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Kevin O'Brien, usually known as Brother Kevin (October 31, 1955 - February 27, 2008) was an Independent Baptist clergyman who served as the pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Lubbockmarker, Texasmarker, from October 1996, until his death at the age of fifty-two from prostate cancer. In 1998, O'Brien was among a group of theologically conservative pastors instrumental in the establishment of Heartland Baptist Bible College in Oklahoma Citymarker, which was renamed and relocated from Orange, Californiamarker, where it had been founded in 1966. At the time of his death, O'Brien was serving as a director and as the secretary-treasurer of Heartland.

Early years, education, family

O'Brien was born in El Pasomarker, to Claude L. and Angeline E. O'Brien, who moved to Lubbock upon retirement. He graduated in 1974 from Irvin High School in northeast El Paso.. He then completed a three-year Bachelor of Theology program at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missourimarker, from which he graduated in 1977. On June 12, 1976, O'Brien married his childhood sweetheart, the former Darlene Frances Turbeville (born 1958). Their three children are Jeremy Daniel O'Brien, Jenilee Danielle O'Brien Prater (husband Tyler Prater) and Juliana Dawn O'Brien Carr (husband Nicholas Siler Carr). There was also a grandson, Griffyn O'Brien, at the time of O'Brien's passing.

On December 12, 2007, the stricken O'Brien performed a hasty wedding for Juliana and Nicholas at the VistaCare hospice in Lubbock, where he was staying because it appeared that he might not survive beyond a couple of days. The hospice provided a wedding cake, decorations, flowers, a reception, and a photographer. O'Brien improved well enough to return home for Christmas and to have his daughter's scheduled church wedding on January 5, 2008. In the following weeks, however, his condition continued to deteriorate. On February 22, Bethany Baptist opened for twenty-four hours a day so that interested persons could come to pray at the altar for the pastor's recovery. He died five days later.

Bethany Baptist Church in Lubbock

Upon graduation from BBC, O'Brien joined the Bethany Baptist Church staff. The church opened on August 15, 1973, under the founding pastor, Ross Junior Spencer (born June 12, 1933) of Lubbock, originally from tiny Detroitmarker in Red River Countymarker near Parismarker in northeast Texas. The associate pastor, J.D. Young, later ministered in Corpus Christimarker and pastors the Victory Baptist Church in Stinnettmarker, the seat of Hutchinson Countymarker in the northern Texas Panhandlemarker. O'Brien was, first, the music and youth minister, then associate pastor, co-pastor, and full pastor on Spencer's retirement from full-time ministry. Spencer thereafter was interim pastor in Andrewsmarker near Midlandmarker. Under Spencer, Bethany church conducted three week-long revival services per year and observed homecoming and other special events. Bethany supported a Jack Hyles appearance in Snydermarker, the seat of Scurry Countymarker south of Lubbock. Former Louisianamarker Governor James Houston "Jimmie" Davis of Baton Rougemarker, a gospel singer, addressed one of the early homecoming ceremonies. Still another Bethany guest was the evangelist Curtis Hutson, editor of The Sword of the Lord newspaper.

Gospel singer, pianist, preacher

O'Brien's singing abilities were considered to have been exceptional, and he was also a pianist and a piano technician. He was particularly adept at reaching young people and preached frequently at summer camps. Bethany Baptist Church under O'Brien's direction dispatched several men into the ministry and to the mission field. The church gave some $1.2 million to world evangelism. O'Brien, and Spencer before him, supported a bus ministry that brings persons from all backgrounds to church services, many being children of a lower socio-economic class who otherwise lack ready transportation.

O'Brien was a well-known preacher in Independent Baptist ranks too. He was affiliated with the King James-Only Movement, which accepts the Authorized King James Version of the Bible, the manuscript which supporters contend is more conducive to the reception of the Holy Spirit and more helpful in memorizing and understanding scripture. For a time, O'Brien also preached over radio in Lubbock.
Some of his sermons have been placed on the Internet, including "Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14 and Jeremiah 32:17.

In 1998, Bethany presented two dramatic presentations highlighting the patriotism of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, and Generals Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton, Jr. In an interview with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, O'Brien said that there was "a need to for the nation to turn back to the Lord" and that presentations of this kind, which brought full attendance, served to acquaint people with the spiritual heritage of the nation. He said that the Constitution of the United States protects the church from encroachment by government, not government from being influenced by Bible believers.

Heartland College

O'Brien committed his last years to Heartland Baptist Bible College, which forbids non-fundamentalists from speaking and teaching at the institution to reduce the possibility of heretical divisions and doubts within conservative biblical circles. O'Brien said that ministry students did not need dissenters from Scripture to promote open dialogue but reinforcement of biblical truth. The school, which uses the slogan "Love Never Fails", is unaccredited and does not seek accreditation from government or regional educational associations. Therefore, it cannot issue degrees but offers diplomas to students who complete the instructional program. Education majors at Heartland can teach only in Christian institutions, not public school.

Personal life

O'Brien was a motorcyclist too and often took sojourns with fellow Christian men to the Texas Hill Country and Big Bend National Parkmarker in southwest Texas. He and Mrs. O'Brien also toured parts of Coloradomarker and Arkansasmarker on his cycle.

Grave of pastor Kevin O'Brien at the Empty Tomb section of Resthaven Memorial Park off Frankford Avenue in Lubbock

In addition to his wife, children, and parents, O'Brien was survived by two brothers, Ronald O'Brien (son-in-law of Ross Spencer) and wife Patricia of Garland, Texasmarker, and David O'Brien of Dallasmarker, and his sisters, Karen O. Smith of El Paso and Tricia O. Pritchett of San Antoniomarker. Services were held on March 4, 2008, at Bethany Baptist Church. Some sixty pastors, one as far away as Washington statemarker, came to Lubbock for O'Brien's funeral. Officiating were pastor Billy E. Prater (the father of O'Brien's son-in-law, Tyler Prater) of the Fellowship Baptist Church of Liberal, Kansasmarker, and William "Bill" Mitchell of Hillcrest Baptist Church, which O'Brien had attended as a youth. Prater and Mitchell are both members of the Heartland College board of directors. Interment was at Resthaven Memorial Park in Lubbock.

Tributes to O'Brien

Tim Spradling, an O'Brien friend and Bethany member, recalled in an interview with Beth Pratt, the religion editor of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, O'Brien's last Easter sermon in 2007, which celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His ultimate victory over evil and death: "His faith was that the Lord is in absolute control . . . Like any of the rest of us, he didn't want to leave his family, his church, his friends, but he had a deep abiding faith in the Lord that became even deeper in the last year and a half. When you face your own mortality, it's different. You have questions, but you get closer to the Lord, closer to each other, and stronger in faith. We still ask why, and a lot of whys won't be answered. That's where your faith comes in."

Delwayne Ivey, the Bethany youth minister who was named associate pastor after O'Brien's illness, called his mentor "an eternal optimist. . . . He was easy to get along with, full of grace . . . a man very strong in his faith; he never complained or blamed God. He just praised the Lord."

Jason Smith, the associate and youth pastor at Lubbock Baptist Temple, in his website STL (Speaking the Truth in Love), offered this tribute to O'Brien:

"You were always an inspiration to me. In a day of compromise, you were always a man of conviction. You were who you were right to the end of your life. You never let suffering, fear of man, or anything weaken your faith. Did you ever wonder if it was worth it? Did you ever think about giving up? Did you know the impact your ministry had? God used in such a special way in my life, and I know your ministry will live on in those whom you invested yourself, which were many. . . . We give thanks for the life you lived and the life you are living now. . . . "

Doyle Sooter, another Bethany member, described O'Brien as a great raconteur and "your best friend in life, no matter who you were. . . . He showed us how to live by how he lived. There was never a material bone in his body. He was the most remarkable man I've ever met."

In April 2009, the Reverend Aaron Denson (born ca. 1972), a pastor in Hobbsmarker, New Mexicomarker, was named to succeed O'Brien at Bethany Baptist Church.


  2. Welcome to Irvin High School
  3. Baptist Bible College © 2008
  5. VistaCare staff helps family plan an impromptu wedding | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
  7. Statement of Ross J. Spencer, March 18, 2008
  8. Curtis Hutson -
  9. Kevin O'Brien | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
  10. Welcome to Bible Preaching.Net
  12. Beth Pratt, Religion Editor, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Religion Section, July 4, 1998
  14. Beth Pratt, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Religion Editor, "In his time here, Kevin O'Brien preached, lived the meaning of Easter", March 23, 2008, p. 2:
  15. STL: A Tribute to Kevin O'Brien

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