Pastor Jonathan Stockstill officially became the lead pastor of Bethany on October 2, 2011, making him the third-generation Stockstill to act as senior pastor for the ministry. In January 2011, both he and Pastor Larry fasted for 21 days to confirm what their board of overseers and family were sensing as direction from the Lord: it was time to pass the baton to the next generation. Pastor Jonathan followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming lead pastor at 30 years old, the same age Pastor Larry was when he took over. Since making the transition, Pastor Jonathan has been leading the church with fresh vision, excitement, passion, and creative ideas to win Baton Rouge and surrounding areas for Christ. His heart to see lives transformed by the power of God and to see people experience new life in Christ is the bedrock of his vision for this new chapter of Bethany’s story.
Pastor Joel Stockstill has been a prophetic voice for believers both young and old across the nation for a number of years now. The Lord has given him a unique message to the body of Christ that reaches beyond age, nationality, and cultural barriers. Many church pastors and youth pastors seek his insight in the areas of leadership strategy, youth ministry, and spiritual understanding. Pastor Joel desires to see the church focus on the message of the cross, holiness, and the principles found in the book of Acts that caused the early church to explode in revival and growth.
Pastor Joel has faced many battles in life in the process of reaching his place of ministry. Despite continual attacks on his kidneys since the age of 12, he has followed the Lord and birthed one of the largest youth ministries in America, which currently reaches 7,000 young people a week in the Baton Rouge area. In 2007, Pastor Joel began more extensive mentoring of youth pastors nationally while also equipping the church locally as the senior pastor of Bethany’s north campus. In 2008, his precious wife of nearly 3 1/2 years went to be with the Lord after a nine-month fight against cancer. Through all of his personal and ministerial challenges, Pastor Joel’s passion for the presence of God and faith for the end-time harvest has only increased, and he continues to be used by the Lord.
On September 4, 2010, the sparkle came back when Pastor Joel and his lovely bride, Amie, were married in front of the Bethany congregation, 220 youth group, and friends from across the country. Pastor Joel continues to minister to young people, mentor pastors, and release his prophetic ministry to the body of Christ. He remains on staff at Bethany as one of its teaching pastors for the weekend and midweek services. He and Amie also serve as directors of 220i, Bethany’s youth internship program.
Pastor Larry Stockstill was called into the ministry at the age of 16 and immediately responded to that call. After graduating in 1971 from Baker High School in Baker, Louisiana, he enrolled in Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, graduating in 1975 with a degree in theological and historical studies. Upon graduation, he continued at ORU as associate chaplain until 1976. At that time, he and his wife, Melanie, moved to West Africa to serve as missionaries in Nigeria and Ghana. In 1978, they returned to Louisiana, where Pastor Larry joined the pastoral staff of Bethany World Prayer Center, the church his father, Roy Stockstill, had founded in 1963.
In August 1983, Roy Stockstill retired as senior pastor of Bethany, and the mantle of leadership passed to his son Larry. At the age of 30, Pastor Larry thus became the senior pastor of Bethany. Building upon the foundation laid by his father in the early years of the church, he emphasized simplicity, sincerity, and sacrifice as the guiding principles for the Bethany congregation. By 1985, two years after Pastor Larry assumed leadership, the church had increased from 2,000 members to 5,500 members, thus creating the need for a larger sanctuary. The current structure on Plank Road in Baker resulted, capable of seating 6,000 people.
Realizing the need to make the large church personal and accessible to its members, Pastor Larry began the transition of Bethany from a program-based church to a small-groups–based church in 1993. In this capacity, members meet weekly in small groups in homes throughout the city and surrounding area. This Life Group ministry began with 54 groups and now has over 1,300 groups with more than 6,000 members.
During the ensuing years, Bethany continued to grow and prosper. In 2001, another branch of Bethany was opened, this time in the south part of Baton Rouge. Called Bethany South, this congregation rapidly grew to approximately 5,000.
When Bethany was founded, giving to world missions was established as a cornerstone of the church, with the first check ever written being designated for missions. Pastor Larry continued to expand upon that mandate during his pastorate. Since 1984, Bethany has given nearly $63 million to local and foreign missions and has supported over 300 missionaries and outreaches. In 2001, Bethany launched the Surge Project, an international church-planting venture. Since its inception, Surge has planted over 20,000 churches in more than 35 nations around the world.
In January 2011, Pastor Larry and his son Jonathan went on a 21-day fast to seek God concerning the next step for Bethany. During this fast, they received confirmation of what their board of overseers and family was sensing as a direction from the Lord. In April of 2011, Pastor Larry Stockstill announced to the church that he would hand the pastoral baton to his son Jonathan. He shared with the church that he knew his life was to be more focused on the Surge movement for worldwide church planting and the Remnant movement. The Remnant movement focuses on restoring personal and spiritual integrity to church leadership in America, a call that Pastor Larry is very passionate about. In this cause, he travels the country to minister to other pastors and spiritual leaders.
Pastor Larry has been a spiritual mentor for many pastors, leaders, and government officials throughout his ministry. From 1998 to 2004, he led a weekly Bible study at the Governor’s Mansion for Governor Mike Foster of Louisiana and his staff. He also meets with and mentors a group of local pastors in the Baton Rouge area.
In addition to being a teaching pastor at Bethany, Pastor Larry is president of Heartbeat of Louisiana, a coalition of pro-life ministries, and serves on the board of directors for Church Growth International in Seoul, Korea. He also hosts a local television program called Lifeline with Larry Stockstill.