The Beginning (1963)
One Sunday afternoon late in the summer of 1963 a very unusual meeting took place on the campus of Otterbein College. A group of about fifteen men exited several automobiles on Grove Street and formed a rough circle on the lawn in front of Tower Hall. Here the men paused and began to pray. After each man had his turn, they returned to their automobiles and drove away. For students or other passers-by who might have noticed this uncommon gathering, the event was neither noteworthy nor important. But from a heavenly perspective, it was both. Pastor William Ashbrook of Calvary Bible Church, along with its Elders and Trustees, had been praying for about six months, asking God to establish a work in the Westerville area. With this prayer meeting on the Otterbein campus, a step of final commitment had been taken. Less than four months later, Westerville Bible Church was established.
On Sunday, November 17, 1963, Westerville Bible Church opened its doors for services. The church met in the house at 1935 Schrock Road, which served as both church and parsonage. Services were held in the basement; Pastor Roger Bixler, and his family, recently called from Wisconsin, occupied the main floor—a less than perfect arrangement, perhaps, but one which was workable at the time. That first Sunday, seventy-two people were present in Sunday School, with four more arriving to attend the morning service.
In December of that year, the Session of Calvary Bible Church appointed a provisional Session: Mr. Lee Ensminger, Mr. Harley Huston, Mr. Paul Jones, and Mr. Warren Morton. In 1964, planning began in earnest for a building. This was evidently the Lord’s will, for on May 24, ground was broken for the new building. Work advanced through the summer, with the building under roof by October. The first service in the building was held on November 15 and one week later, Dr. William McCarrell spoke at the official dedication service.
Early Growth (1963–1968)
The next few years were years of activity and growth. In 1965 the first meeting of the Women’s Missions Study Group was held. In 1966 the first baptismal service was held. 1967 witnessed the beginning of the Rest Home ministry, the purchase of an organ, and the construction of a wooden cross in the sanctuary. In July, the church was legally and duly incorporated as Westerville Bible Church. On March 10, 1968 eighty-five memberships were transferred from Calvary Bible Church to Westerville Bible Church, the final step of faith by a group who were faithful indeed. November 24, 1968 marked the fifth anniversary of the church.
Building and Growing (1968–1996)
In May 1978, Calvary Bible Church broke ground on property just to the south of Westerville Bible Church for Northside Christian School. In March 1980, the congregation amended the church constitution providing for the election of the first Deacons in light of continued growth and administrative duties: Mr. Wallace Sanders, Mr. Barry Hartman, and Mr. Robert Meyer. In November 1980, the Session appointed an advisory committee to investigate the need for expansion. In July 1981, ground was broken for the new addition. On June 13, 1982, the enlarged and remodeled building was ready and a dedication service was held.
Moving Forward (1996–present)
In 1995, Pastor Bixler announced his plans to move into a full-time missionary ministry with Gospel Fellowship Association Missions. God again guided and protected Westerville Bible Church as it sought a man to lead the congregation. The Lord brought the Session and Pastor Paul Hamilton together, and in July 1996, Pastor Hamilton traveled from southern California to serve as pastor with his young family.
In 2001, the Session hired a part-time administrative assistant to aid Pastor Hamilton in ministry duties. In 2003, the congregation called Mark Perry, a young man who had grown up in the church and had recently returned from school, to come as a pastoral intern. They extended his call to be a full time assistant pastor in 2004. Pastor Perry has served alongside Pastor Hamilton working with the deacons, teens, senior citizens, and as an office manager. After much consideration, prayer, and teaching, the church made an official switch to use the English Standard Version of the Bible for preaching and teaching in 2009.
After Fifty Years
On November 17, 2013, Westerville Bible Church celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. The weekend was centered on being “strengthened by God’s grace” (Heb 13:9). We looked back over fifty years, thanking God for his strengthening grace, we looked inside, reminding ourselves of the need for God’s strengthening grace, and we looked to the future, praying for God’s strengthening grace.
Over the past fifty years, Jesus has built His church here in Westerville, Ohio as he promised (Matt 16:18). Souls have been saved, believers have grown into Christlikeness, missionaries have gone around the world, and Jesus has completed his work in many saints and called them to be with him in glory. If the body of Christ is the members, then Westerville Bible Church as it appeared in 1963 is not the same church today. But God has continued to bring a group of believers together in this place for the past fifty years to hear His Word and fellowship with His children. Westerville Bible Church is a living example of Samuel Stone’s text, “The Church’s One Foundation”:
Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we
like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee!
Over the years, paint and carpet have been replaced, Schrock Road and Westerville have grown up, and members of Westerville Bible Church have aged. Some have moved out of state, and most of that original faithful band are now with the Lord. However, God has raised up believers to take their places and minister the Word of God faithfully here in this location. We want to make sure we thank God for what he has done. True, God has used many individuals in wonderful ways over the years, but ultimately, Westerville Bible Church is Jesus’s church, and he is the one who “holds the stars in his hand” and “walks among the lampstands” (Rev 1:12–20).