Beginning Bible Study
The beginnings of Bethany Church are rooted in God’s intervention and transformation of the life of Ted Hegre in 1935. Ted and Lucile were newlyweds when Rev. Joe Stump spoke at the church they attended in South Minneapolis for a week of evangelistic meetings. Ted later wrote, “For the first time I heard God’s estimate of sin and the sinner and I discovered I was hopelessly lost. But thanks to God, Jesus was revealed as the Savior of sinners and I accepted him as my Savior.”
With a new peace and joy of salvation came a strong desire to learn God’s Word. Ted became a voracious Bible reader. He carried a pocket New Testament everywhere and read as he rode the street car to and from work, on work breaks, and late into the night. He also read dozens of Christian classics—books on the life and teaching of Jesus. As Ted shared with friends the truths he was discovering, they encouraged him to start a Bible study. It started small, but by late 1942 in the midst of World War II, forty young people were coming regularly to the Hegre home on Sunday afternoons to learn. Many surrendered their lives to Christ.
In early 1943 a friend told them about a two-year-old chapel for sale at 57th Street and Nicollet Avenue South in Minneapolis, which seated seventy people. He encouraged them to start a church. They hadn’t thought in those terms and had no money. But after prayer and counsel, they were delighted when the sellers agreed to give them possession of the building without payment! In two years the chapel was paid for in full. With sixteen charter members they called Ted Hegre as the pastor. The first Sunday Service was Palm Sunday, April 25, 1943. They chose the name Bethany Chapel because in the Scriptures Bethany was known as the place Jesus loved to visit. Harold Brokke was called as the assistant pastor in 1948.
The Message and Mission
From the beginning, the cross and missions were primary themes in the preaching of Ted Hegre, who continued as Bethany’s pastor for thirty-five years. He and others taught that what some called “the deeper life” was to be the normal Christian life. Christ had supreme claim to the whole life of every believer—claim to our possessions, professions, and future plans.
One Sunday afternoon in 1944, Ted was praying alone when God challenged him that Bethany Chapel should send out missionaries. The number one hundred came to mind. He shared what had been impressed on him with the new congregation of only twenty members. The goal seemed impossible, but they began to pray for one hundred missionaries and enough money to send them overseas and keep them on the field. Five families from the church committed themselves to missions. These five families sold their individual homes, pooled their personal resources, and then moved into one large home in October 1945 to form Bethany Fellowship to fulfill the vision to train, send, and support one hundred missionaries.
Growth and Expansion
From this radical commitment, God blessed the efforts of Bethany Fellowship—one organization with different ministries including the church (eventually called Bethany Missionary Church), Bethany Fellowship Missionary Training Center (today Bethany Global University), Bethany Fellowship Missions (now Bethany Gateways), Bethany House Publishers (now owned by Baker Publishing), Bethany Academy (K–12 Christian school), Bethany Press International, and other entrepreneurial efforts started to support world-wide evangelization. From the fruit of their obedience and efforts, that one-hundred missionary goal was realized in 1974.
Our congregation grew and a new chapel seating 200 was built in 1950 on the current Bethany campus in Bloomington. Both Ted and Harold also taught in the missionary training program. Our current church auditorium was built in 1956 to accommodate the crowds for four annual conferences around themes of missions, spiritual life, prophecy, and victorious Christian living.
Speakers, Leaders, and Volunteers
Bethany’s pulpit has hosted many influential Christian leaders from around the world, including Norman Grubb, Don McKaughan, Arthur Bloomfield, Leonard Ravenhill, Loren Cunningham (founder of YWAM), Ernest O’Neill, Charles Shepson, Elmer Murdock, Ray Mayhew, Helen Roseveare, Larry Christenson, Corrie ten Boom, Paris Reidhead (his message “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” is one of the Internet’s top sermon downloads, which Paris preached at Bethany), Joy Dawson, George Verwer (founder of Operation Mobilization), and many more. Other lead pastors who have served include Alec Brooks, Ernie Haase, Dave Finsaas, Tom Correll, Mark Nysewander, and Matt Hedric. We are also grateful to associate pastors, visitation pastors, youth pastors, ministry leaders, and thousands of dedicated volunteers who’ve come alongside the message and mission of Bethany Church to make a difference in the lives of our community and in the nations of the world.
In 2004 Bethany Fellowship (now called Bethany International) released Bethany Church to become its own legal entity. However, we continue to share the same vision and commitment to the transforming work of the cross, the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and fulfilling the Great Commission. We continue to look for ways to partner with Bethany International to see the world reached for Christ. For example, twenty-seven of the thirty-eight missionaries we support serve with Bethany Gateways, “taking the church to where it is not.”
Leadership Structure Change
In early 2015 Bethany Church changed its leadership structure to a team-led approach, reflecting the plurality of church leadership found in the Scriptures. The current oversight team members include Matt Adair, Mark Anderson, Tim Freeman, Dan Germo, David Gregory, Greg Hjelle, Ryan Lindsay, Richee Parks, David Sluka, and Dave Willcock. The oversight team stewards the vision, doctrine, and culture of the church, and empowers ministry teams to lead the ministry of the church, which includes preaching and teaching, pastoral care, missions, prayer, worship, children and youth ministry, women’s and men’s ministry, and others. We presently have about twenty ministry teams.
Same Values, Renewed Mission
Today the values that gave birth to our church and to the move of God at Bethany still prevail as we cultivate a community of believers who pledge to continue “going deep, reaching wide, and living for the age to come.” Since January 2017, we have also focused on a renewed mission to “make disciples, train and trust leaders, and plant churches” so the gospel will continue to take root in our own families, and in the hearts of every tribe, tongue, and nation in the Twin Cities and around the world.