History of the Abilene Bible Church

The story of Abilene Bible Church is essentially the story of a man and his ministry and the faithfulness of God in providing for and expanding that ministry. With that thought in mind, we begin our story with that man.

Arthur Joseph Temple was born on October 14, 1917, in East McKeesport, Pennsylvania, into a middle class family. His parents were hard–working people who struggled through the years of the Great Depression to provide for their family. The children, though taught to be honest and law–abiding, had no real spiritual emphasis in the home, and Joe Temple had not yet met the Lord.

When Joe was in his teens, he attended a revival meeting in a Methodist church in his home town. He went there with several other young men for the purpose of making light of the people there and their beliefs, but God had other ideas: He came under deep conviction of sin at that meeting, and he found himself at the front of the church in response to an invitation to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. He left that church that night with a desire that has never waned–a desire to tell people about Christ, to tell them what the Bible says.

By what he believes to be divine intervention, Joe Temple was led to go to school at Bob Jones College in Cleveland, Tennessee (now Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina). He credits that institution with setting him right theologically and grounding him in the Word of God.

There he was taught another lesson which was to become the mainstay of his ministry, and that was to live by faith. Since he had no money, he had to trust God by faith to send the money to pay tuition and board, and during that time he made a covenant with God to live by faith. He made a decision never to let salary be the determining factor in his ministry, never to tell anyone what his needs were, and never to question how God met his needs. We emphasize this because the ministry of Abilene Bible Church from the very beginning was and still is a ministry of faith.

Joe Temple graduated from Bob Jones College in 1939 and began his work in evangelism and Bible conference work while waiting on the Lord to show him what his ministry was to be. It was this work in evangelism that brought him, at the invitation of evangelist T. Perry Brannon, to Sanco, Texas, in Coke County, for an old–fashioned cowboy camp meeting. People came from all around the area to hear the preaching. They camped in tents, cooked outdoors, and enjoyed fellowshipping together.

At that meeting, there were several people from Abilene, Texas, who were impressed with Joe's preaching, and they asked him to come to Abilene to preach. He told them that he was already committed to preach in Nashville, Tennessee, and would be unable to come to Abilene. However, once again the Lord intervened, and his meeting in Nashville was canceled, enabling him to accept the invitation to come with them to Abilene.

Beginning of the Radio Ministry

When Joe first came to Abilene, he stayed at the home of Mr. & Mrs. E.P. "Doc" Mead. Their invitation had been: "Come to Abilene and there will be some place for you to preach," so Doc Mead bought time on the radio and told him, "At least you can preach on the radio while you are here." That was the beginning of a radio ministry that has lasted over forty–eight years and expanded from one radio station to stations all over the United States.

At the end of that period of time for which the station was paid, Joe received a letter with two one–dollar bills in it. The letter recalled the blessing that the program had been to the writer, and he asked that Joe keep his program on the air. That was the reason for the donation—to buy radio time. Donations received in this fashion have always been used to meet the expenses of the radio ministry.

Joe read that letter on the radio, and he impulsively told his listeners, "Send the money in and I will stay and preach." When letters began to come in, Joe was impressed with the idea that the Lord would have him stay, so he went to talk to the owner of radio station KRBC to see if they could continue buying the time period that he had. The owner, Josh Barrett, said, "No, I don't want anyone on my station saying, 'Give me a dollar and come to Jesus,' and that's what most radio preachers do." Joe assured him that the only thing he would say was that the programs would be kept on the air through freewill offerings, and Mr. Barrett agreed to that. That is still the way the matter of giving is handled.

When the radio ministry began, Joe Temple believed he had found the ministry for which the Lord had been preparing him. Little did he know of the plan that the Lord had for him from this humble beginning. This was to be just the beginning of a ministry that was to grow and reach out to people in ways he could never have imagined.

Early in the radio ministry, the program became known as the "Lest We Forget" Bible program. This name was borrowed from a program of the same name, conducted by Pastor Jack Munion of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Another radio program that had impressed Joe was the "Old Fashioned Revival Hour" conducted by Dr. Charles E. Fuller of California. From the influence of these radio Bible teachers, Joe became convinced that radio was a powerful tool to be used in reaching men for Christ, and now the door was open for him to be used of the Lord in just this way.

Early in the Lest We Forget radio ministry, Joe began seeking the mind of the Lord regarding a Scripture text to emphasize the thrust of his ministry. He was led to claim Nehemiah, chapter 8, verse 8, as the basis for his approach to the teaching of the Word of God. The Scripture reads: "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." This led him to the verse by verse exposition of the Word that he continues even until the present hour.

Back in those days, sound recording tapes were not available, and the messages were transmitted live from the stations. Joe had five broadcasts a day, some of them broadcast to surrounding communities via telephone lines. Later, he had broadcasting equipment in his home from which to send out his messages. There were two local broadcasts, one in the morning and a night broadcast that was called, "The Family Altar." On Sunday night, they broadcast a program that was called, "The Young People's Church of the Air."

Two Became One

During that first year here, Joe kept in contact with Christine Ray, whom he had met at Bob Jones College. She was the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. Fred H. Ray. Rev. Ray was a Methodist pastor associated with the North Georgia Methodist Conference. "Cricket," as she was called, stayed to finish her education at Bob Jones College, and she and Joe were married on June 30, 1940. She then joined her husband in Abilene and became a valuable asset to his ministry.

Joe recalls that after a brief honeymoon which included a visit to his parents' home in Pennsylvania, he and Cricket came to Abilene by bus. They were met by friends who had arranged a garden party and an old fashioned pounding for them. That pounding provided groceries for quite some time, for which they were grateful to God. When the groceries ran out and all that was left were potatoes, the Temples received word from some friends who had just married that they were coming to see them, and they were concerned because they did not have food to prepare meals for them. They went to the Lord in prayer and asked Him to provide for food. They even made out a menu and asked Him to supply the particular ingredients. One of the things on the list was hamburger meat from which Cricket planned to make meat loaf.

Joe went on about his business, and later that day met the visiting couple and took them to his and Cricket's apartment. When he opened the door to go upstairs to the apartment, he smelled a wonderful aroma coming from the apartment. Rushing up the stairs and into the apartment, he found Cricket in the kitchen. He said, "Honey, this is wonderful! God has answered prayer!" Cricket turned to him with tears in her eyes and said, "I am disappointed. We agreed that we would never tell anyone what we needed, and I am afraid you have done that, because everything we had on that menu was delivered to this door from the grocer today. They couldn't have known if you hadn't told them." Joe said, "Honey, I didn't tell them!" What a wonderful provision from the Lord! Later, they were able to smile about the incident, realizing that they hadn't really expected it to happen.

The thing that really makes this little story more interesting is the sequel which came much later. Joe told this story in a meeting one night, and after the meeting a lady came up to him and said, "Oh, that story was such a blessing." Joe said to her, "I'm glad. That is why I told it. Faith needs to be encouraged." "Oh, I don't mean that," the lady said, "I'm the one who sent you those groceries, and I want to tell you how it happened." She went on to tell him how the Lord had impressed her to do that. Even after she had made the order, she couldn't rest, and she prayed about it. The Lord brought it to her mind that she should call the grocer back and change the order she had made from T–bone steaks to hamburger meat. She said, "Oh, what God taught me!" Joe answered her, "He has taught me something,too. I am never again going to be satisfied with hamburger when God wants me to have T–bone steaks."

At the time that Cricket came to Abilene, a group of Christian women had sought to get a class in Bible taught in the public school here. After much persuasion, the superintendent of schools agreed to a class taught at Abilene High School provided that the teacher also be able to teach a class in Spanish. Since that requirement was difficult to meet, a teacher had not been found when Cricket arrived in Abilene. Cricket had graduated from Bob Jones College with a major in Bible and a minor in Spanish, so she met the requirements and was permitted to teach a class on the Bible. Once again, the direction of the Lord in the lives of the Temples was evident. Cricket taught from 1940 until Tim was born in November of 1943.

Victory Service Center

In 1941, the United States became involved in World War II, and soon after, Camp Barkeley opened in Abilene. The men came here for basic training of thirteen weeks, and there were few places of activity for them as the churches at that time did not have family centers and activity buildings as they do now. There were service organizations that sprang up similar to USOs, but with a Christian emphasis, and this became a burden on the hearts of Joe and some of his Christian friends. These centers were called, "Victory Service Centers," and some Christians were led to open a center such as this for service men here. They were concerned for the men going off to war with the possibility that they might not come back, many of them without the Lord.

In 1943, after much prayer, the Lord directed Joe and Cricket to the building here at 733 Butternut Street. It had been a furniture store called "Cottage Furniture," and the building was for rent. They contacted the owner, and by the grace of God and through His obvious working, they were able to purchase the building and begin the ministry of the Victory Service Center. The Abilene Bible Conference Association was formed and a new era of ministry began in addition to the radio ministry.

At that time, Sunday morning services were begun, scheduled not to conflict with regular church services in the area. Also offered were Friday night Bible classes and regularly scheduled Bible conference speakers.

In addition to these opportunities for Bible study, there were other facilities, such as showers, provided for the servicemen. On many occasions, refreshments were served, and the men were ministered to in a personal way.

Support came from individuals, many of them from different churches, who were interested in the ministry to servicemen. No official church support from church budgets was given, but enough individuals were burdened for the work that the needs were met. Interest grew among the civilian population so that the classes and services were open to anyone who wanted to attend.

Joe and Cricket had been living at 433 Palm Street, and after the purchase of the building for the service center, they moved into the back of the building in an area remodeled into living quarters. Later, they built an additional bedroom and bath for Bible conference speakers to stay in when they came. It was here that they were living when the first of their seven children, Tim, was born on November 12, 1943. Later added to the family were Joy, Faith, Hope, Philip, and the twins, Joanna and Susanna. All are now happily serving the Lord in the work to which He has called them.

The upstairs of the building had living quarters that from time to time housed students who were associated with the work in various areas such as singing, etc. They were often music majors from Hardin–Simmons University, and they sang on the radio programs, played music and led the singing in services here. Among the early–day workers were Allan Vine, William Stephens, Drs. Warren and Louise Valene, and Dr. & Mrs. Kenneth Ballinger.

Beginning of the Church Ministry

The work with servicemen was carried on until Camp Barkeley closed after the war ended in 1945. People felt that when the camp was closed, the town would just about close down also. It was a time of adjustment in many ways, and the question arose as to whether to continue services since the men were gone. Some of those on the board were only interested in the service center, and when the need was no longer there, they returned to their churches and resigned from the board. However, many of those who had been coming wanted to continue the services. They began to say, "What is the point of going somewhere else to church? Why not have church services here?" Joe was not eager to do this because by then he had several established classes taking much of his time besides the radio programs. However, when it became evident to him that the Lord was leading in that direction, he agreed, and a new era was about to begin for his ministry and for the Victory Service Center.

After the war was over and the ministry to civilians began, the name was changed to "Victory Bible Center" in order to emphasize the type of ministry that it was—teaching the Word of God. Later, the word "Victory" was dropped, and it became known as the "Bible Center." It was known by that name for so many years that it is still referred to by that name by many people.

When this work began, it was slow–growing for several reasons. For one thing, there were not many independent churches in this part of the country. Also, Abilene was very much a denominational town. Most people here were related to the Baptists, Methodists or Churches of Christ, primarily because of the three colleges here. Dr. Temple recalls that in those days when he was a member of the Ministerial Alliance, if people had no church preference, they were never referred to him. Rather, they were divided among the denominations. Added to the fact that they were not familiar with independent works was the fact that Joe was a Yankee, and they just weren't too sure of him!

Since there were few independent works in those days, there were few local Bible scholars available for Bible conferences, which were very popular at that time. To serve these independent churches, a circuit for Bible conference speakers was set up. They came mostly from the east, and they had to come by train or bus. It was a very long way, so they set up the circuit so that they could minister to many churches and be out several weeks before they returned home. Each church contributed to their support and travel expenses.

The Abilene Bible Conference Association operated under a board of six directors who served as trustees for all real property and were responsible to God and the fellowship. Nominations for vacancies of the board were made by Dr. Temple and presented to the board for election.

Abilene Bible Church has always been an independent work, not affiliated with any denomination, but standing for the historic doctrines of the Christian faith (a statement of doctrine and activities follows at the end of this history). The church offers fellowship, not membership, believing that when people are born again, they are added to the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Missionary Ministry

In 1949, some of the men in the congregation became impressed with the need of a missionary support ministry, and a committee was selected to seek out candidates for their support. That first missionary committee was composed of Ray Spaulding, Buck Sheek, Joe Temple, and Bernard Smith. Bernard continues to be treasurer of the Missionary Fund.

The first missionary chosen for support by the Bible Center in 1950 was Chester Throness with the West Indies Mission. He and his wife, Doris, served as missionaries in Haiti for thirty-six years. Chester is now with the Lord. His wife continued the work for some time, but has now retired.

Paul Smith was the second missionary supported by the Bible Center, and in 1953 Cricket's own sister, Sara Edna, was impressed here at the Bible Center for missionary service with Sudan Interior Missions. She and her husband, Clarence Ely, continue to serve as missionaries to Ethiopia. Sara Edna was the first to answer the call to the mission field from this church. Since that time, Hugh Shiveley, Mary Helen Priddy, Kathleen Ray, Bob and Helen Homeyer and Butch Murr have gone out from the fellowship to the mission field.

Early figures on the missionary budget indicate that approximately $300.00 per month was allocated compared to the present budget of $30,000.00 annually. Twenty–five missionaries or missionary organizations are supported at the present time.

In addition to being treasurer of the Mission Fund, Bernard Smith was one of the first to serve as song leader for the church. He recalls that Hugh Shively and his wife, Eloise, were in the fellowship of the Bible Center around 1955. Hugh served as associate pastor before going with Sudan Interior Missions. While here, Hugh played the piano for the services and Bernard led the singing since, as Bernard puts it, "There was no one else to do it." Bernard served in that capacity from 1947 until 1984, at which time he asked to be relieved of the responsibility since he and his wife, Becky, were planning to begin traveling frequently. At that time, Jim Stanley came to us as music and youth director and assistant pastor.

House on Buffalo Gap Road

After the family grew to include seven children, the living quarters at the church had grown too small, and Joe and Cricket had begun to pray for a place for them to have a house of their own. They had asked the Lord for land on Buffalo Gap Road, which was then out in the country.

In answer to that prayer, a woman called them and offered them a choice of three lots that she owned. One of them was on Buffalo Gap Road, exactly what the Temple family had wanted. Later they were offered a house with a garage apartment if they would move it to their lot. They were, of course, delighted and arrangements were made to move the house and provide needed utilities at little cost to them. The house and garage apartment were placed side by side and joined together to make one large, fifteen-room house. Once again the Lord had proved faithful in meeting their needs abundantly.

With their move, more room was made available at the church for the expansion of seating and Sunday School rooms, and Joe Temple's ministry was enlarged both at home and at the church.

Year Verses

From time to time throughout the years, the Lord has given Dr. Temple certain verses that he has claimed for his "year verse." Each of these verses he has claimed in a special way, believing that God would teach him in detail the meaning of the verse and that He would use it in his life in a special way during the year. Many of these, done in calligraphy for him by his daughter, Faith, hang in the narthex of the sanctuary.

In 1935, after the initial excitement of his conversion had waned, Joe began to be discouraged about his lack of spiritual growth and the uncertainty of his future. God brought to his attention Luke, chapter 5, verse 4: "Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught." The Lord spoke to his heart through that verse that he must launch out into the deep, cut loose from his fears and trust God and never turn back to shore. That verse became his first year verse and has remained a key verse for his life of faith through the years.

In 1959, Joe was led to claim Psalm 37, verses 23 and 24: "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand." God proved Himself true in regard to those verses for that year.

In 1960, the Lord laid on Joe's heart to claim Isaiah, chapter 45, verse 11: "Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me."

In 1962, Joe claimed Isaiah, chapter 43, verse 2: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." In each of these years, these verses were used in a special way in the life of Joe Temple and his family.

Joe's year verse in 1963 saw some real changes and real growth in the ministry of the Bible Center. In January of 1963, Joe was led to claim I Chronicles, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10: "And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested." Joe gave several lessons on these verses during the year. This became a series, which is now in print, entitled the Jabez Series.

Joe claimed the verse, that God would enlarge the boundaries, in regard to the radio ministry, that there would be another program added to the ones already on the air. He claimed the verse in regard to the enlarging of the boundaries in the physical plant of the church as the space was crowded, and many thing were needed. He claimed the verse in regard to the enlarging of the missionary program carried on by the church, believing that an additional missionary would be supported by the church. Finally, he claimed the verse in regard to a television ministry that he had been praying about for some time. All of these things he believed God would do in answer to the prayers of the church and himself in claiming the promise from I Chronicles, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10.

After studying these verses in depth and seeking the mind of the Lord concerning them throughout the year and teaching what God revealed to him to his congregation, Dr. Temple gave what he called "A Rehearsal of Blessing" early in 1964. In this sermon, he told how God had answered prayer in regard to each of these areas.

As we consider God's working in enlarging the coast of the Bible Center, we need to back up just a bit, back to 1959, to see how the Lord was laying the groundwork for the expansion that was to follow.

Tape and Printed Page Ministry

In 1959, Fred and Doris Jenkins began attending the Bible Center in search of good Bible teaching. When they heard Joe Temple, they were amazed at his insight into the Word of God and his ability to apply it to practical, everyday situations, and they began taking every opportunity to hear him teach.

In 1962, in the fall of the year, Fred noticed three individuals sitting on the front row with tape recorders, recording the messages as Joe preached them. He observed this for several weeks when the Lord began to prompt him to look into what they were doing. Fred realized that this was really great teaching, and if these people could record the messages, maybe they could also be put into print. Fred knew nothing of tapes, electronics or printing, but the Lord gave him an idea, and the Tape and Printed page ministry was about to be born.

Having been inspired by Habakkuk, chapter 2, verse 2, which reads, "And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.", Fred approached Joe with the idea of putting the sermons in print. Then, he went to the three people who had been recording to find out why they were doing it. What he found was that a young serviceman stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Jim Foster, was recording the lessons for further study on his own. Jim later went into the ministry and was ordained at the Bible Center. Roberta Dixon was recording them for her maid to listen to at a later date, and Kay Priest was recording them for her personal use.

Since this was in the days before cassette recorders, reel–to–reel recorders were being used. These recorders were expensive, and not too many people had them, but Fred managed to purchase a recorder and began recording with the others. The first series recorded was the Genesis study, which is still available on tape and in print.

From this beginning, Fred sought out help for the realization of his dream, the reaching out with the printed page to all the country. Eudora Hawkins was both editor and printer, using the mimeograph machine with which she also ran the church bulletin. Minnie Hammer was the first transcriber, and the first message to be put into print was "Salvation by Faith" from Romans, chapter 4, verses 1–16. That message was dated March 31, 1963, and another door was opened for the ministry of the Bible Center and Joe Temple.

Also at that time, H. Don and Lucille Rodgers, who were the owners of Stenograph Institute, a court–reporting school, became interested in the work because of the study of the book of Revelation, which Joe began June 16, 1963. They offered the facilities of their school, printing 200 copies of each of the forty-two lessons on the book of Revelation. The work became more than they could handle and since H. Don needed a new Multilith printing machine, he offered the one he had to the church. Others at the church, under Fred's direction, took over the press and the printing responsibilities, and the work grew rapidly from those first printings of 200 to approximately 3,000 copies being mailed weekly at one time.

From those first tapes, word began to spread and requests came in for copies. Roberta, Kay, and Fred made the copies from recorder to recorder and spent many hours in this way, so Fred got more than he bargained for! Not only did he have the Printed Page Ministry that he had sought, but also a tape ministry that grew by leaps and bounds.

The number of people involved grew. The messages were taped, transcribed, edited, proofed, finish–typed, and printed. Then there was a need for workers to staple the lessons together and more workers to bundle the lessons for mailing, and someone to mail the bulk mailing. The work continues, and the Lord continues to expand the outreach of Abilene Bible Church.

Because of this ministry, which is now called Living Bible Studies, the missionary outreach became much greater than anyone had foreseen. Instead of one missionary on the field, God put several through the use of these tools. Jim and Joni Foster of the fellowship moved to New England, carrying the tapes and printed page, and began Bible classes there. Jim and Joanna Palacas went out from the church to Colorado and began using the tapes for Bible classes there. Bill Damewood took the tapes to rural areas of Missouri, and Boyce and Alice McQuay took the lessons to Siloam Springs, Arkansas, where they reached the faculty and students of John Brown University with the ministry of the Word of God.

At that time, 1,300 sermons were in circulation on tape and 11,000 printed sermons were distributed that first year of the ministry.

During that year, central heating was added in the building and seventy–five additional seats were added to the sanctuary. Three more Sunday School rooms were provided as well as a Sunday School assembly room.

In regard to the radio ministry, a new daily program was added in Aztec, New Mexico, on station KHAP, the "Station of the Four Corners" which reached into Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. This program has been a blessing to missionaries among the Navaho Indians in the area.

The emergence of the tape ministry has made possible the enlargement of the radio ministry by way of the duplication of tapes, making them readily available to as many stations as possible. There are always several stations carrying the "Lest We Forget" program, with eight being the usual number.

So God had enlarged the coasts and blessed the ministries in a remarkable way. Another door was opened, and the outreach of the Bible Center had grown in ways that even Joe Temple had not foreseen.

The prayer for expansion for a television ministry was not answered that year, but as we shall see, the answer was only delayed. God's timing is perfect, and He was not through with this verse yet in the life of Joe Temple and the Bible Center.

A Time of Crisis

After the expansion and accompanying blessings of 1963, the year 1964 was a time of crisis in the life of this church. On September 7 of 1964, Joe Temple was laid aside for a time of testing. On that date, he left the pulpit of the church suffering from what was later diagnosed as heart failure. He did not speak from the pulpit again until December 13, 1964. During the time he was laid aside, he underwent open-heart surgery and spent a long time in recovery, during which time he was strengthened and taught many things by the Lord from His Word.

Providentially, during this time, Clarence and Sara Edna Ely came home from the mission field for a time of furlough. Clarence was able to preach in Joe's place for many weeks, for which the congregation was grateful, recognizing God's provision of a teacher and spiritual leader for this time of trial.

When Joe returned to the pulpit, he gave a testimony in the form of the poem which follows:

The Savior found me long ago,
Nourished and blessed me, until I came to know
Through seed planted and in time full grown,
The meaning of life as I had never known.

Then came a day when the Saviour said,
"I want this life I have nourished and fed."
Ready and willing, I yielded my all
In glad response to my Master's call.

I lived my life, surrendered to Him,
Save for the days when the flesh would win
In that struggle which began in my heart
When of the body of Christ I became a part.

So it became a life, his and mine,
A partnership, both human and divine,
Busy and full, with not enough hours
To do the things needed in this life of ours.

But recently my pace was stayed
By the Saviour's hand on my shoulder laid,
And through an experience known to few,
I was granted life, life anew.

And in a message only I could see,
His eyes spoke, "All of Me and none of thee.
This life," he said, "is not yours and Mine,
As was that one that once was thine;

This is new life, Mine alone,
Entrusted to you, but not your own.
Walk softly and hold this trust dear,
Remembering always death is near."

A Time of Renewal

After Joe's return to the pulpit from heart surgery and the following period of recovery, there came a time of renewal for this church and its pastor. Many things were learned during this time of trial, and changes were inevitable because of physical limitations imposed upon Joe due to his illness.

During this time, one young man in the fellowship, O.M. "Doak" Sides served Joe as assistant, driving him to San Angelo for Bible classes, helping in baptism, visitation, etc. Doak was later called to the ministry, ordained at the Bible Center in 1967, attended Dallas Theological Seminary and is now pastor of Tahlequah Bible Church in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

In 1964, Joe was presented by Bob Jones University the degree of Doctor of Divinity in recognition of his many years of faithfully teaching the Word of God.

Television Ministry

In 1966, the prayers for a television ministry were answered, and from that time until the present a Sunday morning message has been broadcast every week over KRBC–TV in Abilene, with scheduled time changes made periodically by the station. Thus another avenue was opened for the teaching ministry of Abilene Bible Church as the television reaches many who are homebound or otherwise unable or unwilling to attend church services.

The Growth Continues

Fred Jenkins left Abilene in 1967, having been transferred by the company he worked for to Dallas, Texas. He left the Tape and Printed Page ministry in the hands of Carl Young, who had been working with him in the ministry since 1963, and a new era of growth was beginning for Living Bible Studies. A Magnefax reel-to-reel duplicator was purchased in 1968, enabling five copies to be made at a time of each tape. A printed press was purchased in 1969 and another in 1970. Volunteers printed weekly until 1982 when Maurice Hufstedler was hired to do the printing.

Also in 1967, the men of the church had a series of meetings to consider building a new church building. Unity was considered essential, and no decisions were made until all were in agreement. It was agreed that no work would begin until the funds were on hand to meet the need. Faith promises were made, offerings to the building fund came in, and in April, 1968, work began on a new sanctuary located just adjacent to the old building. There was to be a new sound system, a special room for tape recording the lessons taught, storage for the tapes, and a prayer room. The sanctuary, seating approximately 400 people, was completed in September of 1968.

Many things that took place during this time gave witness to the working of the Lord in providing money, workers, and prayer warriors. One man, a bricklayer from Amarillo who had been on the Printed Page mailing list, heard of the building project and came to Abilene specifically to work on the building. He witnessed to everyone on the job and to all the neighborhood children as well.

One framer came from Haskell to volunteer for the dangerous job of erecting the beams. Tradesmen in the fellowship gave time and labor for their various skills, and the time of growth and expansion was a testimony to the faithfulness of God in the lives of His people.

As the physical body of the local congregation was growing, so was the outreach of the Printed Page ministry. In 1970, the first catalog was printed. The catalog listed all the lessons available both on tape and in print.

Since the number of printed lessons continued to grow, more space was needed for storage and a metal building was built in 1973 to house the printing presses and the printed lessons. Also in 1973, the volunteer workers printed and bound the "Know Your Child" series, a series taught as part of a home Bible class. That became one of our most requested series, and in 1974, Baker Book House published the series in book form, and Dr. Joe Temple's ministry continued to expand.

In July, 1975, Sunday School rooms were added to the old building and the original sanctuary was renovated into what is now Fellowship Hall. The old building was kept because of new building restrictions. Twenty–five feet of space would have been lost if the old building was torn down and rebuilt. At that time, a radio room was added as well as church offices and a nursery.

Time of Personal Trial

In 1971 and 1972, a particular time of trial and suffering was in store for the Temple family. Cricket was diagnosed as having cancer, and many months were devoted to waiting at her bedside, praying for sustaining grace or healing as the Lord was willing. Many opportunities to witness were made available, largely because of the sweet temperament and loving spirit of Cricket. Stories still come to the family today of the blessing she was to many during that time. She went to be with the Lord in May of 1973.

One interesting event occurred about a year before Cricket's homegoing. A dear friend of the Temples felt led of the Lord to give a cemetery plot to them. They chose a plot in the Companion Section of Elmwood Park, but they were told the plot was sold and no more were available there. They were disappointed, but very soon a call came from the Elmwood Park office that the very lot they had chosen had been made available as the owners had changed their plans and were willing to sell the plot. Once again the Lord's interest in the details of our lives was evident in His working. Incidentally, the woman who gave them the cemetery plot was the same one who had given the land for their home, providing for their final, earthly resting place as well.

During this time of testing, Joe and Cricket claimed Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31: "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." This was the last year verse Joe has been led to claim, and it has sustained him, not only through the trial of Cricket's illness and homegoing and his second heart surgery, but it continues to give him needed strength and comfort. From his study of this verse has come an interest in eagles that has resulted in an interesting and unusual collection, which he continues to add to and enjoy.

Joe underwent heart surgery again in 1977, and an artificial valve was installed to replace a damaged one. The Lord has indeed given him an extension of days, indicating that He is not yet finished with Joe Temple, and the opportunities for service continue, though his pace has been slowed.

A New Generation—A New Era

While Joe Temple's pace was slowed somewhat due to his physical problems, a new spiritual leader was emerging from the Temple family—the oldest child and first son, Tim.

Tim graduated from Abilene High School in 1962 and attended Bob Jones University, graduating in January, 1967. After graduation, on January 25, 1967, Tim married Janice Riddle of Huntington, West Virginia, whom he had met at Bob Jones University.

Tim had originally intended to become a Christian lawyer, but soon became impressed that he was to enter the ministry, and he wanted to prepare for that by attending Dallas Theological Seminary. Since he was a mid–term graduate from Bob Jones University, he came to Abilene in January to await enrollment in the seminary the following fall.

While here, Tim had ample opportunity to experience on–the–job training by assisting his father in pastoral duties. In addition, he helped organize Junior Church services, worked with the printed page ministry, and was available for preaching services on Sundays for area churches.

A New Ministry For Tim

Tim became involved in the work here and ultimately decided to postpone his seminary education for one year, and Janice began teaching school in a private kindergarten.

In May of 1968, Tim was invited to preach at Grace Church in Wichita Falls, Texas. The church was without a pastor, but they made it clear to Tim that he was not a candidate. "We are looking for someone older with more experience," he was told, "and we only want you to fill in for a Sunday or two." The church was recovering from internal problems and was seeking a mature, stable leader.

Tim fulfilled the obligation by preaching his first sermon for them on Fathers' Day, 1968. The members were so impressed with his preaching that they asked him to consider becoming their pastor. Receiving the invitation with surprise and concern, Tim said, "How can you know you want me for your pastor after hearing only one sermon? How do you know that that isn't the only sermon I have?"

Considering the point well made, they agreed to pray about the matter, have Tim speak again and trust the Lord for guidance. After consideration and prayer, the congregation was convinced that they wanted Tim to accept their offer, and they even agreed to consent to his going to Dallas Theological Seminary. They agreed to pay his way and to accept him as part-time pastor while he pursued his studies. They did, however, ask him to postpone his studies for one year in order to devote more time to the church, which they felt was in much need at that time.

Seeing the hand of the Lord working out the details convinced Tim and Janice to accept the pastorate of Grace Church in August of 1968. The church flourished under Tim's leadership, and when the time came for him to go to Dallas, the congregation asked him to continue with them full time. "Why go train to do something that you are already doing so well?", he was asked by one of the church leaders. Once again, he canceled his plans and did not go to Dallas Theological Seminary until 1975 when a summer program was opened to him. He received his Master of Arts degree in Biblical studies in 1977 and a Doctor of Theology degree from Trinity Theological Seminary in Newburg, Indiana, in 1985.

In looking back, Tim says, "When I became pastor of Grace Church, the only role model I had for the pastorate was my dad. He had come into a community, put down roots and stayed there the rest of his life. That became my mindset about my ministry in Wichita Falls." But God had other ideas for Tim's ministry, as we shall see.

Tim and Janice look back on ten wonderful years in Wichita Falls. They made many close friends and had interesting and varied experiences as they learned to shepherd a church family. During those years, all three of their children were born: Nancy in 1969, Joe in 1972, and Adrienne in 1975.

Coming Home

As his father's health problems continued, Tim began to think about the possibility of returning to Abilene. It was a difficult decision for them, but it soon became apparent that Joe Temple would no longer have the strength to continue the ministry at the pace at which he had gone for so many years. He was in need of immediate help, and he needed someone who could eventually assume the pastorate of the Bible Center.

After much prayer and consultation with Christian friends, Tim resigned as pastor of Grace Church and moved to Abilene in 1978. For several years, Tim served as co-pastor with his father as a time of transition in the ministry. In 1983, Dr. Joe Temple took the position of Minister–at–Large, Tim became senior pastor, and a new era under new leadership was about to begin.

A New Name

Soon after coming to Abilene, Tim began to realize that the name "Bible Center" was not completely descriptive of the ministry. Many calls from new arrivals in Abilene looking for a charismatic group with which to identify convinced Tim that we needed a new name. The designation "Bible Church" was more commonly used and widely understood, so it was decided in 1980 that the name should be changed to "Abilene Bible Church."

Reaching Out Under New Leadership

Early in 1981, several couples in the church expressed a desire to see a Christian school ministry begun. Through prayer and research the possibility began to become reality. Andy Blessing, a young man who had grown up in the fellowship, was teaching in Van Horn, Texas, and Tim asked him to pray about the possibility of giving leadership to a Christian school here as part of the church ministry. Later that same year, Andy and his wife, Carol, felt a definite leading toward such a ministry and said they would be willing to move back to Abilene to be available for such a position. In answer to the prayers of many parents and teachers, Heritage Christian School was opened in the fall of 1982 with a total of twenty-one students in kindergarten, first, and second grades. That school grew in just five years to the third largest private school in Abilene with an enrollment of over 100 children in classes through grade six. The elders of the church felt led to withdraw sponsorship of the school at the end of the 1986–1987 school year, with parents taking over the responsibility of housing and financing the school. Many were blessed by this ministry of the church as the children consistently scored well in testing and grew spiritually as well.

Leadership Changes

The growth of the church caused Tim to consider broadening the base of leadership in the church. He felt that the Lord would have us recognize those men who felt a responsibility for the spiritual oversight of the work as elders and deacons. After a series of studies on the subject of church leadership, in March of 1983 seven men were recognized as elders of the church and six men were recognized as deacons. Most of these men had worked in positions of leadership in the church for a number of years, and their recognition should insure that the principles upon which the ministry was founded will continue to be employed.

Spanish Ministry Begins

Early in 1985, Tim began to feel a burden shared by several for an outreach into our own neighborhood. The Lord seemed to indicate that the most effective way to meet this need would be through a ministry to Hispanics, since many of those in the surrounding area are Hispanics. Through a series of steps, the Lord led us to Josias and Susi Mendoza, who came to Abilene to begin such a ministry in September, 1985.

Central American Missions, being aware of this church's interest in such a ministry, contacted Josias, who was then living in Santa Barbara, California. He had studied theology in Guatemala, where he met Susi in 1977, and they felt he was well-qualified for this ministry.

When they began Sunday afternoon worship meetings at the church, attendance was not good since the Spanish-speaking people with Catholic backgrounds were not comfortable in the surroundings. Therefore, from December, 1985 until February, 1986, Josias and Susi had meetings in their home. They were able to resume services at the church in March, 1986.

They began this ministry with three persons in attendance. It has now grown to between twenty–five and thirty–five each Sunday, and spiritual growth is evident in the lives of many. Much has been accomplished and much remains to be done through this latest opportunity for service open to Abilene Bible Church.

Conclusion

We have witnessed the blessings of the Lord on Abilene Bible Church in a marvelous way as He has demonstrated His ability to use the willingness of His servants to accomplish His purpose for the Body of Christ in this Age of Grace. We trust that this congregation will rest upon the promises of God, that we will trust and obey Him as we act upon His charge to us to "go and tell" the Good News of salvation through His Son to a world in need. To God be the glory!

1997 Update

The history of Abilene Bible Church, written in 1987, was distributed in 1989 during our Year of Jubilee, a celebration of the fifty years of ministry of Dr. Joe Temple.

On December 13, 1990, Dr. Joe Temple went home to be with the Lord, and since that time, Abilene Bible Church has continued to thrive under the leadership of his son, Dr. Tim Temple.

In 1994, Josias Mendoza of the Spanish congregation left Abilene to further his education at the Central American Theological Seminary in Guatemala. After working in Tucson, Arizona, and the surrounding area, Josias is now with the Mexican Evangelical Association in Mexico, working in the areas of church planting and camp ministry.

Abilene Bible Church continues to seek the Lord's direction in adopting new ministries in order that we may continue to offer Bible teaching in the most accessible forms. We continue to marvel at God's provision to meet the needs of His people, and we continue to trust Him as we send out His Word.


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