Early Days. The Michigan Baptist Bible Fellowship (MBBF) traces its history back to G. B. Vick, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. Temple Baptist Church was one of the largest and most influential churches in the country with 5,000 in weekly attendance and 10,000 members. Jimmy Allen, Community Baptist Church in Garden City, was the long-time chairman and great leader of the MBBF. Other pastors in the 60s and 70s included Truman Dollar and Bill Dowell, Jr. at Ambassador Baptist in Allen Park, Leland Kennedy and Bernie Rogers at Wick Road Baptist in Taylor, Bruce Melton, Dick Freeman, and Ken Adrian at Ryan Road in Warren, Gerald Stokes at Northline Baptist in Taylor, Gerald Cheney at Grace Bible Baptist in Flint, and Ed Dinant at Twin Cities in Flint. Many other pastors were part of the Michigan Baptist Bible Fellowship in the early days.
Influence. Though he left state leadership roles to others, G. B. Vick was a great mentor and source of encouragement to younger preachers. Even with a busy schedule, he made attending state meetings a priority. Dr. Herb Gilbert of Beacon Baptist in Taylor has continued that role. Because Temple Baptist was a showcase for guest preachers, Dr. Vick regularly gave Michigan pastors opportunities to speak at the great church. Several men were sent out of Temple Baptist to start many churches in Michigan. For example, Louie Hanner was a layman who started Fundamental Baptist Temple in Detroit, assisted by Wayne Deverna in pivotal years. That church grew to over 600 in attendance.
Camp Chautauqua. In 1968 the MBBF bought Camp Chautauqua in Miamisburg, Ohio for $110,000. Churches brought campers from throughout the midwest. In the past 50 years, Camp Chautauqua has been the location of over 8,800 salvation decisions and over 19,000 people have rededicated or surrendered to ministry. Camp managers have included Humphrey Odor (1968-76) and Jerry Harmeyer (1976-2013 ). In 2013 the camp was sold to Camp Chautauqua, Inc., a foundation that continues the spiritual legacy. Current executive director, Jason Harmeyer, is raising $200K in 200 days to advance the camp impact (www.thecampbytheriver.com).
Super Rally. During the late 70s, two Michigan youth pastors, Joe Schultz and Mike Boys, came up with an idea to have a summer evangelistic event at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. They simply called it “Super Rally.” For 3 decades this event drew young people from all over the midwest. Speakers included Jerry Thorpe and Mark Lowry among others. At its height, this two-day event had five rallies with over 1,000 attending each rally. Hundreds were saved.
Springfield & Boston. The MBBF and Temple Baptist Church have unique ties to two of our colleges. The first president for both colleges were from Michigan and pastor of Temple Baptist Church: G. B. Vick at Baptist Bible College (Missouri) and A. V. Henderson at Boston Baptist Bible College (originally Baptist Bible Institute East).
Crisis. Already in the 21st century the MBBF has weathered many storms. The economic downturn in Michigan has put churches in crisis. Many churches and pastors are struggling. In addition, differing styles and ministry opinions have taken its toll on meeting attendance. About 12-15 pastors attend the monthly fellowship. Yet, there is a peaceful, encouraging spirit of unity in the MBBF.
Future. The new state officers met recently and the future is bright. A plan is in place to invite ‘loner’ pastors to visit the meetings. Finances are available for church planters to begin new works in Michigan. Pure Michigan.. Pure Fellowship.