Bible remains central at Olathe's Community Bible Church
By Myra Holmes
Community Bible Church, Olathe, Kan., marked 50 years with a celebration weekend June 25-26. They called it their “jubilee,” referring to the Old Testament 50th year of freedom.
Pastor Aaron Halvorsen points out that the jubilee theme not only feels appropriate for a 50-year celebration, but it also fits well with the congregation’s hope that the weekend would emphasize the joy of the gospel and God’s faithfulness.
Plus, “jubilee is a fun term,” he says. “We wanted it to be a fun weekend.”
The two-day celebration began Saturday with a fish fry and chicken dinner and a program with skits, music representing the church’s past and “lots of goofiness,” according to associate pastor Russ Friesen. One highlight of the evening was an interview with several members from the church’s early days—Lawrence and Ellen Friesen, Ron and Shirley Hiebert and charter member Dannie Funk.
“They demonstrated a remarkable faith, and they challenged all of us to keep trusting the Lord however he continues to lead,” says Friesen.
Former pastors offer reflections
On Sunday, four former pastors—Rob Reimer, Phil Plett, Dale Wiebe and Herb Schroeder—shared reflections during the Sunday school time. “It was enlightening, funny, moving and encouraging for us all,” says Friesen, who has been part of CBC since his family moved to the church when he was three years old and who remembers those former pastors.
Former interim pastor Timothy Conner was also present for some of the activities. And church plant pastor Art Harder, now 93 and unable to attend the celebration personally, shared a Scripture and message of God’s faithfulness via video.
Tim Sullivan, district minister for the Southern District Conference (SDC), was a special guest for the Sunday morning service and presented the church with a plaque from the SDC.
Halvorsen, pictured right, preached from theme verse Leviticus 25:10, reminding those in attendance that Old Testament jubilee finds fulfillment in Jesus, who offers true rest, true inheritance and release from the bondage of sin.
Following the service, the celebration continued with a BBQ pulled pork lunch and carnival-like activities, like a bounce house and water games, all designed for fun.
That celebratory, joyful atmosphere was very intentional. “There is joy and freedom in the gospel,” Halvorsen says, and he hopes those who attended experienced that joy.
The more things change…
CBC began with vision meetings with SDC leaders and area families in 1965 and officially began meeting for worship June 19, 1966, in the home of Art and Norma Harder. Attendance grew to 40 people within the first year, so the new congregation purchased land for a building. Groundbreaking took place March 2, 1969, and the building was dedicated Oct. 12, 1969.
Some things have remained the same for CBC since their founding, like their location and their name. But other things have changed as the community has morphed. Whereas the church was once a country church, the city has grown around it so that now it’s more of a suburban church. While the congregation still has a number of members from those early days, it also has seen a recent influx of young families. While some have deep roots in the Mennonite Brethren tradition—verenike and peppernuts are “dear to their heart,” Halvorsen says—others wouldn’t be able to articulate what Mennonite Brethren means. But all are drawn by love for God and love for Scripture.
The centrality of Scripture at CBC is regularly expressed through song selections during worship, teaching focused on the Bible and attention to Scripture before leaders make decisions. “We try to make the gospel central in all we do,” Halvorsen says. Even the church’s name has placed Bible at the center for 50 years.
“Some things remain the same; some things change,” Halvorsen says. “But we wanted to take a moment and celebrate God’s faithfulness in all of it. Through all the changes, the gospel remains the same.”
Friesen says CBC has been a wonderful place to grow up and now to serve. “It’s a privilege to be able to serve in a place where so many people have poured into me and so many others through the years, always pointing to Christ as our Source, Savior and Redeemer,” he says.
Anticipating a good future
As CBC celebrates the past 50 years, they also naturally look ahead to the future. Halvorsen hopes that the Bible will remain central and that the congregation will become a place to raise up people to take the gospel out: pastors, missionaries and church planters. Maybe, he speculates, in another 50 years, CBC will have planted daughter churches that are celebrating milestones of their own.
Halvorsen senses general optimism for the future at CBC; people are excited about the gospel and looking forward to the future. “I don’t know what the road ahead is, but it just feels like good things are on the way.”
Many of those who attended the Community Bible Church's anniversary celebration wore specially made, yellow celebration t-shirts, adding to the festive feeling of the two-day event. Photos provided by CBC.