Heralding the Gospel in Lebanon, PA
It was through the men of the Gospel Herald Society, the Home Missionary arm of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church, that the Lord began, in Lebanon Pennsylvania, the local church known today as the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church.
Many men came to be involved in the work at Lebanon and a brief history of the Gospel Herald Society will give us a feel for the work that was begun in 1911 in Lebanon, PA.
“The Gospel Herald Society is composed of men in uniform, called the Gospel Heralds who are called of God to preach and sing the Gospel in open air meetings, tents, halls and tabernacles and sell Bibles, testaments, Mottoes, the official paper called “The Gospel Herald and Saturday Evening Call”, the Christian Service Calendar and other religious publications. While engaged in this sort of work they are in training also for pastoral, evangelistic and missionary work at home and abroad as the Holy Spirit directs.” (Mennonite Brethren in Christ Yearbook, 1934)
R. C. Reichenbach, a retired pastor of the Bible Fellowship Church and a current member of the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church, began his ministry as a Gospel Herald and reported on the Society’s July 24, 2000 reunion in the September 2000 issue of Fellowship News. A portion of his report states, “ The Gospel Herald Society first got its name in 1903. There was a home missions program preceding 1903 under C. H. Brunner but the name was not adopted till 1903. Many of our former pastors came through the Gospel Herald Society and many of our PA churches were former Gospel Herald Missions. We who were members of the Society look back to many precious memories and many difficult times, especially when we think back to the great depression days, but none of us would ever regret the lessons we learned and the training we received.”
The leader of the work as it began in Lebanon was Horace A. Kauffman. He gave this testimony of his Christian life in the December 23, 1909 issue of the Gospel Banner.
“I was converted in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church at Coopersburg, PA, in January, 1902, during the pastorate of Elder E. W. Martin and was baptized and joined the church in the same month. I served the Lord for a few years at Coopersburg and was led into a deeper consecrated walk with the Lord by Elder W. S. Hottel. After trying in vain to evade the Lord’s persistent call to a larger work, I obeyed His call and entered the Gospel Herald Society on October 29, 1907.”
H. A. Kauffman recorded some of the facts of the beginning work in Lebanon in his diary.
“After spending a few months at Shamokin, PA as a helper to G. F. Yost and also doing some private secretaryship work for our President Rev. W. G. Gehman, I was appointed as leader of the new mission that was opened in Lebanon, PA on January 11, 1911.
After considerable prayer and waiting the Lord gave us a hall situated on the 3rd floor of 781 Cumberland St., though this even was not received until all of our goods had been shipped and most of it had reached Lebanon already.
On January 7, 1911, Bro. Gehman and myself left Shamokin at 6:30 a.m., came to Lebanon and finished renting the hall we having joint ownership with the proprietor, a mission place of 36 by 24 ft a kitchen and bedroom and storage room containing about 300 sq. ft.
G. M. Reinbold was the preacher at the first two services of the Lebanon work. Services were held nightly in the hall at 781 Cumberland Street, during which attendance went as high as 58. Brother Kauffman records that, in that 5 month period ‘only 11 services were held with no others but workers present.’ Two men, Clay E. Witt and Norman H. Wolf, joined the team as helpers on February 4 and March 3, respectively.”
From June 1 to August 27, 1911, tent meetings were conducted at four locations, Fourth and Hathaway, Sixth and Locust, Third and Weidman and Twelfth and Lehman. The 105 meetings drew a total attendance of about 11,000. Nine persons were baptized on July 16 in the Snitz Creek by Rev. J. G. Shireman.
On September 24, 1911 the first meeting was held at 521 Locust Street, Lebanon. (This would be the location of the Church until 1970). The Chapel was secured by paying an option of $100.00 for a three months trial “after earnest prayer and waiting upon God”. The purchase, from St. Stephen’s Reformed Church, was completed on January 3, 1912 at the cost of an additional $2,000.00 cash. A period of intensive visitation and literature sales designed to solidify the work followed the move to the new location. The second baptismal service, on Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1911, at the Snitz Creek, saw nine persons following the Lord in baptism.
The first of a number of Gospel Herald Conventions gathered in Lebanon, November 6-9, 1911. At these conventions the workers, who came from the different mission works, were housed with various neighbors and fed at the church or parsonage. The close of the convention saw J. T. Anderson, C. E. Witt, A. P. Deckman and Louis W. Gottschall stationed at Lebanon as assistants to Brother Kauffman. In May all but Brother Anderson were reassigned elsewhere.
During the summer of 1912 six weeks of tent services were held at Fourth and Chestnut Streets with modest results.
The fall of 1912 found J. G. Evans and O. S. Willow joining Brother Kauffman and Brother Anderson in the work. The year 1912 was one of extensive literature distribution, as demonstrated in the fact that the men sold 10,645 copies of the Gospel Herald magazine and 605 calendars, which the workers called “wall rolls”. Brother Kauffman, commenting on the large amount of visiting done in this period, said, “My work for the Lord has developed here in Lebanon to be much of this sort. We have had many homes thrown open to us in all parts of the city, where we repeatedly find a welcome.”
Sunday School work began in Lebanon on December 22, 1912 and less than a year later, on September 30, the school had an enrollment of 10 teachers, 86 scholars and 9 Cradle Roll members.
Summer activities in 1913 included three weeks of tent meetings at the southeast corner of Eighth Street and Hazel Alley, in August. On July 20 of the same summer, five persons were baptized.
Workers assigned to assist Brother Kauffman during 1913 included R. R. Stengele, F. N. Sperry amd J. B. Layne. Mr and Mrs W. K. Ruth and G. M. Reinbold helped during the tent campaign. In November 1913, Brother Kauffman was transferred to Shamokin and N. H. Wolf succeeded him as leader in Lebanon.
N. H. Wolf was saved at the age of nine in a Methodist revival service. After laboring in a dress goods factory and a hosiery mill, he entered into full time service as a Gospel Herald under the directorship of “Daddy” Gehman.
The financial schedule for 1911- 1913 shows the following total giving:
1911 – $ 754.06
1912 - $2,224.93
1913 - $2,113.61
The workers sometimes lived on a diet that was limited by low finances but experienced the Lord’s provision for their needs.
The four years that followed saw varying teams of workers, among whom were E. J. Rutman, who was later to serve two additional terms as pastor and W. F. Heffner, who returned as pastor in 1955.
W. W. Zimmerman became sole pastor of the church in 1917 and remained until 1920. He was followed by M. M. Myers, who remained at the church for eleven years, the longest consecutive pastorate in the church’s history up to that time. Brother Myers observed that:
Lebanon was known as a hard field of labor, but it offered us a great opportunity to prove that God was able. I dare say that God blessed our ministry there for eleven years. A good foundation was laid for the well-established church that is there today.
Mrs. Myers, who was a sister to the late Rev. R. H. Gehman, a pastor in the Bible Fellowship Church, and preceded her brother in death in 1950, was known for her personal work. Brother Myers said, “I believe that half of a ministers’ success is due his faithful companion. Those eleven years were Esther’s greatest days of service for her Lord.” Mrs. Myers had the responsibility of caring for her home and family of three sons, but in addition she shared the pastoral calls, canvassing and literature distribution with her husband. On Sunday mornings she would go to homes in the “Hazel Dyke” section of the city to gather children for Sunday School. Frequently she would waken, bathe and dress the children to get them into Sunday School. She also taught childrens’ classes.
The Gospel Herald magazine continued to be sold by Brother Myers as well as all workers in the Gospel Herald Society. IN 1924 the 20 members in the Society in seven missions sold 77,140 magazines and the following year 93,956 copies were distributed.
The Myers family resided in the parsonage at 251 South Fifth Street, which property formed an “L” with the lot on which the church stood. During the Myers years, on June 5, 1925, the church purchased the lot next to the building to be used as a parsonage. Apparently, other improvements were made in the property, including a coat of paint, applied by Pastor Myers, for the valuation of the property increased from $5,000.00 in 1924 to $8,500.00 in 1927.
Open air meetings were a regular feature of the work. Pastor and Mrs. Myers and the church folks would go out to a street corner with a small folding organ to sing, preach and distribute literature. Saturday evenings found the group regularly at Ninth and Cumberland Streets or on Eighth Street near the Courthouse. Also at times they held meetings on Thursday evenings in other parts of the town.
In the church’s twentieth year, 1931, meetings were held in a large tabernacle, which seated more than 300 people. The report of the Gospel Herald Society to Conference in 1931 states, “The class is taking more of the nature of an established work for the Lord the last few years. There are whole families which attend the meetings regularly and take active part.” At that time the Sunday School had an enrollment of nearly 100 people. Nine were baptized in 1931, when baptisms were held at Sunnyside, near Cleona.
In the fall of 1932 Brother Myers was transferred to Camden, New Jersey. For the next three years there were two and three men sharing in the work. Eugene George, C. E. Kirkwood, Joseph I. Somers and R. O. Snyder were assigned to Lebanon during that period. The Conference report in 1933 states:
The Lord has been blessing the work in Lebanon, during the past year. The Word of the Lord preached faithfully, led quite a number to accept Him as their Saviour, a number of whom are standing fast in the Lord. A number were gloriously healed according to James 5:14,15 proving that the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. The spirit of unity is increasing among the Lord’s people which will bring results.
At that time the church was characterized by a growing prayer meeting, open air meetings, eight baptisms and a “live” Sunday School. The latter is evidenced by the fact that Pastor George was invited to address the Sunday School Convention in Wissinoming, Philadelphia, May 24, 1933 on the subject “How to Secure and Maintain a Good Attendance in the Sunday School”.
C. E. Kirkwood, writing in the July 1970 Fellowship News, records a humorous incident that occurred during his church planting days in Lebanon. The story is recorded here, not just for its human interest but to give the reader a description of the church building and the work being done on Locust Street;
During the days when I was engaged in church planting, I was assigned to Lebanon, PA. I was a member of a team that worked under a leader or experienced pastor. A good nucleus of people, some saved only recently, attended our meetings. We worshiped in an old building purchased from another church group. This building, erected after the Civil War, consisted of a sanctuary, a small room used for a Primary Department and two main entrances. It had a twelve square foot dirt basement. This was an afterthought, and contained a hot air, pipeless furnace. (you never heard of anything like this, did you?) Along with my prescribed course of study I was appointed custodian (“janitor” in those days). My duties were to keep the building and grounds clean, and serve as stationery engineer. We could not afford anthracite coal, so we heated our building with wood. I soon learned the difference between chestnut and oak wood.
After being on the job several weeks I noticed a trap door in the ceiling of the unused entrance. One Saturday I climbed up, opened the trap door, entered, and found myself in a belfry. There in the very center was a bell. It showed every sign of not being used for years. I sat there and dreamed of earlier days when it rang to call the early settlers to worship. A thought suddenly struck me: Why not restore the bell, and ring it to inform the neighborhood that we are here and invite them to come and hear the Word of the Lord?
Unfortunately I could not find anyone that would agree with me.
Though discouraged by everyone and encouraged by no one, I remained undaunted in my quest to restore and ring that bell. I thought it was a noble idea whose day had come. Didn’t Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, after hearing the bells on Christmas day their old familiar carols play, compose a carol we sing today? You know he did. Didn’t Robert Lowry, the famous hymn writer, implore the angels to ring the bells of heaven when another soul was born again? Yes, he did.
I must have begged, borrowed and bought the materials necessary to put the bell in ringing order - after much scrubbing and polishing it began to take shape! The clapper (tongue) was the most difficult to restore.
After several weeks I thought it was time for a test ring. I sat up in this belfry one Saturday morning and began to ring the bell. It was deafening, but music to my ears. I felt sure it was heard for blocks around.
I did notice that while I was testing the bell our neighbor rushed out of his house, entered his automobile, put the headlights on and went off with his horn blowing loudly. I thought to myself there must be a fire. He was a member of Hook and Ladder 31 of the Lebanon Fire Department, located a few blocks west of our church.
My last task each Saturday morning was to sweep the side walk in front of the building. Only after seeing our neighbor return and park in his driveway did I discover that Hook and Ladder # 1 thought it was a fire call. Hereafter we agreed to ring our bell on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. only.
Each Sunday thereafter I tolled, pealed and rang our Church bell on Sunday mornings. By the time summer arrived I was pleased with my bell ringing. If I may use the vernacular of the day “I had rhythm.”
This labor of love has its hazards. You could be known as the “neighborhood nuisance”. Others will be less kindly and want to know just who is the “idiot awakening the neighborhood at such an ungodly hour”?
With deep sadness I must inform you that to my knowledge NO ONE ever came to our meetings as a result of my bell ringing. Though it could be heard there was nothing personal about it. Before summer ended I climbed into the belfry for the last time, disconnected the rope, folded it and placed it beside the bell. It was a custom that passed away with many other customs. It had gone with the wind.
But that is not why I have written this little article.
I want to inform you what I was doing Saturday afternoons: it was my privilege to canvass door to door for Sunday School pupils. I found this much more rewarding and successful.
The following year, 1934, proved that “The class is well united throughout. The services are well attended.” For several months Sunday School was conducted in a school house near Cornwall. There were 6 baptisms in 1934.
New features in 1935 included a week-day Children’s Bible School and a Missionary prayer meeting. The latter “started 18 new people to attend the services.” One family traveled 32 miles to the church.
E. J. Rutman returned to Lebanon in the fall of 1935 to begin an eventful ten year pastorate.
Brother Rutman is known as one of the pioneer radio preachers, having begun his radio ministry while he was stationed in Harrisburg. After moving to Lebanon he continued to broadcast over Harrisburg station WKBO and later also over WGAL in Lancaster. By means of these radio programs many people were reached with the message of the Gospel, and many came into the church, both for the broadcasts and other services.
An activity which was begun in 1934 was continued by Pastor Rutman – that being the Friday evening meetings at Sunset Farmers’ Market, one mile north of Lebanon. Mr. Iren S. Light, the owner, granted permission and encouragement for this work. The services were held in the large boxing arena, with a seating capacity of more than 2000. There were no rental or other charges for the use of the auditorium, lighting or public address system. These meetings allowed the church to reach many of the estimated weekly crowd of 20,000 at the market. The 1936 conference yearbook reports, “Some of these have found their way to the Sunday School and the Church, and were saved and stand by faithfully.”
The year 1937 was a good year at Lebanon. Pastor Rutman baptized 23 persons that year. The broadcast ministry and the meetings at Sunset continued. There was a strong emphasis on the Sunday School. At the Sunday School Convention on May 19 in York, Brother Rutman brought a fifteen minute address on “Winning the Children”. There must have been performance to back up this address, for in 1937 there was an increase of nearly sixty percent in the Sunday School attendance.
In the 1937-38 conference year the Sunday School enrollment climbed to 135. In that year “extensive repairs were made on the parsonage and especially in the church where the conveniences were installed in the basement”.
In 1938 a major milestone for the church was marked, as the work was organized, when those who had been faithful in the work of the Gospel Herald Chapel and who wished to become members were received into membership. The church elected officers and at the Annual Conference both church and pastor were received as full members of the Pennsylvania Conference of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church. The church was incorporated under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania on February 11 of the same year.
In 1939 further renovations were made in the parsonage. A survey of the statistics showed that 15 were baptized that year. Membership stood at 51, with the Sunday School boasting an enrollment of 161 and an average attendance of 109. There were 36 babies enrolled in the Cradle Roll. Total offerings were $3,143.75.
Brother Rutman continued as pastor through the war until the fall of 1945, when he was succeeded by Rev. E. E. Kublic, who shepherded the flock for six years.
During Pastor Kublic’s ministry the church was strengthened and built up in facilities and finances. On March 29, 1948 the last of the debt on the mortgage on the church property was paid in full. Also in those years there were renovations on the house at 251 South Fifth Street, including the removal of the front porch, which was replaced with concrete steps and a new sidewalk. The church plant was also improved with the removal of the steeple, digging out and finishing the basement, addition of an oil furnace and a coat of shingles on the building. A garage was erected too. All these improvements were paid in full before Brother Kublic retired from the full time ministry in 1952.
After Brother Kublic’s retirement he and his wife moved to Walnutport but returned to live in Lebanon in 1959 where they were active and faithful members of the Lebanon church until their deaths with Pastor Kublic going to be with the Lord in June of 1969 and his wife in June of 1970.
Mrs. Ethel Herb, a daughter of Rev. and Mrs. Kublic and a long time member of the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church has many memories of the time her family spent in the pastorate in Lebanon.
Because the Lebanon church was not self-supporting at the time of her father’s pastorate , two elected officials took care of collecting money, the rent collector and the steward. The rent collector collected money from the people of the congregation in order to pay the rent on the church. Accounts were kept as to who gave what amount and when. The steward collected money for the pastor’s support, again keeping records of who gave money and the amount given. Also, any donation to the pastor and his family such as food stuffs, had to be listed and priced and sent in to conference as part of the pastor’s remuneration. Ethel says, “We sure were thankful for everything we got, but I think our system of finances is so much better today.”
Ethel Herb recalls the mortgage burning for the church property and has the tray on which the mortgage was burned. The tray belonged to her parents and has since been used for the mortgage burning of the present church and parsonage on Mill Road.
Ethel also remembers the presiding elder, W. G. Gehman coming for quarterly conference where foot washing took place. She also recalls when W. G. Gehman would come for communion and stay at the pastor’s home for dinner. It was at this time that the presiding elder would find out how the work of the church was progressing.
A special memory for Ethel is a baptism her father, E. E. Kublic, performed in the Swatara Creek. The baptismal candidate was Ann Leibich, the grandmother of Ethel’s late husband, Jack S. Herb, Sr. Her father also performed baptisms in Buffalo Springs.
Another personal memory Ethel has of Pastor Kublic, her father, is that he always memorized all of the scripture he was using in a message. She also remembers his commitment to visiting all members of his congregation each year.
Pastor E. J. Rutman returned to Lebanon in 1951 for a four year term as pastor. He continued his radio ministry for most of these years, with a program called Lifelines each Sunday at 2 p.m., this time over Lebanon’s own station, WLBR. The new six room brick parsonage next to the church was completed shortly before Brother Rutman retired in 1955.
Pastor E. J. Rutman wrote a poem about his radio broadcast on WLBR in Lebanon. It is entitled “To God Be All The Praise” and is printed here for you to read and enjoy.
To God Be All The Praise
Looking backward o’er the years
When this program first appeared;
The passion for lost souls on us was laid.
And there is no doubt at all,
That it was the Saviour’s call,
For the yearning passion up to now has stayed.
When we broadcast o’er the air,
We’re so glad to have a share;
In proclaiming God’s dear Son for sin atoned.
There are such who now are old,
Who are glad to hear we’re told;
Some thing that will cheer them when they are alone.
Station W L B R
Sends the Gospel near and far;
Thru it’s wonderful equipment her at hand,
And we know this thing for sure,
That God’s Word can make us pure.
No apology for it - -We take our stand.
There is some thing strangely true,
To explain it now to you;
Would be very difficult to make it plain.
Oh! The burden for the lost,
For whom Christ has paid the cost;
As in years gone by is ever just the same.
Pastor Rutman also wrote an article, while in Lebanon, describing the history and testimony of his work in radio. The article, in its entirety, is printed below:
“The Lord gave the Word: great was the company of those that published it.”
The work of the Lord by way of radio was laid upon the writer’s heart in 1924, and began in the City of Harrisburg, PA. It would indeed be hard to forget that night of tossing to and fro trying to ascertain whether this great burden on his heart was merely a fancy or really was a call of the Lord. It resulted in definitely knowing that the call came from Him, and could not be shaken off so easily.
Space would hardly permit on this little folder to tell of the many souls that were saved and Christians that were edified thru these broadcasts. Radios, wheelchairs, and other things were gotten for the poor and aged thru the channel of the radio.
There is a queer unspeakable yearning beyond description that inspires the enthusiasm of the speaker; as he realizes it may be the last time some poor soul may hear the Gospel before being ushered into eternity, which has already been the case.
Little did we ever think we would be stationed again in this territory and be privileged to preach to the many friends of this work, that have been found in the space of around 28 years of broadcasting the Gospel on different stations. However, it is with great joy that we do it. We appreciate the willingness of our staff to devote their time and talents to the Lord’s cause. Mrs Rutman, who has stood by these many years faithfully, likewise rejoices that there are so many young people to take the place of older ones, however she will gladly help again should the need demand it. The young man with the accordian (Charles Sheaffer) would readily tell you how the Lord spared his life in a German prison camp where he almost died.
We wish to be definitely understood that none of us are doing this for any compensation; we are willing to wait until Jesus comes to get our reward. This is a faith work depending upon the Lord and sympathetic friends, who send in money to pay for the broadcast. We will appreciate your contributions.
This little article will be closed by asking you to give your heart to the Lord too. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house.” (Acts 16:31).
Rev. W. F. Heffner arrived in Lebanon in October of 1955 and labored as pastor for five years until his retirement in 1960. Under Pastor Heffner’s ministry the church made rapid strides toward full maturity, particularly in the area of finances. The debt on the parsonage was steadily reduced until it was paid in full on February 19, 1959, which occasion was celebrated with a mortgage burning service. Total offerings of the church increased from $5,220.32 in 1955-56 to a 1958 total of $7,152.93. In 1959, during the ministry of Pastor Heffner, the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church became the Bible Fellowship Church.
Pastor Heffner found the people of Bethany Bible Fellowship Church most kind and loving when he was stricken with a heart attack in his final year as a pastor. Many people in the Lebanon Church have fond memories of Pastor Heffner’s wife, Miriam, as she lovingly and patiently directed the men’s chorus.
In 1960, Daniel G. Ziegler came to Bethany Bible Fellowship Church of Lebanon and remained as pastor until 1964.
The year 1961, the church’s fiftieth year, saw the addition of a new Sunday School area in the parsonage basement, connected to the church basement by a passageway. This addition was dedicated at the opening service of the Fiftieth Anniversary Observance, Sunday morning October 22, 1961.
From October 22 -29, 1961, the Lebanon church celebrated its Golden Anniversary with a week of special services. During the week M. M. Myers, N. H. Wolf, W. F. Heffner, E. J. Rutman, E. E. Kublic, C. E. Kirkwood and Eugene George, former pastors or workers at the Lebanon Church, spoke at various services. Also speaking were Mr. Harold Weaber, Rev. George Herb, Mr. John Herb and Rev. Frank Herb, sons of the church who were in the ministry or studying for the ministry in the Bible Fellowship Church. Members of the church’s 50th anniversary planning committee were Frank L. Herb, Charles S. Sheaffer, Mrs Charles W. Weaber and Pastor Daniel G. Ziegler.
Pastor Daniel Ziegler reported on the status of the church at the time of the 50th anniversary, October 1961.
The church has received financial assistance from the denomination for its entire history. The seventy-eighth Annual Conference, on October 11, 1961, reduced the denominational appropriation to a small token amount. The church expects to achieve complete self-support within a year.
The Golden Anniversary finds a group of 58 faithful members rejoicing in God’s great faithfulness in the past half century and looking forward to continued and greater blessing in the future years, until Christ comes for His church. The Sunday School continues to be active, with 122 enrolled at present and an average attendance in 1961 of 102. The mid-week prayer meeting is faithfully attended. There are also active Women’s Missionary Society and Youth Fellowship programs. Total offerings in the past year exceeded $8,300.00.
Prospects for the future are as bright as God’s promises, as sure as His character and as big as His unlimited power.
The church did, indeed, achieve full self-support for the first time in the congregation’s history, during the time of Pastor Ziegler’s pastorate. Also, during those four years, a primary target area for the gospel was defined in the south side of the city. Most of the members participated in a door-to-door visitation with Gospel tracts and information about the church handed out in all homes in that targeted area.
The formation of an expansion study committee to think how the church might find larger quarters and the start of an expansion fund were begun under Pastor Ziegler’s ministry. The expansion fund later helped to purchase the property on Mill Road.
Concerning his ministry in Lebanon, Pastor Dan Ziegler has said, “When I came we had a great, close-knit group of loyal and committed people, albeit pretty ingrown. When I left we were more focused outward in our vision and outlook.”
Glenn R. Huratiak came to minister at the Lebanon Church in 1964 and remained
in Lebanon until 1966. The Fellowship News of March 1965 gave a brief biographical description of Pastor Huratiak.
Pastor Glenn R. Hurtiak may be new to our denomination but he has long been a servant of the Most High God! Ever since his conversion at evangelistic services conducted by the EUB Church of Ashland, PA., (at the age of twelve) he has sought to answer the call of God in his life. After graduating from High School, his secular education included Bloomsburg State Teachers College and Bucknell University. He pursued his Bible education at Philadelphia College of the Bible and graduated from this Christian school. He then spent three years as a missionary in deepest Africa, returning home to pastor the EUB Church at Catawissa for the past seven years.
Because of certain theological and doctrinal differences with the denomination he was than a member of, he became acquainted with the ministry of our own Bible Fellowship movement. As a result he served for one year at our Trenton Church Extension work and then was led to take our church at Lebanon this past Annual Conference.
A 3.8 acre building lot on Mill Road in North Cornwall Township, Lebanon, was obtained in 1965.
Bruce A. Ellingson came to the Lebanon Church in 1966 to begin an unprecedented 17 year pastorate. A graduate of Wheaton College and Westminster Theological Seminary, Pastor Ellingson brought to Lebanon a passion for the Word of God and a love for God’s people.
In an August, 1969, article in the Fellowship News, Pastor Ellingson wrote in response to a denominational issue. “We are the BIBLE Fellowship Church. Let us, by the grace of God, follow the implications of our name, and have a Biblical basis for what we do. Let us be careful to follow the Biblical principles in arriving at solutions to the pragmatic problems we face.”
On Sunday, June 7, 1970, a groundbreaking service was held by the Lebanon Church on its 3.8 acre building site south of the city. Participating in the ceremony were John L. Herr, representing Abram S. Horst, Inc., Pastor N. H. Wolf, a founding pastor of the church, Jack S. Herb, Sr., chairman of the Expansion Committee, Pastor Bruce A. Ellingson, Pastor of the Church, Ralph D. Bicksler, President of the Board of Trustees, Leroy O. Herb, S. S. Superintendent, the Rev. A. L. Seyfert, District Superintendent, Mrs. Jack Herb, Sr., President of the Women’s Missionary Society and Miss Charlotte Hess, President of Youth Fellowship.
The church and parsonage on Locust Street, where God’s Word had been faithfully heralded for nearly 60 years, was sold in August of 1970. The Lebanon Church held services at a location on Maple Street until completion of the new building.
Construction of the $147,000.00 Church and Sunday School building was completed in March, 1971. A Dedication of the new facilities was held on March 27 and 28, 1971, with March 27 being a dedication open house and March 28 being the service of dedication. The theme verse for the dedication was “Build the house, and I will take pleasure in it and I will be glorified, saith the Lord.” Haggai 1:8.
On April 4, 1983, Pastor Ellingson resigned from the Lebanon Church and began a job as Admissions Counselor at Pinebrook Junior College. However, he participated in the church mortgage burning ceremony on May 1, 1983, offering “Reflections on the Occasion”. The sermon for the mortgage burning service was given by Daniel G. Ziegler, a former pastor of the Lebanon Church and Director of Church Extension.
Many programs that were begun under Pastor Ellingson’s ministry and continuing to this day are Day Camp, Fellowship Sunday, Teen Week and the EMBARC Scripture Memorization Program.
It was also during Pastor Ellingson’s pastorate that the name Bethany was dropped from the Church’s name and the church became the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church.
Concerning the years he spent as Pastor in Lebanon, Pastor Ellingson shares these memories:
As I think of the sixteen years I was privileged to serve as pastor of the Bible Fellowship Church in Lebanon, the following highlights come to mind. We saw God’s leading and provision in the relocation and building of a new church. This became an effective tool for ministry as God brought new people to our congregation in the years following our move to the new building. It’s been exciting in recent years to visit Lebanon and worship in yet a larger facility!
As I think of the new people coming, I’m reminded of baptism services. Thankfulness abounds in thinking that God was pleased to bring people to salvation through the ministries of the church, culminating in their public confession of faith through baptism. Not all who were baptized were among the new people. It was a great joy to baptize the sons and daughters of families who for years faithfully served the Lord in the church.
Next my nostalgia goes to the weddings. Being close to the pastor in the chancel, couples discovered that their pastor’s hand shook with nervousness; something always there but usually undetected. One blessing of an extended ministry was the opportunity to perform weddings of people I first knew as children, then conduct the dedication ceremony of their children.
Youth ministries are always a top spot in remembering Lebanon - the all-nighters that concluded Teen Week or ushered in a new year. They were investments with great return, particularly seeing those who were teens now married with their own families and in leadership positions in the church.
Nostalgic thoughts, made possible through the grace of our God who used many people in a faithful congregation, one of whom is my wife Carolyn - a wonderful helpmeet in our years at Lebanon. She and I deeply appreciate the many “labors of love” done by our friends in the church as we had the privilege of working with them in the various forms of local church ministry.
In thinking of Lebanon, I am always reminded that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; that the faith that Paul saw in Timothy was first in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. God has been pleased to work through the families of the Lebanon Church where we know children of the third and fourth generation continuing in the church.
Carolyn and I reared our children in Lebanon. The Lord used many of you to help mold Sharon, Ruth Anne and Sarah into the women they are today. You played an influential role in their lives. Thank you.
For 5 months, the pulpit of the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church was equipped with various supply pastors. Then, in September 1983, Pastor Calvin T. Reed, his wife, Bonnie and their family were welcomed to the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church.
Calvin T. Reed, the present Senior Pastor, is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the present time he is pursuing a Doctor Ministry Degree in Expository Preaching from Biblical Seminary.
Pastor Reed’s ministry in Lebanon has been characterized by excellent Biblical teaching and preaching, growth in attendance, expansion of church facilities and the building up of the church programs. A major task was accomplished when the by-laws for the church were written and adopted. Also, committees were formed to oversee the work of the various church programs.
From December 1983 to April 1984, a parsonage next to the church on Mill Road was constructed and on July 20, 1988, a resolution to pay off the mortgage on the parsonage was adopted.
On January, 18, 1989, a building committee was established consisting of the Board of Elders - Bruce I. Althouse, Ralph W. Bechtel, Ray C. Doutrich, David L. Herb, Jack S. Herb, Jr., Leroy O. Herb, Ellis L. Hostetter, Calvin T. Reed and Frederick P. Solesky and two women - Ruth Bomgardner and Gloria Zuck and 2 men - Kevin E. Hostetter and Jack S. Herb, Sr. who were elected from the membership of the church.
At a special Local Conference, July 10, 1990, the Board of Elders was authorized to enter into a sales agreement and then to purchase the amount of land necessary to accomplish the building program.
The following resolution was adopted unanimously on July 18, 1990 at a Local Conference.
Whereas, Previous to 1986 we were experiencing a consistent growth in church attendance and church giving; and
Whereas, The need for additional sanctuary, classroom and parking space was apparent; and
Whereas, In 1986 a 5 year plan was adopted for the expansion of present facilities; and
Whereas, All the financial goals as well as planning goals have been consistently met; and
Whereas, In the intervening years we have continued to experience the growth in attendance and giving; and
Whereas, In 1989 a Building Committee was established and authorized to engage Arthur Funk & Sons for the design and construction of the church addition; and
Whereas, The Building Committee has worked with Arthur Funk & Sons on designing a church addition that will adequately meet our needs now and into the future; and
Whereas, This design has been presented to the church congregation; and
Whereas, We have reached the fiscal year in which the actual construction phase is to begin; and
Whereas, We believe these goals and plans to be far more than merely our goals and plans, but in reality the leading, prompting and guiding of the Spirit of God; and
Whereas, We believe all that has been accomplished so far is due to God’s blessing that we are doing His will, and that we will receive His continued grace as we place our trust in Him; therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Building Program as outlined by the Board of Elders and Building Committee be approved and adopted by the congregation; and further
Resolved, That the Board of Elders in particular and the Building Committee in general be authorized to take all those steps necessary to bring the building Program to completion with the following approximations to be followed in completing the project:
Donated materials and labor $ 75,000
Phased projects $150,000
Cash out lay $150,000
Monies borrowed $600,000
Total project $975,000
Resolved, That we publicly acknowledge the goodness and grace of God which has led us to this point, and that we preserve a record testifying of our trust in the Lord for the accomplishment of this work by means of this resolution which will be recorded in the official Church Minutes to be read by all future generations.
A groundbreaking celebration service was held on April 14, 1991 at 3:00 p.m. The theme verse for the building program was Psalm 115:1 -Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.
At the July 17, 1991 Local Conference, Pastor Reed made these observations in his pastoral report:
As I reflected upon this past year I have dubbed it the “Year of Fulfillment”. We have passed many resolutions in the past years and had adopted a five (5) year plan for expansion and by God’s grace we have seen those goals, plans and resolutions begin to come to fruition before our very eyes. The Lord is good in the way in which He has directed us.
Once again we have reached new all time highs in attendance figures. Our Morning Worship average attendance for the year was 181 people. For the Evening Service the average attendance was 142. We rejoice in the people that the Lord is bringing to us and the opportunity we have to serve you.
During this same report, Pastor Reed gave this testimony of God’s grace and sufficiency:
I also want to praise the Lord for His grace and sufficiency. Undoubtedly this has been my busiest year in the Pastoral ministry to date. Nevertheless, I feel less rushed and pressured than I ever did in some of the years past although I can truly say I have never ever felt the least bit overwhelmed or put upon.
I Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
It is my desire to abound in the work of the Lord.
The last service in the old sanctuary was held on March 22, 1992 and the first service in the new sanctuary was held on March 29, 1992. Psalm 115:1 - Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. - was used as the Call to Worship.
A dedication service for the new sanctuary was held on April 26, 1992. The welcome was given by Rev. Calvin T. Reed, the invocation by Rev. Bruce A. Ellingson, the Scripture reading by Rev. Daniel G. Ziegler and the dedication message by Rev. Jansen E. Hartman.
Three months after moving into the new sanctuary, Pastor Reed said in his report to the congregation at the July 21, 1992 Local Conference:
This year was the year of building. A lot of effort by a lot of people went into bringing our first phase of the building project to a close. I want to express my personal thanks to those who were on the building committee as they spent hours in thoughtful planning. However, this work is still not finished. The second phase of the building project still needs to be completed. It is going to take a spirit of perseverance by all of us to see this endeavor through.
Nevertheless, the reason for our existence as the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church is not to build buildings. Rather we are seeking to build a people of God. I am grateful that we will have a bit of respite from the building program this year and can center upon building up the programs of the church. We want to better minister to those who are coming. Therefore we are elated at seeing so many come.
When Pastor Reed came to Lebanon in 1983, the church had 85 members with an average attendance of 75. At the time of the building dedication in 1992, the church had 136 members with an average attendance of 181in Morning Worship, 177 in Sunday School and 146 in the Evening Service. At the January 1995 Local Conference the membership was 144 with an average attendance of 209 in Morning Worship, 203 in Sunday School and 162 in the Evening Service.
By 1995, it was becoming evident that the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church would need an assistant pastor in order to effectively minister to the needs of the people of the congregation. At a Special Local Conference on May 21, 1995, Leroy O. Herb, Secretary of Local Conference, presented the job description for the Assistant Pastor as prepared by the Board of Elders. He also presented LeRoy S. Heller as the candidate for the position of Assistant Pastor. At another special local conference on June 11, 1995, an election was held and Pastor LeRoy S. Heller was called to be the first Assistant Pastor of the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church.
Pastor Heller began his work in Lebanon on August 1, 1995. He is a graduate of Berean Bible School. He attended Temple University and audited classes at Westminster Seminary. Along with other responsibilities, Pastor Heller’s major focus of ministry in Lebanon is visitation.
Pastor Heller and his wife, Pat, moved into the church parsonage on Mill Road. Pastor Reed and his family, had moved into a home they purchased on Colebrook Road.
Concerning his years in Lebanon, Pastor Heller has this to say,
It has been my unique privilege to serve the Lord here in the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church for these past six years as Assistant to Pastor Calvin T. Reed. The Lord has been pleased to give this body of believers a special sense of committedness to, appreciation for and understanding of the Holy Scriptures, which has come as the result of consistent Expository preaching by the Pastor and solid teaching from our Sunday School Staff. There is also a deep respect for those placed in authority and a sincere affection for one another; thus creating a rich oneness in the body. Jesus Christ is truly Lord and head of this church. It is a joy to work with Pastor Reed and God’s people.
Recognizing and rejoicing in the goodness and faithfulness of our God in the continuing growth of the Lebanon congregation, the members of the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church, at the January 20, 1999, Local Conference voted to give the Board of Elders authority to purchase 50 acres of land adjacent to the existing church property. Concerning the purchase, Pastor Reed made the following statement at the Local Conference: “We thank God for the many opportunities that lie before us.”
After a look at God’s goodness and faithfulness in the way He has led in the past, we come to the present, rejoicing in His continued goodness and faithfulness as He leads today in the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church. At the July 25, 2001 report to Local Conference, Pastor Reed, Sr Pastor and Pastor Heller, Assistant Pastor gave the following reports on the present work in Lebanon.
Pastor Heller said:
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20
This is our sixth report to our congregation. On this Friday, July 27th, six years ago, we moved into the parsonage to serve Christ with you here in Lebanon. We are just as excited today about our working among you as we were that first day we arrived. These have been the best six years of our lives in ministry.
Pat and I have deeply appreciated sitting under the insightful teaching and preaching of Pastor Reed. We have grown so much in the Word. Working as a team alongside of Pastor and Bonnie has been a real pleasure.
We are extremely grateful for your love and friendship, prayers for our health and well being, and your very generous financial support along with the pleasure of living in the most comfortable parsonage. You have been most gracious and kind to us.
It has been a delight to serve under the direction of our respected Board of Elders and to participate in the ministry of the Scriptures by teaching in our Sunday School, coordinating and coaching our 28 men who share the Word on Wednesday evenings in prayer meeting, serve on the Board of Deacons , 5 committees and provide counsel and encouragement through the 1208 contacts and visits we made to members and friends.
We certainly see God at work in our midst by the eagerness God’s people show for hearing the Word and the desire to apply that truth to their own hearts and daily living, and by the way the Lord is adding to our fellowship those who are hungry for sound Biblical expositional teaching of the Scriptures and how that applies to living in today’s culture.
Thank you for allowing us to be your servants and to labor alongside of you as we together lift up our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ here in our community and around the world.
Pastor Reed reported:
We continue to rejoice in our privilege to pastor the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church. We are grateful for the support and leadership of Pastor Heller, the elders and the deacons and the entire congregation. It is a joy to be able to work together to further God’s kingdom and to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.
This past year has been another year of growth and challenge. The Lord has richly blessed us. The average morning worship attendance rose to 290. The evening service had an average attendance of 196 and prayer meeting was 131. I conducted approximately 260 visits, dedicated 4 children and baptized 6 individuals.
This coming year will be a year of evaluation of church programs. Much work has to be done to continue to meet the needs of our congregation in the present and on into the future. I praise the Lord for the spirit of unity and cooperation that exists among us. May the Lord be pleased to use the Bible Fellowship Church of Lebanon as one instrument among many to accomplish His purposes.
In looking at the past, the present and the future of the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church, Pastor Reed shares the following thoughts.
1 Samuel 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” We give glory to God for all that He has accomplished through His church. It is His doing and we give Him all the praise. As we look back on the history of the church, it is marked by tremendous change. The church has gone through a great transformation. However, the church’s work is not finished. We have an anticipation for an even more glorious future because He who began a good work in us will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ.
Buck, Leonard, E., ed. What Mean These Stones? Published by the Historical Committee of the Bible Fellowship Church, Coopersburg, PA, 1983
Daily News, The - Lebanon, PA - Sat. April 25, 1992 - No. 156
Fellowship News - July 1964, Vol. 4 # 6 - Spiritual Emphasis - N. H. Wolf
Fellowship News - March 1965 - Vol. V # 2 - Spiritual Emphasis - Glenn Huratiak
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Fellowship News - July 1970 - Vol. X # 6
Fellowship News - September 2000 - Gospel Herald Society - Vol. 40 # 7
Gospel Banner - December 23, 1909
Gospel Herald - Saturday Evening Call - Vol. X # 50
Herb, Ethel - Interview, 2001
Kauffman, Horace A. , Diary (Location unknown)
Local Conference Minutes - Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church - July 18, 1990; July 17, 1991; July 21, 1992; January 16, 1995; May 21, 1995; June 11, 1995; January 20, 1999; July 25, 2001
Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church Yearbook 1934
Rutman, E.J. - Poem and Testimony - Lebanon BFC Archives
Ziegler, Daniel G. Golden Anniversary Memorial Booklet 1911-1961 - A Brief History of Bethany Bible Fellowship Church - October 1961