Gospel Fellowship Association Missions
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where we came from

Our History

1930s — Inception of GFA

It was a burning desire “to get the Gospel to as many people as possible in the shortest time possible” that led Dr. Bob Jones Sr. to establish the Young People’s Fellowship Clubs for individual Christians who would take seriously the Lord’s command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. The clubs went international in 1934 and were so effective that the leadership filed to incorporate the outreach in 1939 as Gospel Fellowship Association. From the outset, GFA was designed to promote harmony among fundamental Christians regardless of their denominational affiliation and unite their efforts in getting the Gospel to the world.

1940s — Gospel Activity

1950bjs_2221d_cropped_sm.jpgThe freshly minted organization, under the directorship of Dr. Jones Sr., launched straightaway into numerous evangelistic strategies. GFA regularly broadcast sermons and other Christian programs on 126 different radio stations. College students distributed thousands of gospel packets and over 250,000 tracts. They also conducted services and organized more Young People’s Fellowship clubs during campaigns sponsored by GFA. The Lord greatly multiplied these campaigns and GFA soon expanded its administrative staff. The Executive Committee appointed 31 men and women as Board members and hired field secretaries to supervise the evangelistic work done by the Bob Jones College ministerial students.

1950s — Dealing with Compromise

The contagion of New Evangelicalism rapidly infected Christian institutions, making abundantly clear the need to rally fundamental groups, organizations, and churches. In response to this need for an unflinching stand against unbiblical compromise, GFA assumed a more aggressive position in worldwide evangelism. However, despite mounting pressure from individual missionaries that GFA become a mission agency, the Board of Directors reiterated their resolution in 1959 that GFA “should not become a missionary society… or act as such if it can possibly continue to avoid doing so….” The Board remained focused on American evangelism and did not want to risk diluting its resources. 

1960s — GFA Becomes a Mission Board 

By 1960 there were approximately 600 former Bob Jones University students on the foreign mission field. Some served independently of any agency, but most continued working in established faith mission boards, although they faced increasing pressure to compromise their messag1st_GFA_missionaries.jpge or principles. Leaders at GFA could no longer avoid the obvious need for a mission agency committed to worldwide evangelism while maintaining biblical separation from apostasy and compromise. In a pivotal decision on January 23, 1962, GFA accepted its first  missionaries. A year later, GFA had expanded to 25 missionaries with 10 already on the field in four different continents. Kenneth Becker, the newly appointed executive secretary, began representing GFA Missions in churches throughout the U.S., as well as overseeing the screening process for a growing host of missionary candidates seeking to join the Association. 

1970s — Worldwide Growth

Dr. V. L. Martin was appointed in 1976 as GFA’s second director of missions. Under his administration GFA held its first Candidate School, which was attended by about 60 appointees and furloughing missionaries. By 1977 GFA had 120 missionaries on 17 fields. As the decade came to a close, Dr. Martin stepped down for health reasons, and Dr. Marvin Lewis was voted in as the third director of missions.

1980s — Expansion at Home

GFA believed churches must be strong at home for missions to be strong abroad. To that end, the Board opened the mission to candidates wishing to minister in the U.S., as long as they worked with ethnic groups. GFA also incorporated in Canada and set up a church-planting program in the United States. In keeping with GFA’s philosophy that former missionaries serve as leaders, Dr. Mark Batory (former missionary to Mexico) became the GFA campus representative. Dr. John Dreisbach, a medical missionary and missions teacher at Bob Jones University, served as GFA's field representative.

1990s — Leadership Transition and Program Development

In 1990, the Executive Committee selected Dr. Batory to carrHistory_BatorysBW.jpgy the baton forward as the next director. GFA reinforced its dedication to strong churches at home by establishing a church planting endowment. The “candidate school” was replaced by the FITNESS Seminar (Fellowship, Inspiration, Training, New Ideas, Encouragement, Sharing Seminar), which eventually, morphed into the annual Family Conference. GFA also instituted a formalized short-term missions program and a Special Assignment program to assist with particular projects on various fields or provide furlough replacement.

2000s — Faithful Service

In the 2000s GFA filled out the ranks of its home office staff. Dale Crawford assumed the role of administrative director over finance and operations, and Dr. Alan Patterson left Japan to fulfill responsibilities as administrative director. Medical missions was also implemented on several fields. 

2010s — New Ministries Stateside and Abroad

GFA continues to diversify its portfolio of programs to fulfill its vision of “seeing a fresh awakening of well-equipped gospel witnesses, being sent out from a strong base of conservative local churches and reproducing disciples of Jesus Christ in every nation of the world.” The tentmaking program aids missionaries in entering restricted access countries. McPhails_with_Bollons_14092.jpgTo give young people a taste of missions, GFA initiated the Strategic Internship Program (SIP) and Teens in Missions (TM). Ministry Advance Training (MAT) Retreats were also inaugurated to train deputees for cross-cultural ministry. Newly appointed regional directors provide personal and regular missionary care on the field. On the home front, Dr. Marshall Fant started an outreach ministry to revitalize struggling churches and assist healthy ones with strategic planning. Additionally, Dr. Bruce McAllister works as director of ministry relations to oversee church planting and development, give church staffing assistance, and represent GFA in ministry relationships across the USA. 

PDF of GFA's History (1939-2019)