preaching on booze as loud as I could whenever one would come through! Around October 2003, we started looking for a permanent building for church. We found a nice piece of property with a wonderful auditorium that could seat 300, and a two-story building with 17 classrooms and offices, but the owners wanted $500,000. That was just too much for our people at that time. God impressed a year later to check on churches again. We found out that they had dropped the price to $250,000. After eight months of prayer, mountains of paperwork, and dealing with the Gestapo, I mean our bank; we bought our property for $235,000. Our property is appraised at $650,000. The people were very excited and we had a big day with 400 people in attendance, 40 saved, and 32 baptized.
Right after we bought the property, I realize the property needed about $100,000 worth of work to make it more presentable to people. It was rundown and in need of repairs. We bought the property, I was in my office praying, asking God how we could afford to fix the place up. God had performed a miracle getting us the property, and now, He could perform another. About an hour after praying in my office and asking God's direction and how to fix up the building, which would have taken years to do, there came knocking at my office door. A man entered and asked me where I wanted him to start, I said, “Well, you could start by telling me who you are and what you want”. He proceeded to tell me that his boss had visited our church while we were at the bar, and loved seeing people saved and baptized the same morning. He said they had been looking for a church that acted like the New Testament Church. He said they could not find us after we moved. I said, “Well, that’s great, but what do you need?” He said, “Whatever work you need done around here, I am here to do it, and the money is no object.” Well, after I was through running and screaming around the property like an ape, he asked me if I could start with remodeling the entire outside of the property. $80,000 later God has provided us a beautiful church with bathrooms, offices, air-conditioning, and classrooms, completely refurbished and remodeled. Prayer and soul winning pays!
Not long after this, a few members got together and did a good job of trying to split the church. The devil, using gossip and disgruntled people, tried to kill our church, and whittled it down to around 100 people. God has purged the snakes and we currently run
over 200 people. God has been good to us. We have 2 bus routes, a van route, Patch the Pirate club and a B service for the homeless. We see people saved and baptized on a regular basis. I want to thank Dr. Gray, Dr. Cox, for inspiring our family to “look up on the fields.” A special thanks to all the churches who supported us for a year to get the church started.
Thank God for His mercy, goodness, and guidance through these last 20 years.