As members of the BIC family, we share a remarkable heritage. Though much has changed in our 200-plus-year history, we continue to cherish many aspects of our past—and guard them as we move into the future. In the following article, individuals from our church community reflect on the aspects of our past we ought to preserve for the future—as well as the exciting new directions in which the BIC are moving today. Together, their words reveal how we BIC have sought to build our lives on God’s truth, first in the past and now in the present and future.
Dillsburg (Pa.) BIC
One of the most important aspects of our Brethren in Christ heritage is our commitment to the Bible. The early BIC were passionate about wanting to live by the Bible, which they believed to be the word of God. My family carried that passion, and in order to discover what God had revealed about Himself, we studied it daily, read it with the family each morning before the mad rush to catch the school bus, and focused on it several times a week: each Sunday morning during the worship service, each Thursday evening during the prayer meeting, and every other Sunday evening during the young people’s meeting.
I believe that we need to guard this aspect of our heritage because God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible gives reason to every other aspect of our faith. If we fail to keep Scripture as the foundation, the rest will be a house of cards that comes tumbling down. I am so happy that as a denomination we periodically examine our approach to the Bible, reinforce our conviction regarding its truth and authority, and try to respond to the changing attitudes to it that swirl around us. With God’s help, we will continue to treasure His word.
CrossRoads BIC (Salina, Kans.)
My husband Ron and I became members in a BIC congregation only four years ago, so our history with this church family is pretty short. Still, in our brief journey with the BIC, I’ve come to realize that much of what I grew up hearing in the church of my youth matches what my pastor preaches and teaches today. In other words, I think the “heritage” that I grew up with overlaps a lot with the BIC heritage! Let me explain, using two examples.
First is the concept of holiness. As a youth, I was blessed to have a pastor who came out of the Wesleyan tradition and taught us how to live a holy life. He encouraged us to strive for Christian perfection, not by our own works but through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Imagine my excitement when I learned that the BIC have also stressed holy living throughout their history! I believe we need to cherish this aspect of our heritage. We must continue to teach holiness in our congregations.
A second concept is living simply. This concept also arises from the BIC heritage, and it has made an impact in my life. Simple living has three outcomes that I think are important for every Christian to embrace. One is compassion. Living simply allows us to put others before ourselves. When you are less concerned about what you can accumulate, you are more likely to think about the needs of those around you and how you can meet those needs in concrete, tangible ways. Another outcome is contentment. Joy is a natural outcome of a life lived for Christ. When He fills our hearts, we have no need of other things. Those things are no longer important. Third and finally, living simply will lead to a correct concept of stewardship. Living simply helps us to realize that everything we have belongs to God, and we are only here as temporary caretakers of what He has given us. When we acknowledge our responsibility as stewards and caretakers, God can create in us truly generous hearts. For these reasons and others, I think we need to emphasize our heritage of simple living.
I thank God for my journey of faith. And I thank God also for leading me to the BIC and its heritage. May God grant us the wisdom to guard our heritage now and in the future.
Five Forks BIC (Waynesboro, Pa.)
I come from a family of missionaries, and for many years my wife and I served on the mission field as well. So during the United States’ recent wars, some of my best friends, relatives, and neighbors were nationals of the countries against which our military was fighting. Our government told us these nationals were our enemies. I couldn’t disagree more.
Our nation’s present perpetual state of war has given me a new appreciation for and conviction of the correctness of our heritage as a people of peace. Throughout our history, we BIC have followed the example of Jesus in giving up our rights rather than fighting for them. We have loved our enemies, served our enemies, and prayed for our enemies—rather than seeking revenge against them or trying to control them. We have sought to embody Jesus’ call to bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28).
Yet I believe that for this stance to have any legitimacy at all on a global scale, it must be practiced first in our own homes, in our congregations, and in our communities. This kind of practical peacemaking cannot happen unless we ask for the Holy Spirit’s empowerment each and every day. Lord, help us to guard our hearts as we move forward!
Speedwell Heights BIC (Lititz, Pa.)
I am a so-called “cradle BIC.” I was born and raised in the Mount Pleasant BIC (Mt. Joy, Pa.) congregation, where generations of my dad’s family had belonged and served. I graduated from Messiah College, a BIC school in Mechanicsburg, Pa. And since college I’ve been on the pastoral staff in three BIC churches. So just as Paul described himself as a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5), you might call me a “BIC of BICs.” In so many ways, the BIC Church has been my home.
When I think about the future of our church, I’m excited that as a cradle BIC I represent a shrinking minority. I’m excited that our faith family isn’t limited to people who were born into this family. Over the years, thousands of people have decided to follow Christ and have chosen to do so in the BIC community, and we have welcomed them with open arms.
Moreover, I’m excited that a church started by German-speaking farmers in central Pennsylvania has crossed potential barriers of all kinds—barriers of language, culture, ethnicity, and geography—to become a diverse, global fellowship. All along, our desire has been to answer Jesus’ call to make disciples of all nations. And as a result, 80 percent of our people now live outside North America.
I’m also excited that through movements like the International Brethren in Christ Association the voices of our diverse, global fellowship can be heard in our nation and can help shape our future as a church.
In short, I’m excited that our future will look both the same as and yet different than the past. It is a hopeful and exciting time to be Brethren in Christ! And there is no other community of faith I’d rather call home.
Alan Claassen Thrush
Upland (Calif.) BIC
When I think about the future of the BIC Church, I’m both excited and a little bit terrified. I don’t know what that future holds, but I suspect that the polarization in our culture will continue to infect Christian communities; that tensions will exist between cultural and language groups; and that communities will experience violence and mistrust.
So when I look ahead, I feel a knot forming in the pit of my stomach. Yet I also feel excitement, because it is precisely into the middle of situations like this that Jesus calls us as the BIC Church.
As BIC, we are well positioned to model a different way of relationship in this age of polarization and conflict because our theological heritage connects us with various Christian communities. For example, a number of Pacific Regional Conference pastors gather each year at the Holiness Church Consortium, where we dialogue with leaders from the Assemblies of God, the Free Methodists, and others in the Holiness tradition. We also participate in the regional relief sale of Mennonite Central Committee, a Mennonite and BIC service organization. This opportunity enables us to work together with other Anabaptist congregations. Not many denominations have such a wide range of relationships. God calls us, as BIC, to take the lead in being peacemakers in the Church and in the broader culture.
We BIC are also shaped by 10 Core Values—values rooted in Scripture, centered on Jesus, and fanned into flame in our lives by the Holy Spirit. These values, when lived in word and deed, shape us into disciples who can confront the challenges of our world with love, grace, and hope. God wants to use us to bring compassion, reconciliation, and transformation into individuals, families, and communities.
I can’t predict what our future will be like. But I can say that the world and the Church need our BIC voices and our model of lived discipleship. May God give us courage and grace to be the BIC Church God has prepared us to be.
Carlisle (Pa.) BIC
What excites me about the future of the BIC Church is our desire to follow Jesus together, as a total community. The future of the BIC isn’t just about our great leaders, who guide us with integrity and in whom we can place our trust. The future isn’t just about the pastors who shepherd our churches. Rather, the future of the BIC Church is about every single person who attends our churches—from the wee little ones to those in their 90s. Together, we want to be known not just as “Brethren in Christ.” Instead, our identity is focused on being followers of Jesus Christ first and foremost. So long as we all seek to be followers of Jesus Christ above all, our future is great, because our focus is on where it needs to be. Our focus is on Jesus, and that’s where our future lies.