Back to Battle Lake we go! What? That’s right! Here’s a fascinating excerpt from J. H. Levang’s summary of E.M. Broen’s historical notes about the beginning of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren:
“A Lutheran Brethren Church at Battle Lake, Minnesota was organized about 1904 and served by Rev. Lundeberg from Wahpeton. Only five families made up the church who congregated in family residences for worship, as no meeting house of their own was bought, seeing so few. After a year or two, three of these families moved to North Dakota and the congregation was dissolved.”
Who would have imagined that on January 11, 2015—111 years later—approximately 150 people would walk through the doors of the Lakes Area Community Center, which houses Bethel–Battle Lake, to worship the Lord and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Why was this happening? The people of Bethel Lutheran Church of Fergus Falls, MN are responding with great enthusiasm and excitement to Jesus Christ’s mission “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Pastor Dave Foss wrote in his Annual Report, “As 2014 began Bethel’s leadership put before the congregation this question: Is God leading us to become a multisite congregation in order to reach further and risk more for the sake of the gospel?” What a healthy and challenging outreach question for a church that is over 100 years old!
Last summer I was approached to prayerfully consider becoming the Bethel–Battle Lake Campus Pastor. At that time my family lived in Bohemia, Long Island, NY where I served Peace Christian Church. For almost twelve years we watched the Holy Spirit at work changing lives through the life-transforming message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What a thrill and privilege that was! After much prayer and discussion it became clear that just as God was leading Bethel Church into this new mission of his in Battle Lake, he was also leading me and my family to join in that mission.
I will never forget the day that I announced my resignation to the congregation at Peace. The last several years at Peace we had been experiencing such exciting momentum and spiritual growth. While I was excited about heading to Battle Lake, I was also deeply saddened by the thought of leaving a group of people we had come to love and that loved us back. Navigating all the emotions experienced by everyone was not easy. One person approached me and said, “Pastor Kevin, this feels like a death.” There were feelings of sadness, excitement, disappointment and anticipation. Many tears were shed.
My prayer during this process was Psalm 109:27, “Let them know that it is your hand, that you, Lord, have done it.” Over time, as everyone rode out the waves of emotions that were felt, this became very clear. I was so grateful for the encouragement and support that the people of Peace gave me for this new calling.
As we left Long Island and arrived in Battle Lake, MN, it was exciting to connect with those who had committed to join God’s mission in Battle Lake and beyond! I was so impressed with the gifts and passion of the launch team and missionary families. What an incredibly gifted and dedicated team!
On launch Sunday Pastor Dave Foss reminded everyone that three years ago a small group of 12 to 14 people met with him to dream and pray about starting a ministry in Battle Lake. They really didn’t know what God had in mind at that time, but were convinced of two things: the gospel of Jesus Christ is what everyone needs, and God uses local churches to get that message out.
God is at work in Battle Lake! Here are some comments from people regarding launch Sunday:
“I hope this wonderful amazing feeling of what God is doing in Battle Lake will never end! There were years, if not decades, that I would have never told anyone about church on Monday! It is so fun to have people ask, ‘How’s it going with Bethel?’…. and I get to tell them how good it is!”
A member of a family not connected with any church said, “Thank you for a great service this morning… my family and I had an awesome experience! We have found a permanent place to worship for sure… thank you, Bethel!”
“Had a great visit to the new church in Battle Lake. It was a full church, even the balcony. The friendliness was all over the LACC (Bethel–Battle Lake). The message was great, the music good, and noticeable were the many young kids, teens and their parents. This looks like a church that will have something for everyone. Looking for a Bible-believing church? Visit this one.”
People who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ are hearing it for the first time. I want to thank many of you throughout the Church of the Lutheran Brethren for your prayers and support. Please continue to pray for this exciting new work of God!
Rev. Kevin Foss serves as the campus pastor of Bethel–Battle Lake. He and his family live in Battle Lake, MN.