During the early part of 1982, a group of young men attending Fairhaven Bible Chapel began praying about planting a New Testament assembly in San Lorenzo, California. This group consisted of Rick Belles, Scott Clark, Howard Ormsby, and Tony Payne. Unknown to them, at this same time, two men attending Bethany Gospel Chapel in Oakland, CA were praying about planting a New Testament assembly in Castro Valley, CA. These two men were Carl Knott and Don Robertson. Both groups of men shared their common interests in church planting with William MacDonald and asked him to pray for them as they sought the will of the Lord. Since Bill knew about the desire of both groups, he suggested that all of the men should get together and discuss the possibility of working together to plant one church. So they met together and discussed the possibility of forming a church planting team. As they talked together, they decided to make this an urgent matter of prayer.
In the late spring of 1982, Fairhaven Bible Chapel held a church-planting seminar and invited interested individuals to attend. Some of the speakers included Jean Gibson, William MacDonald, and others. At the seminar, during his message, Bill MacDonald said, “Perhaps the reason older men do not plant new assemblies is because younger men never invite them to do so.” Don Robertson tucked that nugget away for later conversation with Bill. As Don drove Bill home that afternoon, he reminded Bill of his earlier comment and said, “Bill, I want you to consider this your official invitation to join us in planting a new assembly. Would you consider joining us in planting an assembly in San Lorenzo?” Bill’s response was immediate and affirmative. Over the next several months, the men asked the elders at Fairhaven and at Bethany for their blessing and prayers as they met together to make plans for this new assembly. The elders of both assemblies readily agreed with them and gave their blessings on this new venture.
A date was set for the first Sunday of October as the planned starting point of the new assembly. For weeks leading up to this time, the church planting team met together to pray, to discuss doctrinal issues, and to write position papers on subjects such as a Doctinal Statement, Women’s Role in the Church, the Issue of Divorce and Remarriage, and Privileges and Responsibilities of those who would come into the assembly. Many of the early meetings lasted long into the night as these issues were hammered out in the fear of the Lord. But in all areas, they were united in purpose and in doctrine.
Howard and Kathie Ormsby graciously opened their home in San Lorenzo as our first meeting place. In the morning the church would gather in their home, move all the furniture out of the way, set up chairs and enjoy the meetings of the church. It was, indeed, cozy fellowship.
Scott and Cathy Clark lived across the street from the Ormsbys and opened their home for the Lord’s Supper that we celebrate each week.
The assembly grew in number as some neighbors came in and some believers came to meet with us. We enjoyed meeting together, as the early church did, to study the Word of God (the apostle’s teaching), breaking of bread, prayer and fellowship and have continued to do so in the years that followed.
In our teaching, we have always emphasized the verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible although we make time for topical messages, too.
To be continued….