The Bethlehem Free Will Baptist church began in 1847 under the leadership of W.L. Gower. Records from that period are sketchy at best, but it seems that Brother Gower served the church for about 10 years.
At first, services were held in homes until a one-room, frame building was erected on Lockertsville Road in what became known as Bethlehem Hollow. Though many additions and changes were made through the years, the same building served the church until 1971.
Early in the history of the church, services were held every three months, but gradually progressed to once a month. Church minutes note that it was under the leadership of Rev. William Henry Oliver that the church began meeting twice a month in 1931. Around 1947, Rev. Adam Scott challenged the church to a full schedule of services with worship services twice each Sunday.
The move to full-time status helped the church to prosper both numerically and financially. The original property was soon overcrowded, and plans were made to move the church.
Rev. George Ludwig led the church to purchase 10 acres on Highway 12 North. Though some church members thought the move was beyond the financial capabilities of the church, the property was purchased March 26, 1967, and completely paid for by May 5, 1968!
In a business meeting held January 8, 1969, the congregation voted to authorize a building committee to make plans for a church on the new property. A groundbreaking service was held March 8, 1970. A large portion of the construction was done under the leadership of Bill Elliott. The first worship in the new building was January 17, 1971. The church now enjoys 11,000 square feet of worship and educational space and is among the most beautiful churches in Cheatham County.
In 1973, soon after Rev. Hughes Ellis became pastor, the church voted to build a new parsonage adjacent to the church. Again, the men of the church gave up evenings and weekends to see the project completed. A 14-year bond program instituted in 1970 underwrote both church and parsonage. However, the church prospered, and the debt was retired completely by December 1, 1978.
From its humble beginnings in 1847, Bethlehem has continued to expand its outreach and ministry. Sunday School, Children’s Church, Bethlehem Women Active for Christ, youth ministry, radio broadcasts, a weekly tape ministry, and a new website all express the church’s desire to fulfill the Great Commission. Bethlehem is an active participant in the Northern Quarterly of the Cumberland Association of Free Will Baptists, and takes an active role in the ministry of the Tennessee State Association of Free Will Baptists and the National Association of Free Will Baptists.
The church is well known for her giving. Most years, more than 25% of the total income of the church is dedicated to worthy outside causes, including Home and International Missions, Free Will Baptist Bible College, Free Will Baptist Family Ministries, and Pleasant View Christian School.
With a membership of more than 400, Bethlehem Free Will Baptist Church is deeply rooted in the Ashland City community. We thank God for His blessings in the past, and we look forward to even great things in the future.