Our Story

Our Church History

It was a seed of prayer that was planted by many to start a new American Baptist church in the Bear, Delaware area. It dug its roots in 1989 and sprouted into the Good Shepherd Baptist Church (GSBC). A steering committee cultivated the budding church in its first year until Rev. Sean Lee was named founding pastor.

The central meeting place was at Glasgow Pines Community Center in March 1990. A 4-week phone-a-thon was conducted, with volunteers from other American Baptist Churches making 14,514 phone calls to inform the community about the formation of the new church. On Mother’s Day of 1990, GSBC held its first worship service with 138 people in attendance. The subsequent weeks saw an average attendance of about 60 people.

Over the following months, fellowship continued to grow, as did its ministries and weekday programs. Before long, GSBC has outgrown the Community Center. And the search for affordable property began. Within a short time, the Lord led the search team to its present property, a four-acre lot. In January 1991, it held worship services at May B. Leisure Elementary School. In April of that year, GSBC celebrated the signing of its Constitution and dedication of the newly acquired land.
In April 1992, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new church building. The exterior structure was contracted out. And it took a village to construct the interior with the heartening participation of GSBC members, along with volunteers from several churches in the area, as well as from other East Coast churches. While the building was still a work in progress, GSBC conducted services on the property grounds under a large Army tent. What an exciting time that was in the life of the church. GSBC celebrated its first worship service and completed construction in November 1992.
Growth in the new building continued, with membership peaking at about 150 members. Near the beginning of 1995, special approval was obtained from the County to expand the burgeoning Sunday school classes into the main floor of the church house, while funds were collected for a new education wing. During that period, GSBC shared in over 100 baptisms, 12 weddings, 30 children dedication, and more than 200 souls won for Christ.

On June 8, 1997, Rev. Peter Ely was installed as the first permanent pastor since the founding of the church. Prayer teams were implemented, and they would provide prayer for individuals following the worship service. During this time, a praise team was also formed. Many outside groups began using the facilities, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Mom’s Club, Autistic Group from Newark High School, and a local Jazzercise group. Also, another newly formed church – Grace Tabernacle American Baptist Church began using the facility for worship, Sunday school, and weekday Bible study and prayer.
On July 4, 2001, a new education wing was completed and approved for occupancy. These additions were afforded, in part because insurance money was made available ($22,300) from damaged water pipes in the church house. In fact, this was just the amount needed to complete the project. The reason funds were low was that the church attendance had dwindled to less than 35, even as the building expanded.
There have been a total of 8 servants of God who each became an instrumental part in laying down the spiritual brickwork of GSBC over time:
  • Rev. Sean Lee (1990 – 1996)
  • Rev. David Darodd (1996 – 1997)
  • Rev. Peter Ely (1997 – 2002)
  • Rev. Steve Smith (2002 – 2003)
  • Rev. Rick Hill (Aug – Dec 2003)
  • Rev. Robert Zimmerman (2004 – 2005)
  • Rev. Leland Maxson (2005 – 2007)
  • Rev. William Offutt (2007 – 2010)
  • Rev. Gregory Ellis (2010 – 2013)

A new chapter was penned in 2013 as two separate churches intertwine and recognize the mutually beneficial decision to join as one.  It became evident that each was the answer to the other’s prayer. The merger marks a major turning point in the history of GSBC.

Healing Water Bible Church International (HWBCI) was a next-door neighbor, affiliated with Southern Baptist Church. Though it had its humble beginnings in 2004 meeting in a trailer at the parking lot of Ogletown Church, its stable growth ultimately reached the full capacity of its subsequently owned residential property on Porter Road, utilized as a church facility. Facing zoning issues, HWBCI became an itinerant church with provisions saved up, actively looking for a permanent place to pitch in its pegs.

It was a complementing union, supplying what the other needed. HWBCI had to live out to its name to heal, as it served as the lifeline for GSBC to continue in its course pulsating in its mission to cater to the community where it’s planted. The HWBCI congregation voted in favor of the merger, in line with the recommendation of its Senior Pastor Jessie Arce, who piloted a new disposition of embracing cultural diversity for the heavily Filipino congregation. And in turn, GSBC found its doors bustling with foot traffic. The combined leadership decided to align itself with “organizations of like faith” so that we can officially continue to voluntarily cooperate with any bible believing church, association, and convention of same faith and practice.

God breathed life into the situation. But it also called for its members to get out of their comfort zones and stretch their faith to far greater heights than they’ve ever been. A lot of changes were introduced and it inherently became a pruning phase for the Church body.
Amid all the moving parts, investing in the younger generation to bring about youthful energy into the mix remained a high-priority objective. The big push in this direction will sustain the generational balance and ensure the longevity of the church, training its future leaders and activating them now to participate in the overall commission.
A second vocational position was imminent to close the gap of engaging younger demographics. In 2012, Pastor Daniel Vaughan was hired into the role of the first Student Pastor and hoisted in the middle of the action for this divinely appropriated progression. In 2016, his function expanded as the Associate Pastor also.
In June 2016, the GSBC leadership challenged its members to be mission-minded through the Capture The Vision (CTV) capital campaign. The church embarked on a major renovation of the facility to create an open layout at the rear end of the building and have a conducive and inviting fellowship hall. The intention was to build a community hub, strengthening local missions and outreach, while promoting biblical generosity.
It was timely and fitting that in February 2017, GSBC welcomed its third pastoral staff in the person of Pastor Paul Vaughan who now serves as the Discipleship and Outreach Pastor. He has filled a real need to equip and train all the Elders, Deacons, and Ministry Leaders to be cognizant of the Purpose, Mission, and Vision (PMV) of the church. He is looking to mobilize all the small groups to march forward in one accord.

Where we are headed...

Our church story has had its share of bumps and twists in the road, but it is quite evident who has had the wheel along the way! Many prayers have been said through this journey, and God has answered them all, however He has answered them in His way and in His time.  GSBC is the beautiful result of those answered prayers, and looks today, nothing like we could have ever imagined, and we would not change a single thing!!!  So where are we headed???  Where ever God leads!!!  He has given us a vision, and we have prayed that it aligns with His will, but where will His Will lead us, only He truly knows.  We do know however, that it will be a journey worth taking.  

Join us, and let's find out together!  

Be a part of our story...

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