Bethel Bible Training School (Newark, NJ)
Bethel Assembly of God has a rich history of Spirit-filled ministry going back to the Pentecostal revivals of the early 20th century. It was founded in 1910, when a group of people began to worship in a rented store in Newark, NJ. Along the way, the church began to meet in a house, then in a small church with a dormitory and finally made its way to its current location. In 1911, Bethel Pentecostal Assembly welcomed its first full time pastor, Brother Allan Swift. Brother Swift left Bethel in 1914 to assist with the formation of the Assemblies of God denomination in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The need for Pentecostal missionaries, ministers, and leaders during this time sparked the idea of a Bible school located at the church. Bethel Bible Training School opened in 1916. William W. Simpson, a pioneer missionary with the Christian Missionary and Alliance, served as the first dean. Other prominent faculty members included Frank M. Boyd, a 1911 graduate of Nyack and later an influential theologian in the Assemblies of God, and William I. Evan, later dean of Bethel and Central Bible Institute in Springfield, MO.
Bethel Bible Training School continued to thrive under the leadership of Brother Evans from 1923-1929. Rev. Edgar Personeus, Rev. Ralph Riggs, and Rev. J.R. Flower were also distinguished associates with Brother Evans at Bethel. Brother Riggs became the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God from 1953-59. Brother Flower was elected as the General Secretary at the First General Council Meeting in 1914 and continued to serve for 26 years. He also became the District Superintendent for the Eastern section. Though Bethel Bible Training School merged with Central Bible College in 1929, the church continued to function and flourish with various other ministries.
In 1953, under the leadership of Rev. Frederick D. Eide, Bethel Pentecostal Assembly changed its name to Bethel Assembly of God to reflect its affiliation with the Assemblies of God fellowship. Pastor Eide went on from Bethel to become the NJ District Superintendent in 1960.
Rev. Albert W. Earle, son-in-law to Rev. J. R. Flower, followed him at that time. His vision and expertise helped continue to move the congregation forward by relocating in order to accommodate the growing congregation and its developing ministries. In August of 1962, the ground was broken at the Mount Prospect Avenue site, the new home of Bethel. On May 15, 1963, Bethel held its first service in the new sanctuary. The church has remained at this site ever since.
Shortly after the Rev. Charles E. Green became senior pastor in 1980, Bethel Christian Academy opened its doors. The congregation had a concern about the rise of secular influence in education and the erosion of Judeo-Christian values and moral standards. Pastor Green, along with his son, Rev. Charles D. Green, had a vision of a school that would give students a strong spiritual foundation with a focus on academic excellence. Although BCA has now closed its doors as a school, we still continue to invest in the lives of our children, through our W.I.S.E. after school program.
The Rev. George A. Gianopulos, who served as senior pastor from 1990-2004, had a vision that Bethel would serve as an international worship center that would welcome people from all geographic backgrounds. Affectionately known as “Pastor G,” he led the congregation to embrace a multicultural framework that brought together a beautiful ethnic mix that reflects the rich diversity of the community in a way that echoes that of heaven itself (Revelation 4:9-10).
The current Senior Pastor, Rev. Joseph Pastori, has been serving in that capacity since 2004. Along with his wife Lisa, the current director of W.l.S.E., an afterschool program which serves our local community children. The Pastori’s have served in a variety of capacities at both Bethel Assembly of God church and our former school, BCA, for most of the last twenty-one years.