Thirty-two years ago, the Rev. Dr. Rocellia Johnson had a vision. As the pastor and organizer of Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles, he wanted his congregation to grow in the knowledge of the Lord.
Acting on his dream, Dr. Johnson founded Bethany Christian Bible College, an accredited ecumenical institution in Southwest Los Angeles that currently registers more than 800 people a year.
“Dr. Johnson, who retired in 2009, established the school in an effort to build a well-informed congregation. He sincerely believed that God’s people, when given the Biblical facts, will normally do the right thing,” said the Rev. Dr. L.A. Kessee, president of the college and pastor of Bethany.
“The mission of the school was then, and remains, to inform and inspire men and women to be more effective in performing the work of church ministry.”
Based on the spring quarter enrollment of 358 students, the college is fulfilling its mission. In fact, hundreds of baby Christians and mature believers register each year to attend Bethany Christian Bible College. The multi-cultural student body represents more than 66 houses of faith with only 23 from Baptist churches.
“Our entire curriculum is geared toward adults of all ages because whether one is a neophyte or veteran saint, the need for a Christian education remains. At this time, the school offers three certificated programs of study,” explained Dr. Kessee.
“Systematic Biblical Studies, which requires 48 units for completion, covers Biblical studies and courses in both Homiletics and Hermeneutics. This program also includes 18 units of basic foundational core requirements.
“Systematic Ministry and Leadership Skills, a 38 unit program, incorporates the 18 units of core requirements as well,” he said.
“The third program is Information Services, which entails 12 units for completion. The skills learned prepare the student for entry level jobs in data and word processing.”
The enduring success of Bethany Christian Bible College can be traced to the firm foundation laid by Dr. Johnson when he established the school with the assistance of seven people who shared his dedication to the vision.
“We are greatly indebted to them because they played pivotal roles in the launching of the college. Standing alongside Dr. Johnson were Dr. William (Bill) Burwell, the first Dean; Mr. Edward L. Russell, the current Dean; the late Dr. Joseph Lee, Mrs. Sandy Tufts, Mr. Columbus Wallace, Mr. Daniel Dawson and Dr. Margaret Williams,” noted Dr. Kessee, who united with Bethany Baptist Church in 1964.
Reflecting on the prophecy that Dr. Johnson made that same year, Dr. Kessee recalled, “I was a young lad of 18 years of age when I preached for the first time at Bethany. Following the sermon, Dr. Johnson announced to the congregation that God had revealed to him that I was to be the next pastor of the church. Some 30 years later, his words came to life when I became the Executive Pastor under Dr. Johnson and served until his retirement.”
Also, Dr. Johnson, a strong proponent of Christian Education, encouraged Pastor Kessee to complete undergraduate studies at Bishop College in Dallas, TX and earn both Master’s of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees at Faith Seminary in Tacoma, WA.
Looking towards the future, Dr. Kessee has a dream of his own that he aims to achieve as president of Bethany Christian Bible College.
“My vision is two-fold. I would like the school to obtain accreditation to issue a Bachelor’s degree in addition to our current accreditation by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) to issue Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in Biblical Studies. Secondly, I hope to obtain a larger facility to accommodate more students,” he said.
Bethany Christian Bible College is a ministry of Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles located at 4141 West Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Los Angeles. To learn more, call (323) 298-5396.