One Hundred years ago, in 1921, the Grace Movement’s original Founding Church was established in Muskegon, Michigan under the ministry of Dr. Harry Bultema. Other Bible Study groups had been established in West Michigan, but the original “Berean” name came into being as the members of the First Christian Reformed Church left the denomination and started a new work as a result of the Michigan Supreme Court decision determining that the property and facilities belonged to the CRC and not the members of the church. A number of “Berean” churches then sprung up from the seeds that had been laid with Bible teaching tent meetings with like-minded believers in West Michigan.
The lawsuit was brought originally as the result of reactions to a controversial book. In 1917 the church’s founding pastor, Pastor Harry Bultema, published a book on the subject of prophecy. Written in the Dutch language, the book was titled “Maranatha” (an Aramaic expression meaning “come Lord Jesus” and transliterated into the Greek text of I Corinthians 16:22). As its main thesis the book presented Pastor Bultema’s conviction that Jesus Christ would return to earth before the establishment of His kingdom here (a doctrine called Pre-Millennialism). The book also made a distinction between God’s future plans for the nation of Israel and His plans for the Church of today, which in Scripture is called “the Body of Christ.” At first the book was received with great enthusiasm, over 2000 copies being sold in the first month alone. However, because Pastor Bultema’s theology of future events was now in conflict with that of his denomination, he could no longer serve as one of their pastors.
On April 4, 1921 the First Berean Reformed Church of Muskegon was organized, in later years to simply be called Berean Church. The name, “Berean” of course comes from Acts 17:11 where the believers in the city of Berea “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” It was with this same intense desire to study God’s Word and to know the truth that the church was originally formed. The congregation’s first meeting place was a large warehouse-type building with a sawdust floor. It was located on Iona Avenue in Muskegon, near the train tracks. It was built by the men of the church in just four days and had seating for 1,000 worshippers. The congregation fondly called this place “The Tabernacle.” It was their temporary “tent in the wilderness” from April thru October of 1921.
On November 13, 1921, the congregation and pastor moved into their new church and parsonage on Terrace Street in downtown Muskegon. On the last day of 1942 the mortgage was burned. In 1967 the facility on Terrace Street was enlarged by the addition of the Bultema Memorial Educational Building.
In 1985 the congregation relocated from downtown Muskegon to Norton Shores to a beautiful new facility on Seminole Road. The church as expanded several times, adding a new children’s wing and a full-size gymnasium. In 2016 the church paid off the remaining mortgage and raised enough over and above that to be able to remodel and update the sanctuary with new lighting, carpet, stage expansion and new technology.
After faithfully caring for his flock for 32 years, Pastor Bultema went to be with the Lord on September 9, 1952. He was a passionate student, preacher, and teacher of God’s Word, who loved to proclaim “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” He was also a prolific writer of books, pamphlets, and magazine articles. Several of his books, including “Maranatha,” have been republished in recent years. And so, through the words of truth that came from his pen, “by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Heb. 11:4).
Pastor Bultema was followed at Berean by Pastor William Burcaw (1954-1955), Pastor Wiliam Hallman (1955-1963), Pastor Paul Hume (1965-1973), Dr. James Carlson (1974-1986), Dr. Jack Dean (1987-1991), Pastor Wayne Bickel (1992-1998), Pastor Craig Apel (1999-2015). Our present pastor, Dr. Robert Renberg, began his ministry here in 2016.
In 2018, (after years of discussions!) our name was changed to Anchor Point Bible Church to reflect our commitment to the Bible as our foundation and make it easier for people who increasingly do not have a biblical framework of understanding the “Berean” name to visit us knowing we are a “Bible” Church.
The church is celebrating their 100th anniversary on November 7th with a Banquet at Maranatha Conference Grounds with a number of former pastors and staff and friends of the church through the years.
Learn more about our upcoming reFresh Pastor’s Conference here