The Fellowship Bible Church movement is a growing group of non-denominational churches that focus on three vital experiences that Christians need to grow spiritually: Bible teaching, fellowship, and outreach. The movement was founded by Dr. Gene Getz.
Many, but not all, churches associated with the movement bear the name Fellowship Bible Church. But they all hold a conviction that, while the form of the church may change, the function of the church never does. God has designed the church to fulfill various functions that must not change with culture or time (e.g., teaching the Bible, worshiping God, etc.). At the same time, God has given the church freedom to adjust the forms of those functions in response to changing cultures. Faithfulness to doctrine and relevance to today are both valued.
The founder of the Fellowship Bible Church movement, Dr. Gene Getz, is an author, teacher, and former pastor. He is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Rocky Mountain College, and Wheaton Graduate School. He also earned a PhD from New York University. Getz has written more than 60 books. His most recent work is the Life Essentials Study Bible (Holman) based on the text of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, now the Christian Standard Bible.
Getz has also served as a faculty member at Moody and Dallas Theological Seminary. Out of his study and classroom interactions at DTS, he distilled principles for church ministry. Based on these principles, he founded Fellowship Bible Church in Dallas in 1972. Today, twelve churches in the Dallas area alone (with a combined weekly attendance of about 30,000) are a direct or indirect result of Gene’s church planting efforts.
Gene Getz’s book Sharpening the Focus of the Church (Moody Press, 1974) articulates the principles undergirding the Fellowship Bible Church movement. Getz states that the thesis of the book is that God has given us absolutes concerning the functions and principles of the church but has set us free in the area of non-absolutes (forms, structures, and methods), so that we can be the church that God wants us to be at any moment in history and in any place in the world. About three fifths of the book is a look at the church through the lens of Scripture and is an uncomplicated, straightforward Bible study of the New Testament church. The book also contains a look at the church through the lens of history and the lens of culture.
The first Fellowship Bible Church grew quickly and soon had four services at one location as well as five branch churches and one mission church. The branch churches were started with a nucleus of people from the first Fellowship, and the mission church was started by Tony Evans, a church planter sent out from the first Fellowship.
Another group moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, and started the Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock, which continued to grow and multiply. Other Fellowship churches have spontaneously sprung up across the country and around the world, based on the philosophy of ministry in Sharpening the Focus of the Church and modeled in the Dallas churches.
The current estimate is that there are 300–400 churches that have started this way. Each Fellowship Bible churches is independent and has no formal attachment to the original Fellowship Bible Church in Dallas, except philosophically. Some maintain the title Fellowship Bible Church or Bible Fellowship Church, while others have come up with a completely new name to blend into their cultural situation.
Early on, Getz made a decision not to start a denomination or formal organization that would tie the Fellowship churches together. Instead, he desired the movement to be spontaneous, based on a philosophy of ministry rather than formal organizational ties. When Getz founded Fellowship Bible Church, he invited the men together to study what it means to be mature, godly men. He used as the point of reference the qualities necessary for church leaders listed in 1 Timothy 3:1–10 and Titus 1:5–9. He explained that, although these are the standards for church leaders, every godly man should aspire to this kind of maturity. The CEO of Gospel Light Publishers/Regal Books was a friend of Dr. Getz and, when he found out about the study, he asked Getz to put it in book form. That book became The Measure of a Man, first published in 1974. That book has remained in print continually and has been translated into numerous languages. Getz readily admits with tongue in cheek that he plagiarized from the apostle Paul, and we all know where Paul got his material—directly from the Holy Spirit!
Getz has retired from formal pastoral ministry today but serves as president of the Center for Church Renewal and also has a two-minute daily radio feature called “Bible Principles.” He is a regular pastoral teacher in a variety of churches, men’s retreats, and other conferences.