Bethel was established on October 15, 1939 with the original intention to be a branch Sunday School of First Lutheran, however, growth was constant. The very first communion service was held 1942. By 1943, six children and five adults had been confirmed. Initially the congregation was almost entirely of previously unchurched people whom Lutheranism had been a foreign word in the beginning.
During the years from 1939-1949, the total membership at Bethel varied little. With Fort Chaffee so close, members were transferring in regularly but, with almost as much regularity, members were also transferring out.
In the early 1950’s a new wing was added serving as the Parish Hall.
During the late 50’s and early 60’s, more programs were added to the ministry of the church. Vacation Bible school grew in attendance as did Sunday school, and more children began to attend First Lutheran School. The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, always an agency for spiritual growth among the ladies, began to grow as well.
In 1965, the current church sanctuary was built and dedicated on June 6.
During the 1970’s Bethel became fully self-supporting; its classification as a mission congregation was removed.
In 1980’s a new wing was added to the building adding office and classroom space, as well as a large fellowship area. During this time, renovation work was also done in the sanctuary, with alterations in the chancel area, new carpeting and better lighting among the changes. With the new facilities, new opportunities for ministry presented themselves to the congregation, and a preschool program was established.
During the 1990’s, a second worship service was started, and a second addition was added to accommodate the need for space. The addition was dedicated in 1995 and provided more space for Sunday school, preschool, and congregation programs. In 1998 Bethel opened a Child Care Center. This Center served as a day care facility for parents of children ages six weeks through five years.
During the 2000’s, major changes to demographics of Fort Smith caused a decline in membership. Bethel returned to one service and closed its child daycare.
In 2010, Bethel is re-establishing its roots, concentrating once again on mission work. The changes seen are tremendous and the challenges ahead are inspiring,
but by God’s grace and direction, Bethel Lutheran will continue its work serving Jesus Christ through Word and Sacrament.