For Pastor Mike Hoggard, Bethel Church has been his “home” now since he started attending there with his sister and mother, beginning in 1974. He has seen the church at its best and at its worst since then, but the thought of ministering anywhere else just doesn’t enter into his mind.
Pastor Mike was baptized there by Pastor Robert Sherry, shortly after having received salvation at the age of 9 in June 1975. As a growing teen worker in the church he was used to help in Children’s Church, playing piano for the adult services, then later became the song director at 15 years old. In 1982, at the age of 16, Mike came forward to pray after hearing then Pastor Ken Goff preach “Must Jesus bear His cross Alone”, a sermon based on the Hymn of that name, and submitted what he believed was the call to preach the Gospel. He was set aside for 6 months for prayer and seeking the Lord to make his “calling and election sure” after which he was examined by a board of local denominational pastors who then gave their approval and licensed him to preach, allowing him the ability to preach in any Free Will Baptist church. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Lisa Leonard, whose family had just moved their membership to Bethel, although at the time, neither Mike nor Lisa had any interest in each other.
In 1984, after graduation from Festus High School, Mike, the young preacher, set out for Oklahoma to attend Hillsdale FWB College, located in Moore, OK, a suburb of Oklahoma City. It was there that Mike increased in his abilities to use music in ministry, preach, study the Word of God. After 2 ½ years of study there, he attended 1 semester at Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, TN.
It was at the end of that semester that Mike and Lisa finally began to see each other, after both of them had come out of failed relationships. In July of 1987 Mike and Lisa were married at Bethel Church, with Pastor Ken Goff presiding. They took on local jobs, and faithfully attended Bethel church until in September, 1990 God led them both to leave Bethel and Pastor what was to be Mike’s first church, the First Free Will Baptist church in Richwoods, MO. A small, country church, in a town where everybody knew everybody else. These were good times for the young couple, having a new church to minister and labor in, and starting a family there. He enjoyed a happy and blessed ministry there until the end of 1993 when they both felt the need to return to Bethel.
Mike and Lisa and their young family returned to Bethel in January of 1994, and by August of 1994, Mike became an Assistant pastor and started a Daycare Center and a Christian school. In December of 1996, the Senior pastor at the time was forced to resign due to medical issues, and Mike, now Pastor Mike, was tasked with Pastoring the church, as well as operating and managing a Daycare center and Christian school. This went on until December of 2008 when the Lord led Pastor Mike and the church to shut down both school and daycare center, and seek a new direction for the church.
That new direction came in January 2009, when the Lord gave Pastor Mike the idea for the very first Watchman Broadcast. The rest, is part of a NEW HISTORY for Bethel Church.