History of Bethel
The Beginning - In March 1960, Rev. John Cherian, at that time, a faculty member of Southern Asia Bible College (SABC), with the company of a few college students, initiated a 'prayer fellowship' in Ganganahalli, Bangalore. That place was not far from the present Assembly of God Church in Ganganagar, Bangalore. Prayer meetings were held by this small group every week. Eventually a plot was purchased for the construction of a building for church in future at Ganganagar. It was Rev. John C. Wright, AG Missionary and Bursar of SABC who purchased this piece of land for the Church.
Initial steps forward - The first major event of evangelism, after purchase of the plot, was a conference which was held under a canopy in the summer of 1962. Rev. O.V.Dillingham, former Pastor of First Assembly Church, Bangalore, and Mr. Divakar, the Circle Inspector of Police for the City of Mysore, were the important speakers along with many others. Many new believers were added to the original nucleus of the emerging 'Assembly of God Church' at Ganganagar during this conference.
After some time, Bro. T.P. Varghese involved himself in the activities of this Church, and it was during that period of ministry that Bro.M.A.Varughese, the present Pastor, entered the ministry. Bangalore was not alien to Bro.Varughese who had often visited this city and stayed here on many occasions since January 1966. However, it was only in February 1981 that he and his family (wife and two sons) called Bangalore their home. He was an employee of the Indian Air force (IAF) at that time, patiently and prayerfully waiting for God's time and plan.
PR.M.A VARUGHESE RECOLLECTS…
His journey - The Lord fulfilled His promise and made me an associate Pastor of Bethel Assembly of God Church in June 1983. Adverse winds began to blow against the church. I suffered from jaundice and I was weak. Critics, scandal-mongers, scoffers, and the like tried their best to demoralize me. But the Holy Spirit spoke to me very specifically and strengthened me in the watch night service on 31st December 1983. Satan attacked very furiously, being jealous of the growth of our church. But the good Lord protected us, so that the waters might not overwhelm us.
From the day I took over the complete responsibility of the church, it was decided not to involve those who are not filled with the Holy Spirit in any of the church responsibilities, works or leadership. Consequently, apart from preaching the Word, often my family and I had to carry out mopping of the floor and other works, all by ourself. But today things are quite different. The Lord has raised hundreds of anointed ones for the various duties of the ministry. New outstations were identified and new churches were established. The Lord saved many souls, and they were added to the church in large numbers. Today we have several units in the church, each one worshipping in different languages. The central district of Southern India Assemblies of God (SIAG) has recognized several of the Churches which were developed out of the outstation units of this church.
Magnificent Seven Years - In 1983 and 1984 we had seen a very gradual growth. The seven years from 1985 to 1991 was a period of great growth of the Church even though very strong and adverse winds were blowing against it. We had a pressing need for funds at that time. The Lord opened the door for a missionary tour abroad. Pastor A. C. George of the IPC Church in New York and his sister in Bangalore were the people whom God used as the channels for this. As a result of that we received some funds. The structure of a two-storied building was our vision. The Lord gave us clear guidance about that and we started the construction of a double story building as per the plans given by the Lord in a vision. Though we were short of funds we decided to construct an extendable building with seating capacity of 1500 if land was available. We put our faith in Him and confidently ventured into construction of the building. On the afternoon of 8th December 1990, the Spirit of God asked me: "Do you desire for a greater ministry or do you want to remain satisfied with what you are doing now?"
Willingly, I opted for a greater ministry.
In that case, I was told, I will have to face trials, imprisonment, and even court cases. But I was also given the assurance of 'God's protection' and a sure 'victory' at the end. Events of this particular prophecy began to unfurl from the morning of 7th January 1991. Government officials raided my house and took into custody whatever records and documents they could find. Misappropriation of foreign funds was the major accusation against me. By God's grace, no allegations stood against me. Those who had taken me into custody returned me to my home that very afternoon. On 14th September 1991, the building was dedicated. But by December 1991, we realised that even this new hall was insufficient for the gathering as it was filled to its capacity by then. Thus, we felt the need for a bigger hall to accommodate the people increasing in number day by day.
We began to pray for a hall that could accommodate at least 1500 people. The plot adjacent to the church building was available for purchase, and we bought that in 1995. Within a year, we began the construction of a new building. This was the fulfillment of God's promise to us for 'spreading to the left and also to the right' (Is.54:3). A multi-storied building with 5 halls was constructed. At that time, 16 services were conducted every Sunday in the larger building to accommodate the growing number of believers attending services. We sought the Lord to help us enlarge our boundaries, and the stage was set for God to unfold larger plans.
The church and I thank the Lord and express our gratitude to all Pastors and servants of God for their labor, their vision, and also their priceless contribution to the growth of the Church.
A description of the present building - We were praying for a single hall that could accommodate at least 1500 people. The adjacent plot to the North of our building was put up for sale. We bought this in 1995 and constructed a new building, having 5 floor levels, adjacent to the old one.
This building is designed to accommodate the following:
A hall is constructed in the Basement (Level-1) to accommodate 300 people. This hall is almost sound proof. The Ground floor (Level-2), which is in level with the ground outside is the car parking area. The other arrangements on this floor are - three prayer cells for individuals, one for small groups, one baptismal tank, one changing room, toilets, and bathrooms. A Generator for stand-by power for the entire complex during power failures is installed here. The old prayer hall of 35' x 24' on the same level which was previously used for worship is now set apart for Sunday-School and Daily Prayers of small groups like 30, 40 or 50 people.
The Mezzanine floor (Level-3) is built with a ramp leading to it for parking two-wheelers. The main office of the Church is located here.
The new First floor (Level-4) is constructed such that it connects to the existing hall and thus a large hall of size 110 x 35 feet is achieved which can accomodate about 1200 people. This has become the main worship hall. Besides this, on the same floor, there are separate rooms for library, power control room, mother's room - for ladies with little babies.
Since this Church is situated in the middle of a residential area, certain arrangements have also been made to muffle the sounds produced, so that it will not disturb our neighbours. There is also an air-handling system for fresh air circulation.
On the Second floor (level-5) there is a hall of 50'x40'. There is a kitchen to prepare food for gatherings like marriage parties or a get-together. The terrace is also available for such gatherings. Toilets are provided for men and women separately in each floor. Due to these arrangements, worship services in Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, English, and also Sunday School, can be conducted simultaneously without disturbing one another. All these halls can be connected together by CCTV so that about 2000 people can be addressed at the same time.
Besides all these, the Lord has provided movable equipments such as televisions and cameras, audio and video system, PA system, and inter-communications system. For office use we have a computer too. The specially designed table for Holy Communion and the trays and 'the lectern' made out of transparent fiber glass enhance the interior beauty of the Church. All these are nothing but the gifts of our good Lord above. However, the spiritual activities of the Church are more important to us than the material blessings.
The Bethel Gospel Team - The Bethel Gospel Team was formed in 1992. God raised many evangelists from this Church. God has given me the opportunity to preach His Word in and around Bangalore, various parts of Karnataka, many states of India, and several countries in the world.
The Choir and other activities of the Church - There are various choirs in different languages to lead the worship. God has also raised anointed worship leaders, mature elders, efficient administrators, active teachers for Sunday School, Christ's Ambassadors (youth of the church), Women's Fellowship, and other ministries too. The Assemblies of God has recognized many of our members as associate ministers of the Church. Later some of them were seperated for individual ministries. All of the above are being very effectively used for the glory of God now.
"You people will build the ancient ruins"- is the promise of God to the Church. It is an honor to mention that Mrs. Aleyamma Varghese (wife of Pastor M.A. Varghese) has been elected as the Director of the Women's Ministries of the central district of S.I.A.G and Pastor Johnson Varghese (younger son of Pastor. M.A. Varghese) has been elected as a committee member of the C.A. of the central district. There are many other brothers including Br. Abraham Varghese (elder son of Pastor M.A. Varghese) and sisters who are mightily used for the glory of God in various capacities in the city of Bangalore and beyond. The monthly baptismal services are continuing; and they have now become a weekly event. The mighty hand of God is revealed in the ministry of healing, casting out of demons, prophecy, preaching, and the study of the Word of God. The lively worship of the members is the pulse of the Church. The unceasing incense of prayer nullifies the powers of the enemy. Thus the bounteous blessings of God are manifested upon the Church.
Greater Growth - God enabled the church and me to build up a large mutli-level building with four floors and multiple halls to seat a total of about 2000 people. Even this one was found insufficient in due course. The membership to the church was growing further.
By God's grace, the church purchased 3.5 acres of land at a prime location called Hebbal. This is at the intersection of the Ring Road and the road to the New Bangalore International Airport. Currently there are two temporary structures that can accommodate over 3000 members each. Today 'Bethel AG Church' is one of the largest Malayalam speaking Pentecostal Churches around the Globe. Through the years, the work of God in Bangalore City has been unfolding beyond human plans at Bethel. Seven linguistic services: Malayalam, English, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, Telugu & French cater to the spiritual needs of the many ethnic groups in this metro city. A few more buildings were constructed at different locations of the city. In addition, some more facilities were also hired for worship services.
Round the World - We have a number of churches around the globe functioning under the Apostlic coverage of Bethel AG.
Awaiting Major Project - The church was founded in 1963. From then onwards, we have seen immense growth in terms of membership as well as in its infrastructure. God has given us a vision to develop a church building, which will have a seating capacity up to 25000, and we are working towards that goal. We have witnessed the call, the anointing, and a great move of God that is needed to achieve the goal of 'the great vision' in our spirit, which will transform the city. Therefore, we seek strategic partnerships from the body of Christ across the globe to equip us and uphold us in prayer. And also, support us with their skills, knowledge, resources and help us to build this major structure for a worship hall and church office.
Challenges faced, and the present - The path to this kind of a growth was not an easy one. We had to overcome many trials and struggles. Problems were many. To mention a few- 'the squabble among the laborers, theft, sorcery, challenges from communal forces, threat for the life, stay orders from the government, challenges against the worship services' etc. Despite all these hurdles, the Lord made the Church to grow. He provided everything that the Church needed. Above all, God saved souls. God honored the Church as one of the 'largest' churches among the Malayalam congregations.
As of this day, every week we conduct at least 15 worship services in Bangalore city and many different places, in several languages. They are: Malayalam, English, Kannada, Tamil, and Hindi. An 'anointed' team of leaders of the Church care for these. In different areas, more than 70 meetings are held every week. Besides these, there are daily intercessory prayers by 'Horeb Mount' and 'Esther' -Prayer Groups (prayer cells of the church), regular Sunday Schools, C.A. meetings, and Women's Fellowships too. All these indicate that the Church has grown into a large institution rather than being a small local body. We are happy with the growth yet we are not to stop at this. The Church should continue to grow, ever growing, until the Lord returns in glory. There are wonderful prophetical promises about the future of the Church, which are yet to be fulfilled. A larger hall that can accommodate 25,000 people with all modern facilities, an Old Age Home, and many more ministries are in the plan of God. Let us envisage all these in faith.