Brief History of Peninsula Bible Church
Palo Alto, California
How it all Began...
God loves to plant seeds and watch them grow. Peninsula Bible Church is
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. So 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 Sperry 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. So
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! So Ray came in September, 1950. And what a blessing he
has been through all these 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 schoolers 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, Crisis 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 U.S.A. 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, though 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, Founding Elder
Return to PBC HomePage