Ever since he took God at His Word as an 18-year-old, 80-year-old Bernt Stadven has had complete faith that it is possible to be perfected by walking in Jesus’ footsteps.
This summer, several thousand friends from all over the world attended the 80th birthday celebration at Brunstad Conference Center for this faithful man. In the window above you can watch and listen to an excerpt of what Stadven and several others said.
When he was young, Bernt Stadven was strongly influenced by his family’s involvement in missionary work. Even at a young age he sensed God drawing him and when he was confirmed, he determined to live a Godly life.
Received the Holy Spirit by an act of obedience
A revival broke out in Stadven’s village when he was 18, and he wanted to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. He prayed for a month, but nothing happened. Finally one day at a prayer meeting he sensed that he should pray out loud. Although he was very shy, he was obedient to the prompting. He prayed what he describes as a very dry prayer. Immediately he was filled with a physical power flowing through his body, as if from an electrical current. In Acts 5:32 it is written that God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him. That day, Stadven definitely experienced this.
“Just the one act of obedience – praying out loud was enough to release the power of the Holy Spirit,” Stadven says, “and that power has never left me since.”
He believed what was written
Stadven took a keen interest in God’s Word, and began to read the Bible zealously. There were three things he particularly noted: That there was much written about personal victory over sin, that we are to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect, and that we are called to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. This is quite astounding, and has many implications for a person’s life if taken literally.
“I have never been a doubter,” Stadven states, “I have had absolute faith for as long as I can remember.” This meant that he had chosen to take God at His Word. Stadven began to tell others about his faith, but was not well received. People reminded him that he was young and should remember there was something called pride!
A woman who had been a missionary for many years heard Stadven talking about personal victory. “Oh, I used to believe that too, when I was young and enthusiastic, but life’s experience has shown me that it is not possible,” she said, and referred to the “finished work of Calvary,” where Jesus has “overcome for us.” This was not exactly an encouragement for a zealous young person, but Stadven chose rather to believe in what he read in God’s Word.
In reality, however, Stadven found that it was difficult to attain full victory over sin – it was particularly difficult for him to avoid thoughts that he knew were not in harmony with God’s Word. He also found that he would say and do things that he later realized were not God’s will. “We sin daily in thought, word, and deed,” he often heard at church. Would it always be like that? Was there no one who lived a victorious life as it is described in the Bible?
Found likeminded people
Stadven served his military duty in the Navy. At boot camp in Stavanger, he met a young man who invited him to a Christian meeting. It turned out to be with “the friends” now known as Brunstad Christian Church (at that time there was no official name). At his very first meeting in the church, he finally heard the gospel about overcoming all sin. It was explained clearly that temptation is not sin but is an opportunity to battle against evil.
Suddenly Stadven understood that the thoughts he had struggled with were temptations, and by resisting them, he was living an overcoming life! He got a completely new relationship with Jesus – instead of just seeing Jesus as a sacrifice for sins, He was an example to follow to overcome sin, just as Stadven had read!
In the church Stadven found his spiritual home. Not only did he hear the gospel about overcoming sin and following in Jesus’ footsteps, he also met people who put this into practice. The result was unparalleled fellowship.
Christianity is personal transformation
Right away Stadven began testifying and speaking about this life. He also spoke against a powerless and passive Christianity that uses Jesus as a sacrifice rather than an example to follow. This is a Christianity without battle against sin in your own life and thereby trying to divide your life between the world along with your own lusts and God. But, no one can serve two masters, the Bible says – and Stadven understood that Christianity means a life wholly committed to God – in thought, word, and deed. Christianity is to fight against sin in our human nature, and thus be transformed into the image of Jesus. (Galatians 2:20)
A companion with the same faith and enthusiasm
Bernt Stadven found the love of his life in Liv Sandvik from Horten. Liv was a granddaughter of Johan Oscar Smith, the founder of the church, and had grown up in a home centered on God’s Word. The two shared each other’s faith and enthusiasm, and it was as though they were made for each other.
“We were madly in love when we were engaged, but I have to say – our love has only increased!” Stadven affirms this after more than 50 years of marriage, which he describes as, “a dance on roses.” This is not to say life has been without trials and challenges, but it is due of their love for each other and their unshakable faith in God.
“Shortly after they were married, the couple moved to Kråkstad, a small city outside of Oslo. Sigurd Bratlie, who lived in Oslo, was one of the greatest of the evangelists and apostles the Church has had. Bratlie became a significant part of Stadven’s life. His preaching was particularly clear, and was a great help. The two developed a close relationship and mutual respect for each other that lasted until Bratlie’s death.
He became a missionary after all
At the beginning of the 1950s, Brunstad Christian Church only had fellowships within Scandinavia. During the decades that followed, the church grew greatly, first in Europe and later around the world. Stadven had grown up in a missionary environment, and from the time he was quite young, he had wanted to travel to Africa as a missionary. This did not happen, but throughout his adulthood, Stadven has nevertheless been a co-worker of Christ at the highest level. He has visited most of the fellowships in dozens of countries all over the world, preaching the gospel. He had a regular job as the head of the Department of Building and Land-use in the municipality of Ski in Akershus, Norway, and worked many hours of overtime to save enough vacation time to have extra days for his travels.
Stadven has always loved people and has been interested in their salvation. Jesus speaks about daily taking up your cross – that means fighting against and putting to death the sin that dwells in our own nature. Stadven knew that this was the gospel that could lead people out of sin and to divine nature; because this was the life he himself lived.
Especially excited about the Spirit of revelation
When he is together with people and preaches or converses about God’s Word, Stadven is really in his element. Throughout the years he has had countless conversations in private homes, at meetings in local fellowships, and at large international conferences where everyone present has sensed the Spirit of revelation, and the Word has become living and clear for each person.
“We are dependent on the Spirit of revelation, and are dependent on pure, receptive people to be effective in our work,” says Stadven. “The Spirit can only open the scriptures for us when people want to listen.”
Stadven has practiced the things he has preached throughout the years, and therefore has earned a great deal of respect and confidence in the church. His message is clear and firmly anchored in the Bible, which is God’s Word. He has a special connection with young people, and often the living room at the Stadvens’ home is full of young people. At conferences around the world, young people often gather round Stadven even outside the official meetings, and listen attentively while he holds Bible studies for them.
Faithfulness through many different times
Brunstad Christian Church has experienced turbulent times. There have been members with their own agendas, who have created unrest and have tried to break down people’s confidence in the leadership. By keeping to God’s Word, and staying far away from backbiting and criticism, Stadven continued building the church through these times. He kept the same doctrine and the same spirit as in the beginning. When the leader of the church, Sigurd Bratlie, became weak toward the end of his life, Bernt Stadven was a natural choice in 1992 to become the leader of the church in Oslo-Follo, Norway; and he has led the conferences at Brunstad, the center for the church’s work.
It is especially strengthening and confidence building for the friends to see the fellowship and mutual confidence Bernt Stadven and Kåre J. Smith (the present leader of the church) have with one another, as well as with other brothers and sisters who have responsibility. The church continues according to the Biblical pattern, where God places individuals according to their faithfulness and the confidence they earn: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” Ephesians 4:11-12.
Has personally experienced victory over sin
When Stadven reflects on his life, he says he thinks about what he heard from the missionary, that life experience showed her that “personal victory over sin was not possible.” At that time he chose rather to believe God’s Word, and was led to the church where he heard the gospel about following in Jesus’ footsteps, He who committed no sin. Stadven has come to a completely different conclusion: Life’s experience has shown that by obedience and faithfulness, God gives all the power needed to live an overcoming life in thought, word, and deed!
Testifies of the cross in the daily life
“I love the daily cross, and I have loved it since the time I was quite young and first heard the message that is preached in the church!” Stadven stands at Brunstad’s podium during the Easter conference 2011 and speaks to a full auditorium of 7000 people; in addition, there are several thousand who follow via TV broadcast on the church’s own television channel, and on satellite and internet broadcasts around the world. When this man speaks about the cross, it is worth listening because this is the life he has lived, and these are words with weight. The Word of the cross – sharp words against sin and impurity, but words of comfort and hope for all those who want to serve God and come out of their own sin – those who have just begun on the way and others who have come farther. These are words spoken by a shepherd, prophet, and teacher. They are his life.
Listen to Bernt Stadven’s own personal testimony.