Bethany Church was originally called Bethany Chapel. It had its beginning in home meetings, where a small group of Christians banded together for fellowship, prayer, and the study of God’s Word. These gatherings were held every Sunday afternoon and sometimes other evenings until they grew too large for a home.
It was then a letter arrived stating that a chapel just two years old on Nicollet Avenue and 57th Street was for sale. The Lord gave an unmistakable leading that this little church should be purchased and a congregation organized. Sixteen people became charter members, and T.A. Hegre was called as pastor.
The first service in that chapel was held on Palm Sunday, 1943. The congregation had no assets, but the sellers agreed to give possession of the property without payment of a single cent! They were rewarded for their confidence, for in less than two years the chapel was paid for in full. The founders chose the name “Bethany” because it was known in the Scriptures as a place that Jesus loved to visit. Because of its unpretentious beginning, our first little church was called Bethany Chapel. Several years later the word “Missionary” was added and “Chapel” changed to “Church.”
From the very beginning, the message of the Cross and missions were the dominant notes in all of the preaching and teaching. It was believed that what was generally known as “the deeper life” was the normal Christian life, and the claims of Christ were presented as plainly and directly as possible. The result was a deep hunger for God and also for a way of expressing thankfulness for His “so great salvation.” It was recognized that Christ has the supreme claim to the whole life and to all possessions.
This little congregation, with fewer than twenty members, began to pray for one hundred missionaries and money enough to send and keep them on the foreign mission field. The goal seemed impossible, but the assurance that the Lord’s will was so strong that believing prayer was offered to God. He heard and answered. As a result, Bethany Fellowship Missionary Training Center was formed. A three-year Bible and missionary training course was established, and later another year of internship was added, making the training course four years.
November 6, 1955, Bethany Chapel, the scene of so many wonderful blessings and experiences with the Lord, had become too small and was sold. The congregation moved to the larger quarters of the Fellowship Chapel in Bloomington, where morning services had been held since December 3, 1950. Soon, however, they outgrew this building and a second move was necessary, this time to our current location.
Bethany Missionary Church saw the radical vision that God had given it so many years ago fulfilled in the mid-1970s, as it sent out its 100th missionary into full-time service. While we maintain a strong missions commitment to this day, in the years since the fulfillment of that vision God has been speaking to us about our need to focus on the harvest among the nations and among our own neighborhoods.
In 1998, the Lord brought a new leader to Bethany named Mark Nysewander. During his five years of ministry at Bethany, the Lord used Pastor Mark to help Bethany Church get reconnected with some of the DNA that defined our church in its early days. Pastor Mark’s teaching emphasized the priority of prayer and entering into the fullness of what God has for us in the power of the Holy Spirit. When Mark left Bethany in 2003, the church leadership and search committee asked then-Associate Pastor Matt Hedrick to become Bethany’s Senior Pastor. Matt stepped into this role in March, 2003 and built on what Pastor Mark began, giving more clarity and direction for this new season in our church life which is encapsulated in our values statement: “Going Deep, Reaching Wide, Living for the Age to Come”.