The Gethsemane Baptist Story
On September 18, 1974, 25 people gathered in the home of Joe and Janice Hensley, at 1319 E. 53rd Street here in Long Beach. These people met to discuss establishing a fundamental, Bible-believing church in Long Beach. A motion was made the next week to name the church “Gethsemane Baptist Temple”. On December 12, 1974, Larry Webb was called as pastor of the newly chartered church. The church was organized on September 18, and was approved as a non-profit corporation on November 18, 1974.
In April of 1975 Gethsemane moved from the Hensley home to the first rented building at 4148 Norse Way in Long Beach. Just 3 months later in July, Gethsemane needed more space and rented a building at 4410 Greenmeadow in Long Beach. While at Greenmeadow, Gethsemane added its first staff member, Larry Ortega, as music director. It was during this time that Gethsemane established its first annual budget at $825 a week, and began supporting 12 missionaries.
In November of 1977 the church called a business meeting to purchase a building at 15363 Orange Avenue in Paramount for $250,000 (then owned by Community Baptist Church). On November 26, 1978, Pastor Larry Webb and Associate Pastor Jim Newton officially resigned. In December of 1978 Jim Black was called as the pastor. Before God called him, he had developed a great love and burden for Gethsemane as a result of speaking as a guest preacher. He was anxious to continue the ministry God was developing. Shortly after Jim Black was called as pastor, Daniel Quinones joined the staff, beginning Gethsemane’s Spanish Ministry. A soul-winning outreach began to the servicemen then stationed in Long Beach, where many families were saved, and men were called to preach. Under the leadership of such men as Jim Butikofer, the bus ministry grew and reached many new goals. An army of Sunday School teachers, bus workers, and soul winners pitched in together and reached hundreds of children and families for Christ. They saw an average of 200 people a month baptized.
On January 6, 1988, our church membership met at Grace Fellowship for a tour of the facility. They then met in the auditorium and voted to purchase our present building site at 6095 Orange Avenue in Long Beach for 2.5 million dollars. On Easter Sunday of 1988 we met in our new facility.
On March 5, 1980, the church voted to begin a Christian school. In September of 1980 the school had 60 students enrolled in grades K4 through fifth grade. In its second year of operation, the Lord added a sixth grade. From 1983 to 1988 the administration added a new grade every year, and in 1988 Gethsemane Baptist Christian School graduated its first senior class with four graduates.
On Sunday, February 6, 1994, Pastor Jim Black announced to the general congregation that he would be resigning as pastor. His last day in the pulpit would be Sunday, February 27, 1994. For three months Frank Collins served as the interim pastor for the church. On July 10, 1994, a business meeting was called after Sunday evening services for the purpose of voting on a pastoral candidate, Dr. David L. Smith. Although he received a 99% affirmative vote, God directed the Smiths not to take the position at that time. On September 11, 1994, Matt Echols was voted by the church to be the pastor. On February 5, 1995, he resigned as pastor, to be effective February 8. On February 12 a business meeting was held and the church voted to ask Dave Smith to candidate once again. On February 19th, Dr. Dave Smith preached and was voted to be the pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church. This time he felt the leading of the Lord to take the position as pastor. His first Sunday was March 5, 1995.
When the Smiths came, the church was supporting just a handful of missionaries. We are now supporting more than 100 missionaries! Our yearly giving to missions has more than tripled. Pastor Smith’s burden and vision for souls have been taught and passed on to the church body. Through his verse-by-verse expository preaching, he has endeavored to faithfully teach the Word of God. He is a man that stands for truth, integrity, and consistency. His Christianity is real. God blessed Gethsemane Baptist Church by bringing Pastor & Mrs. Smith.
Pastor Smith announced to the congregation that he was going to step down from the pastorate and follow the Lord’s call to help new church plants. On November 15, 2009, the church celebrated its 35th anniversary and this too was the Smith's last Sunday. We are thankful for their faithfulness to the Lord for their 14 1/2 years of ministry at GBC.
The Lord saw fit to elect David Murphy as our new pastor and his first Sunday was November 22, 2009. He and his family have been faithfully serving at Gethsemane since 2000. We are truly looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us until His return!