This free college offers evening classes at Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles.
By Tracey Edwards
Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles founder Rev. Dr. Rocellia Johnson created a Christian education program in 1982, and the popularity of the program helped evolve it into a college.
Bethany Christian Bible College was established to give their congregation a better understanding of the Bible and so that Christians could become more knowledgable about the Lord. The college quickly grew and attracted people from churches throughout the greater Los Angeles area.
“People take what they learn here and transfer it to their church,” said Rev. Dr. L.A. Kessee, president of the college and pastor of Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles. “That is of utmost importance. That is what keeps the school going. People telling people about the classes that we have here.”
Many of the students of the college attend their home church’s Bible study meetings, but they are generally seeking a deeper understanding of the Bible, which leads them to the college.
“I came to Bethany Bible College because I wanted to learn systematically,” said Dr. Lonnie Goodwin, who started out as a student at the college, and now is an instructor. “In our churches, we have Bible study. We may speak on the Book of John tonight, and next week we might go into the Book of Romans, and the next week we’ll go on to something else. A lot of times, we don’t learn what we should learn because we don’t take the scriptures home and study them. So I needed to be somewhere that I could learn systematically.”
Classes at the college are held in the evenings, Monday through Thursday, starting at 7 p.m. People who take one class an evening can finish the program in two years. The courses at this college are vital for Christians who are looking to teach other Christians.
“Even though I was working in my church in the ministry, I needed to know more and learn more so that I could teach others in the church,” Goodwin said. “Even if I was teaching the children, I needed to know more about God’s word in order to lead them.”
Students of the college not only strengthen their abilities to teach others, but they also incorporate the lessons into their own lives.
“This school develops and raises people’s level of Christianity,” Kessee said. “This is to help people get beyond ‘babyhood’ Christianity. What you learn in the Book of Romans, the doctrines that you learn, you want to be able to incorporate that into your belief system as well as activate that into your lifestyle. We’re talking about the Christian life here, and people become stronger believers.”
This college has been free for the students since Rev. Dr. Rocellia Johnson created the program 37 years ago.
“He did not want that anybody would ever have to be turned away for lack of funds,” Kessee said. “He didn’t want anybody walking away from this school with their head down because they did not have the wherewithal to enroll and to stay in school because they could not pay a bill. Some of us experienced that in our collegiate careers, when you had to pay the bill or you couldn’t take the final. Well he didn’t want that.”
Students can give a free will gift to the school, but no student is required to pay a fee. The college is funded through Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles and donations.
Student-body president Frances Yvonne Williams has been able to take the knowledge that she has acquired from the college back to her home church, Greater Zion Church Family.
“I always wanted to know who I was serving, and that is what led me to the school,” she said. “I’m over certain groups at my church, and this school helps me know who I’m talking about. It helps me stand firm in who I believe in.”
There are no prerequisites to attend the college. Kessee said that he’s had students who had less than a high school diploma all the way up to students who hold doctorate degrees.
Bethany Christian Bible College is located at 4141 W. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Los Angeles. To learn more, call (323) 298-5396 or visit www.baldwinbethanycdc.org