God loves to plant seeds and watch them grow. PBC is an example.
Early in 1948, God impressed upon the heart of Ed Stirm, a Christian businessman, the need for a biblical ministry to the people of the Palo Alto area, and especially to the students at Stanford University. So Ed approached four other Christian men: Harry Smith, Cecil Kettle, Gus Gustafson, and Bob Smith. They all agreed to begin meeting together to pray, plan, and study in order to start a ministry through which people could begin to hear and understand what God has to say in his Word. Peninsula Bible Fellowship was born.
It began with a simple Sunday evening Bible study, taught by visiting pastors, in the Palo Alto Community Center, and a number of evangelistic Bible studies on the Peninsula. There were perhaps thirty people at the first meeting, but attendance steadily increased through the attractive and effective teaching of men like Lewis Speery Chafer, Vernon McGee, John Mitchell, Francis Russell, S. Lewis Johnson, John Walvoord, and many other notable and not-so-notable Bible teachers. Throughout two years of ministry, these men opened the Scriptures to God's people, faithfully fulfilling our Lord's word, "Feed my sheep."
Somewhere in the sequence of events we added a Sunday morning service and Sunday School for the children to meet the needs of the increasing numbers. All this without a pastor (in the official sense).
In 1950, three of our visiting speakers contacted John Walvoord, President of Dallas Theological Seminary, suggesting that we could use a pastor. John wrote the leaders to recommend we talk to Ray Stedman, a student about to graduate. We did, and Ray proved to be just the man God had in mind for us. So we joined forces, with Ray as Executive Director without a guaranteed salary. And after we had called him, we suddenly realized that we had never heard him preach! Ray came in September 1950, and what a blessing he brought through the years.
The rest is history. Through the study and teaching of His Word, the Lord led us into some very basic principles of ministry: the real and active Headship and Lordship of Christ over His people (in reality, not just as a doctrine); the ministry of all God's people (not just pastors); making disciples; the thorough exposition of the Scriptures; and operation under the New Covenant (of Christ's adequacy for every situation).
Out of these principles there developed many effective ministries: Dave Roper's penetration of Stanford with the truth through Seminar 70; Bill Dempster's training of high school students for ministry in rural outreach; Discovery Publishing's messages and books; Careers Alive, pastors' seminars, Body Life, internship programs, women's fellowship, men's conferences, family camps, Green Pastures, Community Pregnancy Center, and a host of other ministries. Through it all there has always been a generous sprinkling of small group Bible studies in homes, restaurants, offices, etc. And added to all, a teaching ministry to the church-at-large both in the US and overseas.
All of this can be attributed only to the faithful leading of our Lord. The mistakes are all ours; the victories all his.
We thank the Lord for faithful elders and pastors, but more than that, for being our faithful Lord. He has led us, through all the problems, to a consistent experience of his grace in our present place of spiritual prosperity and usefulness. None of this could have happened apart from the eager, responsive obedience of his people, entering into the marvelous privilege and place of ministry God has given to each of us as the Body of Christ, expressing his life and love in the world. So... Rejoice!
--Bob Smith, pastor and elder at Peninsula Bible Church, now home with the Lord since 1992