Kevin F. O'Brien, usually known as Brother Kevin (October 31, 1955 - February 27, 2008), was an Independent Baptist clergyman who pastored Bethany Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas, from October 1996, until his death from prostate cancer. In 1998, O'Brien was among a group of fundamentalist pastors instrumental in the establishment of Heartland Baptist Bible College in Oklahoma City, which was renamed and relocated from Orange, California, where it had been founded in 1966. At the time of his death, O'Brien was serving as Heartland's secretary-treasurer.
A son of Claude L. and Angeline E. O'Brien, he graduated in 1974 from Irvin High School in his native El Paso, Texas. O'Brien then completed a three-year theology program at the conservative Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, from which he graduated in 1977. On June 12, 1976, he married his childhood sweetheart, the former Darlene Frances Turbeville (born ca. 1958). Their three children are Jeremy Daniel O'Brien, Jenilee Danielle (Tyler) Prater, and Juliana (Nicholas) Carr. There was also a grandson, Griffyn O'Brien, at the time of O'Brien's passing.
Bethany Baptist Church in Lubbock
After Baptist Bible College, O'Brien joined the staff of Bethany Baptist Church, which opened in September 1973 under the founding pastor, Ross Spencer (born June 12, 1933), originally from Red River County, Texas. First O'Brien was the music and youth minister, then associate pastor, co-pastor, and pastor upon Spencer's retirement from full-time ministry. Spencer thereafter served for nearly three years as an interim pastor in Andrews near Midland, Texas. Under Spencer, Bethany church conducted three week-long revivals per year and observed homecoming and various other special events. The late Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis, a gospel singer, addressed one of the early homecoming ceremonies. So did Curtis Hutson, editor of The Sword of the Lord from 1980 until his death in 1995.
Song leader, pianist, preacher
O'Brien's singing abilities were considered to have been exceptional for both traditional hymns and more contemporary Christian music. 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 used only the King James Version of the Bible, which he considered more conducive to the reception of the Holy Spirit and more helpful in memorizing and understanding scripture. 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). For a time, he also preached over radio.
In 1998, Bethany presented two dramatic presentations highlighting patriotism. In an interview with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, O'Brien said that there was "a need 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.
O'Brien committed his last years to Heartland Baptist College, which forbids non-fundamentalists from speaking and teaching at the institution so as not to create heretical divisions and doubts within conservative biblical circles. O'Brien said that ministry students did not need dissenters from Scripture to encourage original thinking 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 schools.
O'Brien was a motorcyclist too and often took trips with fellow Christian men to the Texas Hill Country and Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. He and Mrs. O'Brien also toured parts of Colorado and Arkansas on his motorcycle.
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. How amazing it must be that the One you knew in faith you now behold in sight! What you preached about, prayed for, and dreamt of is now a reality. 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."
- Beth Pratt, Religion Editor, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Religion Section, July 4, 1998
- 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:http://lubbockonline.com/stories/032308/loc_260760659.shtml
(This article was written by the historian Billy Hathorn.)