Free PDF Guide by Kerry Olson
The History of BGU
Bethany Fellowship was founded by five families in 1945. They were all members of Bethany Chapel (now known as Bethany Church), which was founded in 1943. These families each entered into a deeper, more passionate relationship with Jesus and were seeking to give all they had to God. The possibilities of the sanctified Christian life and the unfinished task of world missions greatly inspired them, but most of their time, energy and money were needed to support their families and maintain their homes.
After much prayer and discussion, they sensed God leading them to sell their possessions and pool their resources to acquire a common residence where they could live, worship and work together to fulfill their goal. Consequently, in 1945, they sold their homes and combined their belongings to support their newly formed organization, which they called Bethany Fellowship.
The headquarters were established in a large, 30-room home in Minneapolis called “Bethany House.” The purpose of this community life was to reduce unnecessary work and expense entailed in maintaining several households so that more time and money could be given to missions. The name “Bethany” was chosen because it was a place Jesus preferred and would retreat to for prayer and reflection with the Father.
As time went on, Bethany began to expand. Soon they had outgrown both the chapel and the house where they all lived. As a result, in April 1946, they purchased a 62.5 acre farm in Bloomington, MN. Along the way, God had given Pastor Hegre the vision of preparing and sending missionaries throughout the world, spreading the message of Jesus to many distant places. Therefore, Bethany set the faith-filled goal of sending 100 missionaries from their gathering of 50 people.
Bethany College of Missions began with 10 students in October 1948. In the early years, graduates of what was then called “Bethany Fellowship Missionary Training Center” served with various sending agencies. In 1963, Bethany Fellowship Missions (now called Bethany International Ministries) was formed. The first developments were in Brazil, and included a Bible school, church planting work, publishing house and seminary. Today Bethany has sent hundreds of missionaries, founded numerous churches, missionary training centers, and trained church leaders in almost 40 countries.
Business ventures have also been Bethany’s primary source of funding through the years. Some early business ventures were wood toys, lefse griddles, pop-up camping trailers and printing. These ventures funded the work of missions and supported the college. Bethany House Publishers (BHP) was formed in 1956 to spread the good news of Christ through publishing and printing Christian books and literature. It was sold in 2003 to Baker Book House. Bethany Press International was created in 1997 as a separate ministry to print books produced by BHP and other publishers.