On June 13, 1953 a small group of nineteen faithful followers of Jesus gathered in a home in Montalvo to pray. They hoped to form an interdenominational church that would meet the need for a Bible focused fellowship in their community. They would call the new church Bible Fellowship Church. Their first worship service was held in that home eight days later.
In January 1954 the young church purchased property on the corner of Victoria and 7thStreet/ Moon Drive for $10,500. The property contained an old walnut packing shed that covered four lots, and an old two-story farmhouse complete with a swimming pool and Chinchilla huts! A church building was constructed using all volunteer workers and at the first Easter service on April 10, 1954, there were 189 people attending.
Six months later, Dr. Howard Cleveland, a professor at Westmont College became the first pastor of Bible Fellowship Church. His young daughter, Kitty Allen was then eight years old. The family lived in Santa Barbara and commuted back and forth for Sunday services, and Wednesday night Prayer Meeting.
When I was thirteen, my mother became progressively mentally ill, so my dad resigned from Westmont College and BFC and our family moved to Minnesota. My father thought the rural environment would heal my mother.
This was a severely traumatic time for me that lasted three decades. My mother was in a mental health facility most of that time. After my high school graduation I worked in a drug store so that I could attend BIOLA. In 1967, I returned to BFC with my oldest sister and her family. It was here that I met Nolan Allen at a Sunday evening service! We were married at BFC in 1969.
I fell apart emotionally due to the trauma of an absent mother, but God used Nolan to help put me back together. For several years in the 1980’s we attended various churches. But in 2001, God made it very clear that we were to return to Bible Fellowship Church and pray for the pastor.
We’ve been here ever since and we keep on praying!”
As the church grew, a new wing was added to house a Fellowship Hall named Cleveland Hall after Dr. Cleveland and Sunday School classrooms. The old farmhouse was used for classrooms with a youth facility in the patio room next to the swimming pool, which became a central focus of many youth and church family gatherings.
After a decade of growth, the original property on Victoria was sold and a new facility on five acres of farmland on Ralston was built. They moved into their newly constructed church building in April 1967. That building is now the PLEX.
For sixty-five years the Lord has faithfully led Bible Fellowship Church. While changes in methods and style are always being made to reach an ever-changing culture, the core values of those first nineteen charter members has remained constant. Today we communicate those values in our name, ENCOUNTER. We’re here encountering God, encouraging each other and engaging the world. By prayer, God has graciously sustained this ministry. By prayer, we will follow His lead for the way forward.