Organic Beginnings: The Upper Room
Reach Church has a storied and rich 50-year history. Birthed out of 3 colliding movements that included a para-church outreach mission (The Christian Brotherhood), a church in Omaha (Ecclesia), and a coffee shop (The Upper Room), the genesis of Reach Church came about as a byproduct of what became known as:
“Church for the rest of us…”
Like all great movements, there were catalysts behind each one of these entities that led to the birth of what is today Reach Church.
Kirby Wendt, a young musician with a free spirit and deep desire to find community and Christ, started The Upper Room coffee shop in Blair, NE. Deeply impacted by a several months stay with The Christian Brotherhood in Omaha, and having a hard time finding a fit in Christian communities because of his bellbottoms, bright shirts, long hair, and bold authenticity, Kirby made the decision to be the difference. He experienced first-hand positive impact of local missional living and so desired to duplicate the sense of community by paralleling intentional Jesus-living with great coffee, a great venue, and jiving music. The Upper Room eventually became a trendy place for “Hippies” (outcasts of the 1970’s) and young Christians – a demographic traditionally not seen together and definitely not in a worship community together.
Gene Lee – the primary preacher for Ecclesia Church in neighboring Omaha – was such a dynamic and anointed communicator that he motivated several women in the greater Blair community to start a local Bible study. This courageous group of women quickly grew from 20 to more than 100, growing so large that they had to relocate from The Upper Room and to a local community park. Relishing the power of God in their lives and all that HE was doing, these ladies soon launched a coed Friday night gathering to include their husbands. Fast forward to April 1974, this coed group began to collaborate with The Upper Room to arrange a series of 6 Saturday night collective gatherings featuring messages by Gene Lee, music by Kirby Wendt, and experiencing community from everyone involved. This experiment went so well that the next question to answer was…
The Birth of Country Bible Church
This newly formed, unlikely group of gatherers began to create what they describe as, “church for the rest of us.” Meeting in The Upper Room for nearly a year, they quickly outgrew the space. To accommodate the growth of this new ministry, services were moved to an empty school building, Gene Lee was hired as their full-time Pastor, and the church continued to grow rapidly. Along with the rapid growth came not only a new location but a new name that best represented where they were meeting at the time – thus the church was renamed to Country Bible Church.
Over the course of 3 decades, Country Bible Church continued to grow. After a short time meeting in the schoolhouse, Kirby Wendt sold the church a 7-acre parcel of land (13121 CR 16) and the leadership of the church lead a building campaign.
After Gene Lee stepped away, the church experienced new leadership, and for more than 2 decades were led by Dr. Charles “Chuck” Larsen. Semi-retiring in 2015 and with a lot of moving parts and pieces, Country Bible Church experienced a church split.
Through the split, the elders and leadership of Country Bible Church remained committed to the cause of Christ and the call as a church on the community of Blair. As such, they went into an intentional season of searching for the next Senior Leader and Pastor for the church, and in November 2016 the Lord blessed our church and community with Pastor Andrew Anderson and his family to lead alongside of us at CBC (Country Bible Church).
Under the direction of the Holy Spirit and with new and exciting leadership, CBC began the intentional process of healing, dreaming, casting vision, and stepping into a whole new season of ministry.
Reach Church Today
Among many of the exciting changes the Lord has brought about for and through the church, included a new name. In July 2019, Country Bible Church was renamed to best help our church and community understand the church not by where we are located, rather, by WHO we are called to be and WHAT we are committed to – to reach further in our faith and farther into our community.
Today Reach Church is home to more 1,300 people each week that carry on the commitment to be a church for the rest of us.