And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.(Matthew 16:17-18)
Thirty years ago, November 1, 2011, Believers in Grace Fellowship held her first service. Thirty years! What else have I ever committed to for thirty years? I have been a christian now for 35 years, Kris and I have been married for 31 years, but there isn’t much else that I have been so committed to for so long. We are so glad the Lord gave us the grace to stick with it.
I remember praying with the others in that first service, that our lampstand would burn brightly until Jesus comes back. (Which I was positive would be within the next ten years, or certainly by the year 2000!).
How did we begin? Kris and I had always held successful Bible studies in our own home. At the charismatic church we were married in and attended for the year leading up to B.I.G., the pastors freely acknowledged my calling, sending me out to Anamosa, Iowa to interim at a little country church for a period whilst they sought a full-time pastor.
Eventually, we and another couple (older and more experienced) and some of our fellow Bible studiers began to pray about whether or not we were to pioneer a charismatic church in our own home. After some time, several of us agreed that the witness seemed to be to start a new church.
We consulted our pastor who confirmed again our calling but asked us to not take people out of our current fellowship, which we were careful not to do.
As we prayed about when to start, a small miracle seemed to confirm us. Kris and myself perceived that we were to launch the new church “three weeks from the next Sunday”. The other couple thought that they were getting that we should begin the first Sunday in November, and one of the others got that we were to begin November 1st. When we looked at the calendar, we were amazed to find that we were all talking about the same date!
The name “Believers in Grace” came independently to my wife Kristin, and to the husband of the other couple we were praying with. With these small, precious confirmations we launched out in faith, hope, love and zeal!
One has to be spiritual to appreciate the worth of a church. The unspiritual don’t get it. That is why with ease and impunity , there have been some over the years who have mistreated B.I.G., abusing her kindness, denigrating her, even falsely accusing her to others.
This is the special pain of the age we live in, it is the temptation of our time, that like her Lord, the true church is “despised and rejected of men…”. God has given this church the grace to respond in love and with prayer.
But who could calculate the cumulative effects of our thirty years of public worship, preaching, fellowship, the Lord’s supper, baptism, sending missionaries, (short and long-term) ?
Not to mention the intangibles, such as the brotherhood, the shared suffering, the willingness to give in Jesus name, and also to share in the reproach of Christ. Every true church is a shining light, but also an oft unheeded witness. Eternity alone will account for it.
We have had an amazing ride. There have been a number who have heard and been converted to Christ in this church. There have been countless, answers to our prayers, amazing miracles and providences of God. We have seen in some cases our enemies become our friends, through the gospel! Many babies have been born and brought up in the faith, due to faithful and believing families really taking the Word of God seriously.
We have had our share of tests and trials also. At one point as Pastor, I had to re-evaluate my whole theology in the light of the Word of God, when I discovered that many of my early influences were heretical, (Word of Faith). It was our test, and it didn’t end for about five years!
It took that long to theologically untangle ourselves. We lost a lot of friends over it, and were subject to much misinterpretation, but we have learned that our deepest loyalty is to the Word of God.
But there have always been just enough of those surreal, God blessed moments, where we have had to say among ourselves, “If this is the whole reason this church came about, it has been worth it all just to see this happen…”.
There is no telling how many people have passed through our doors. I know we have quite a few who, though they didn’t continue with us as a church, are thankful for the input B.I.G. has had on them at crucial periods in their pilgrimage. We have always believed that the Lord of the church places his people wherever he wants them.
Churches have both direct and indirect influences on people. We don’t know and can’t know in this life the indirect effect this church has had, but we pray that B.I.G. will continue to be a light, if need be for another thirty years, or until Jesus comes back. Happy birthday B.I.G. !