A Brief History of the Fellowship
A Rich Heritage
Biblical principles rather than charismatic leaders or human traditions gave birth to the Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches.
It has grown from roots in the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of Mennonite communities in southwestern Minnesota and south central Nebraska.
Godly people in those communities were troubled by the spiritual dullness, the theological trends and the non-biblical church practices they observed around them. They came to realize that the Word of God, rather than tradition, should be the ultimate guide for the faith and life of believers and the church even as they continued to appreciate those traditions found in Anabaptist1 communities which did not violate the clear teaching of God’s Word.
Two men provided significant leadership: Aaron Wall from Mountain Lake, Minnesota and Isaac Peters from Henderson, Nebraska. Both had come from Russia in the 1870’s after having been deeply influenced by the revival movements which spread through the Russian Mennonite communities in the latter half of the 19th century. These men became the founders of our Fellowship.
A Solid Foundation
Several distinct principles drew these people together:
They taught that salvation was by faith and faith alone in Christ’s death on the cross and that salvation should lead to a life of separation from sin. These were requirements for baptism and church membership.
They were equally convinced that scriptural church discipline was essential for the health of the local church and its credibility in the community. They declared: "We will lovingly follow the truth at all times—speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly—and so become more and more in every way like Christ who is the head of His body, the church."
They were committed to evangelism. The clear purpose statement drawn up for the first Convention on October 14, 1889 read: "Not only to encourage each other in the most Holy Faith, but to unitedly help to spread the Gospel in the world of sin, bringing them to Jesus."
Three churches united behind the leadership of these men: the Ebenezer Church in Jansen, Nebraska, the Ebenezer Church in Henderson, Nebraska and the Bruderthaler Church of Mountain Lake, Minnesota.
They saw the value of joining hands to work together for the realization of their spiritual ideals. The Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches was born.
Their commitment to evangelism led them to establish churches in Marion, SD; Steinbach, MB; Dalmeny, SK; Meade, KS; Lustre, MT; and other locations. God used evangelist Rev. G. P. Schultz to stimulate a strong missionary vision and to plant several new churches. A fellowship of churches developed, bound not merely by blood ties or traditions, but by an intense common commitment to biblical teachings and practices.
Zeal for evangelism and recognition of God’s love for all people moved this group to home and foreign missions within a few years. In 1905 the first home missionaries were commissioned to reach the immigrants and poor of Chicago’s inner city. In 1906 the first foreign missionaries were appointed to India.
Thus, from the beginning, our Fellowship set a course which would lead to ongoing fidelity to the Bible as God’s inspired Word plus faithful evangelistic and missionary outreach. Those early choices have deeply influenced our Fellowship today.
The Impact on the Present
Our churches and pastors continue to adhere faithfully to belief in the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of the Bible as God’s Word. In the late 1980’s, a study revealed that the FEBC had the highest per capita giving for foreign Missions of any church group in North America. One missionary served on the foreign field for every 36 resident members in North America.
Currently approximately 100 member missionaries serve in 30-40 countries of the world. FEBC churches have been giving at least $1.4 million annually for missions.
A Return to the Past
Indeed FEBC has a rich tradition, however, the evangelistic zeal to reach North American non-mennonites (our neighbors) has not been what it should. We have launched our vision to become a proclaiming people. We are seeking to reignite the evangelistic zeal that gave birth to us as a Fellowship.