A TIME TO PART WAYS
Acts 15:37-40 – Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.
While every church strives for unity, unfortunately there are times when differences seem so insurmountable that the best solution for all is to part ways for the sake of the gospel. Such a time came in the life of Immanuel Baptist Church in the late 1960s. A change in belief and practices led a number of members to feel it was time to leave the church. Early in 1969, these families and individuals sensed the need to unite as a church fellowship and approximately 250 people began a meeting in private homes for prayer, praise, fellowship, and to seek the Lord’s guidance for their future.
A TIME TO GET ORGANIZED
1 Peter 5:2-4 – Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
While this time of organic fellowship and seeking the Lord was precious, there was a sense that God was calling them to get organized and call a pastor to shepherd them. In March of 1969, they rented the Friends School for Sunday worship, and a group of 12 men were appointed to serve as a Steering Committee for “The Baptist Fellowship.” They began with committees to oversee missionary interests, visitation, speakers, Bible School, and a special committee to search for an interim pastor. Rev. Richard H. Reed began as interim pastor on July 1, 1969 and remained until July 31, 1970. On January 1, 1970, The Baptist Fellowship Church was incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware. There were 248 people on the charter membership rolls. Rev. Donald Linsz served as interim pastor until Rev. Daniel Meyer came to serve as our first called pastor from September 1971 to October 1, 1974.
A TIME TO HEAL
Ephesians 4:2-3, 30-32 – Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
In late 1974, this fledgling church was struggling to move forward with clarity. There was even consideration to disbanding altogether. We did not have a building, we were in between pastors, but above all, there was still hurt lingering from the division five years prior. The leadership called the congregation to a month of prayer. The church sought the Lord and came to the conclusion that the congregation needed to repent of their pride and resentment toward Immanuel Baptist Church. The two boards and two churches met over a series of several weeks and the result was God’s abundant grace and blessing. The churches came together for a special service to pray, praise God and seek reconciliation in an immensely healing moment for both churches. In response, God blessed us with clarity, humility and a series of open doors. That very same evening God brought us into contact with Rev. Bo Matthews, who would become the pastor for over three decades.
A TIME TO BUILD
Ephesians 4:16 – From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The next 30 years were characterized by both the spiritual and physical building up of the church. In 1975, property was purchased for a church building on Mt. Lebanon Road which has become our home for the last 45 years. The congregation also voted to change its name to Brandywine Valley Baptist Church, expanding the vision to reach beyond a 5-mile radius to include all of the Brandywine Valley. Rev. S. Bowen (Bo) Matthews became pastor in May of the same year and groundbreaking for a sanctuary and educational building took place in September. One year later the first service on Mt. Lebanon Rd was held on September 5, 1976, with 261 members. In 1979, it was necessary to build additional education space. In 1982, we added additional services and increased our pastoral staff to care for the growing church.
Many lives were transformed through the ministry of the gospel in the life of the church. BVBC became known as a church that faithfully preaches the Word, supports world missions, ministers to the whole family and cares about people.
As the church continued to grow, in 2006 the congregation took a step of faith to undergo a significant expansion of our sanctuary capacity and classroom space. We needed all hands-on deck as the church met in three locations over the next fifteen months during the building project. Finally, in October 2009, construction was completed on the new sanctuary, lobby and fellowship hall. While it was a challenging time for the church, the members caught the vision of how this new space could reach our families, friends, coworkers and community for Christ. In fact, underneath the floor of the sanctuary are scriptures written by the congregation to dedicate our new worship space. By God’s grace, we are getting ever closer to being debt free and each week we see the vision for the new building coming to fruition.
A TIME TO TRANSITION
1 Corinthians 3:6-10 – I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.
In 2014, the leadership sensed that it was critical for the future of the church to chart a bold new course including a new set of by-laws, a team model of senior leadership, and calling a new Lead Pastor. After 34 years of service at BVBC, Pastor Bo Matthews retired in April 2015. In September 2015, after spending the last decade of ministry in the D.C. Metro Area, Pastor Nate Keeler accepted the call to be the Lead Pastor.
A TIME TO JOIN THE MISSION
Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Over the last few years of transition we have seen God on the move among us. We have established new core values that provide an unwavering guide for ministry direction, strengthened and developed ministries to more effectively reach our community, and are aggressively paying down building debt to secure our future for the next 50 years. And we have just begun! We believe the great Baptist missionary, William Carey had it right, “Attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.” We believe God is calling BVBC to a bold vision to reach our community for Christ for such a time as this.
We stand on a rich history of God’s faithfulness to BVBC. Over the last 50 years we have seen times of downs and ups, of pain and joy, of subtraction and addition, of want and plenty. Through it all, God has proven to be faithful and He will continue to be faithful. We hope you want to join the mission of God here at BVBC as we seek to introduce people to Jesus Christ and help them follow Him.
The Early Years
Charter members – Lester and Janet Burge; Art and Peg Hill; and Ed Jones – tell us about the beginning years of Brandywine Valley Baptist Chuch.