The church's history shows that God sends His blessing when faithful people work to promote love, righteousness, and truth in their own lives as well as among their fellow men.
Johan Oscar Smith was born in 1871 and is considered the founder of Brunstad Christian Church. While carefully studying the Bible, it became clear to him that the first Christians were gripped of a love for Christ and faith in a life of transformation. This inspired Johan Oscar Smith so that, two thousand years after Jesus' death, he found the same faith that was in the beginning.
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Johan O. Smith dedicated his life to God at the age of 26. Through his work in the Norwegian navy in Horten, he met Theodor Ellefsen in 1904. Ellefsen soon accepted the truths Smith preached, and he received faith that it was possible to live a Christian life victorious over all conscious sin. Aksel Smith, Johan's brother, joined them in 1905, and a thriving fellowship gradually was formed. By 1910, the group had grown to between 50 and 60 people spread around Eastern and Southern Norway. These people started gathering and holding their own meetings.
In 1908, John O. Smith met the young naval-academy cadet Elias Aslaksen, who soon became one of his closest coworkers. After Johan O. Smith's death, Aslaksen became the leader of the church until his death in 1976.
From south to north
The church started in the Norwegian coastal town of Horten, which at the time was Norway’s main naval base. Consequently, many of Johan O. Smith’s first fellow believers were in the Navy. During World War I especially, many of these were deployed along Norway’s long coast to maintain the country’s neutrality, and thus had the opportunity to talk with people about their faith wherever they came ashore. In this way, Smith's teachings took root in places along Norway's coast, like Brevik, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Stord, Bergen, Måløy and Molde.
During the 1930s, many revivals, both small and great, arose in the valleys where Elihu Pedersen, Aksel J. Smith and several other young brothers evangelized. Among other places, the churches Hallingdal and Valdres originated during this time.
Today the church is in about 20 locations throughout Norway.
Out in the wide world
During the 1930s the church was established in Denmark and Sweden, and by the 1950s the church’s message had spread to most countries in Europe.
Since the mid-1960s, there has been a growing work in Canada and the United States, where today there are two major conference centers and extensive work in many provinces and states.
The church came to Latin America in the 1970s and is now in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Mexico, and Aruba.
In Australia, three churches have grown up since the 1970s, and in recent years there has also been increasing development in New Zealand.
The church came to India in the 1970s and to Singapore and Hong Kong in the early 1980s. In addition, there are currently congregations in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Dubai.
On the African continent, there has been a lot of work since the beginning of the 1980s, and the church is now in South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
As early as the 1970s the church had a good relationship with the underground churches in many Eastern European countries, but the circumstances made mission trips there difficult. After the fall of communism, however, mission work in Eastern Europe has really accelerated and the church has gained a solid root in many countries in this area.
The church today has congregations in more than 65 countries on all continents.
The church—the body of Christ
“I have not gathered people to myself, but to Christ who is the Head of the church.” Johan O. Smith said this on his 70th birthday, and that remains a unique characteristic of the church. Smith realized early on that belonging to religious organizations doesn’t ensure salvation. With the Bible as his foundation, Smith therefore taught that the church is the Body of Christ, where all the members themselves must have a connection with the Head—Jesus Christ—to be saved. When each individual has a personal relationship with the head, they also have unity—fellowship—with each other. Through all these years, our leaders have never tried to build anything centered on themselves, but God has given the church growth.
The church today
The church today continues to grow rapidly. Many places enjoy large, enthusiastic youth groups, and we are committed to providing numerous and varied opportunities for all age groups so people can experience personal growth in a healthy and safe environment. Therefore, the buildings often combine assembly rooms and activity centers that accommodate a wide spectrum of options.
The church's international gathering place is Brunstad Conference Center in Stokke near Tønsberg, Norway, where meetings have been held for well over 50 years. Here as many as to 8000 friends gather from approximately 30 countries several times a year, and others can follow the meetings from almost anywhere in the world via live television. From here is preached the same message today that John O. Smith preached over 100 years ago—the message of complete victory over all conscious sin.