In the beginning, several families in the Boutte-Luling area wanted a local, independent church, so they started having Bible studies and prayer meetings in their homes in 1962. Rev. John Lawrence, pastor of New Orleans Bible Church where several families attended, taught though sometimes tape recordings were used.
These meetings were held off-and-on over a period of seven years. The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways! While these prayers were going up in Luling, the Lord was working a thousand miles away in West Virginia (WV) to fit pieces together in answer to these prayers. Three families were moved out of an independent church in South Charleston, WV; two to the Luling area and one to Texas and Illinois before an ultimate Luling destination.
Larry Miller, a young engineer with Union Carbide, was transferred to Taft, LA in 1965. The following year, the Birds were moved to Texas and the Mallorys to Taft, LA. The Millers had become acquainted with Tom and Bernice Gilbert at the New Orleans Bible Church. They also lived on the same street in Mimosa Park. When the Mallorys arrived, their friends, the Millers, invited them to attend church with them and there they also met the Gilberts. The pieces of the puzzle were still not connected, but the Lord was continuing the process. Rev. Lawrence, whose ministry had really touched Larry Miller, had resigned and moved to Memphis, TN just before the Mallorys arrived. This was another puzzle piece which later make it easier for members to be open to the Lord's leading.
During late 1966 and early 1967, the Lord was dealing with Larry. In fact, Larry even drove to Memphis to consult with his mentor, Rev. Lawrence, to confirm his conviction that the Lord was calling him into full time Christian ministry. Larry returned and resigned his UCC position and moved his family to Dallas, TX, to attend seminary. When Larry was departing, we casually mentioned to him to send us a pastor teacher for the Luling area; but we of little faith, really thought it would be Larry who would be the answer to our prayers as soon as he finished seminary. This has been a rather detailed account to just show the mysterious way in which the Lord was working.
The foundation members of the new church to be, the Gilberts, Mallorys, and several other Luling families, meanwhile continued to serve the Lord in the New Orleans Bible Church. In Larry's second year at Dallas, he called the Gilberts and told them about a student graduating in May who would make an excellent pastor for a new local work. His name was James (Jim) Raiford. Larry didn't know what Jim's plans were, but he suggested we call Jim and have a talk with him. This excited the group so they met the next night at the Gilberts and contacted Raiford, to see if he would be willing to come for a meeting. He agreed to come the weekend of March 7-9, 1969. With this information, we immediately started making plans for the visit. Phyllis Mallory, a teacher at Mimosa Park Elementary School, made arrangements with Mr. Coy Landry to use the school's band room for this special meeting.
A friend from New Orleans Bible Church supplied a picture of Raiford. The event accompanied by this picture, was advertised in the local newspaper. We also, had a large stack of brochures made and posted in all the local businesses. Jim contacted Burl and stated that he had received and accepted a teaching position at Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, AL. Needless to say, we were disappointed and, after much prayer and telephone conversations, Jim agreed to come and fulfill the speaking engagement, since it had been advertised throughout the community. Jim arrived on Saturday, March 8th. Our group met him at the Gilbert's home and spent the evening discussing how to start a Bible Church. On Sunday, March 9th., we had our special service in the band room of Mimosa Park School, which had a piano for our musical worship, with about thirty people in attendance. We were merely trying to "scout out the land", but the Lord did more than we had hoped for; He gave us the desires of our hearts and the church was born that day.
Even though we did not have a pastor, we did have a body of believers and our first church pianist, Mitch Mallory. Sunday afternoon was spent at the Gilberts with Jim answering questions concerning the next steps we needed to take. He guided us through the church planting issues and encouraged us by stating, "There will be a Bible Church in Luling". Jim had many telephone conversations giving instructions on writing the church constitution and deciding on a name for the church.
The name Bible Center Church was selected to show that the emphases would be on God's Word and there would not be a church denomination attached to the church. In the meantime, Jim sent another graduating student, Danny Threaton, to hold services the next Sunday. We were faced at this time with another problem, a regular meeting place and speakers for our Sunday services. Tom and Burl decided to go and talk to Mr. Landry to see if the school band room could be used on a regular basis. Not only was this possible, but he said there would be no charge and gave them a key to the building. This provided space for morning and evening worship services and the adjoining cafeteria provided Sunday School space. Since there was no facility for a nursery, the Mallorys, who lived only two and a half blocks down the street, made nursery facilities available in their home. Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer was held at the Gilbert's home with Dave Vannoy leading the study.
In March, 1969, a group of fifteen families met in the Mimosa School Cafeteria and signed the charter for the birth of the Bible Center Church (BCC) of Luling. Of these, some still attend our services including Bernice Gilbert, Bernuce Mayfield and Emma White.
Jim continued to be the source of direction and counsel. He was so involved that he began having doubts about his decision to go to Birmingham and asked us not to completely discount him as a pastoral candidate. Before he graduated from Dallas, he and his family returned to Luling. This gave him an opportunity to evaluate our progress and we were able to meet his family. As they were leaving Luling after the Sunday evening service, a family discussion caused them to realize that the Lord was calling them to be our spiritual leaders. They had perfect peace and assurance that this was God's will for them at this time. Jim telephoned his acceptance to become Bible Center Church's first pastor.
Now all the puzzle pieces had formed the Lord's answer to the prayers offered up several years before by a small group of believers. The Lord's timing is perfect! Jim began as Pastor of Bible Center Church on June 15, 1969 and started the process of building a firm foundation for the church. To God be the Glory! By April of 1970, the Lord had added twenty-six new members to bring our membership to a total of sixty-seven.
There was a real burden for the lost and even with limited finances, the BCC took on support for our first missionaries, Don and Wanda Johnson. They were ministering to the Indians of Louisiana through Bible Conferences and Missions in Elton, LA.
We truly were walking by faith! BCC had rented a house near Majorias Supermarket as a parsonage, but we were faced with finding a building site for the church. Many trips throughout the area did not provide anything suitable.
After looking for property for months, still nothing could be found under $40,000-$50,000, which was completely out of our range for the number of people attending BCC. Securing a Building for BCC On July 14, 1969, a telephone call from Frank Livaudais, a building contractor in the area, said, "If you will come and look at this land I have to offer, you will buy it." Tom Gilbert, Burl Mallory and Pastor Raiford met Mr. Livaudais and he offered ten lots on Barton ave., just off Highway 90, for $12,500. This was unbelievable in one of the best locations in the area. After experiencing this miracle of God supplying His building site, next question was how are we going to pay for it? Around this same time, Tom Gilbert sold his business and offered the church a loan of $75,000 to buy the land and build a church. A building committee was formed, made up of the official Board of BCC. The committee went to work on a floor plan that would meet immediate needs and stay within the budget. Mr. Daniel A. Powell, a friend of Tom's, said we could build a 6,000 sq. ft. building and the total package, building and property, would cost approximately $85,000.
Praise the Lord! Mr. Dominick Ochillo, would allow church people to work, where possible, to cut down the cost. The miracles never ceased! The BCC congregation approved the plan on Aug. 31, 1969. The building was completed April 6, 1970. While the church was under construction, BCC continued to hold regular services in the Mimosa Band Room. It was with great praise and gratitude when we made the move into our new facility, even though we had to use folding chairs for pews. We no longer had to use the Gilbert's swimming pool for a baptistry, as we had on Sept. 21, 1969, or use other private homes to accommodate our needs.
The ministry could now be expanded and our first Vacation Bible School was held in July of 1970. The Pioneer Girls and Christian Service Brigade Programs were started. Camp Pearl in Eunice, LA and Miracle Camp at Ringold, LA provided Christian summer camping programs for our youth. Our dedication service for the new building was held on Sept. 27, 1970 at 2:00 p.m. We now had a building, a full-time pastor, a missionary, and a small dedicated body of believers who trusted the Lord to supply the financial means to support this new work. The Lord was ever faithful as evidenced by an agreement Tom and Burl had made between themselves, in order to have a full-time pastor, that they would pay the pastor's salary that first year if necessary; but it was never needed!
The church continued to grow and pews were added and a grand piano was purchased. Meeting the needs of a Growing Church in the course of six years, the facility had become inadequate for the growing needs of the church. It was back to the drawing board for plans for an additional building. A 5,600 ft2 activities building was planned to provide additional Sunday School rooms, a new nursery, a kitchen, and a multipurpose room. It was planned so that eventually, when needed, the multipurpose room section could be converted into two floors of Sunday School rooms and a third multipurpose building could be added on the south side of the Sunday School building.
In 1976, the church applied for a loan from First Federal Savings and Loan for $150,000. This would pay off the $66,000 existing mortgage and build the new section. The loan request was turned down. The building committee documented the church assets and financial statement and requested an appointment with the bank president. Raymond Worrell and Burl Mallory went to Thibodaux, LA and presented these reports to the president. After looking them over, he asked that a meeting with the official board be arranged. His closing remark was that if the board was as enthusiastic as Raymond and Burl, the bank would reconsider their request.
After hearing this report, the church prayed and a meeting was arranged. During the meeting, the bank president announced his approval for the loan after about five minutes, and gave the church a personal contribution of $500 for the building fund. Ten men signed the mortgage application. They were: Ken Arnold, George Bird, Arvis Griggs, Burl Mallory, Lindy Mayfield, Gene Shackelford, Bob Stephens, Raymond Worrell, Don Gunnels, and Clyde Boutwell. After all these years, Clyde is still an active member.
The additional space made it possible to provide smaller Sunday school classes and an indoor play area for youth activities and social functions. The BCC women formed the Joy Fellowship group as a ministering arm of the church. During the next ten years, several pipe line right-of-ways across the church parking lot were sold. This provided extra funds for the ministry. One pipe line company had purchased the lot adjoining the church property and, after running their line, they approached the church officials and donated the lot to the church because they were not in the business of owning property.
In the early 1990's, the church experienced its first real financial problems, due to several families being transferred out of the area. The board was faced with two options: refinance the loan for additional years, or challenge the church members to pay off the remaining loan balance as it existed and save any additional interest costs. The people responded and the existing loan was paid off in about seven months. A special mortgage burning service was held in October 1991, with several former members attending.
Bible Center Church has had six pastors:
The church has had five associate pastors:
Several church members have served as volunteer youth leaders when paid staff was not employed.
The church has always had a missionary vision for the lost and has supported, with prayers and financial aid, the following:
In addition to students, several institutions were supported in the Missions Outreach Program and students from the church family attended Bible training institutions:
As we have researched the history of the church, our hearts have been thrilled again by what the Lord has done. We were people without insight into church organization, but the Lord went before us performing special miracles:
King Solomon wrote in Psalms 127:1, "Except the Lord build the house, we labor in vain that build it." We knew it was the Lord's doing and it was marvelous and exciting to be instruments He could use. Satan has raised many obstacles over the years, but we as a congregation have realized that he desires to sift us as wheat, and by God's grace, we have been victorious. Our prayer is that a work so miraculously started will be found faithful when He comes.
Last updated on 5-Aug-2021