In 1970, a man by the name of Buddy Medlock started an organization called The Christian Brotherhood at 33rd and Dodge in Omaha. His aim was to reach young people with the Gospel. Kirby Wendt, son of Herb and Stella Wendt, lived at the Brotherhood in 1972 for three months, where he and some friends formed a band, Solutions. Meanwhile, Kirby's parents began attending a house church in Omaha known as Ecclesia at 3620 Lincoln Boulevard. Another couple, James and Mary Jacoby also began attending Ecclesia around this same time. Gene Lee, a full time Marketing Manager for Safeway Foods, was the principal preacher at Ecclesia. In April of 1972, Paul and Bev Warren began hosting a women's Bible Study in their home on South 18th Street in Blair with Meta Taylor of Fremont teaching. This Bible Study quickly grew from 20-30 ladies to over 100 and began meeting in the Park.
When Kirby returned to Blair from his stay at the Christian Brotherhood, he wanted to start a similar outreach mission in Blair. He and James Jost rented the second floor of the Roy Anderson Law Office at 1553 Washington Street for $25.00 a month. They started a coffee house, with live music provided by Solutions, and named it The Upper Room.
The Upper Room
The Upper Room was open on Saturday nights for coffee, refreshments, and live music as well as Bible Studies taught by visiting teachers from Grace Bible Institute (now Grace University). The Saturday night meetings attracted many young people and became well-known in the community as a safe gathering place for young Christians. This is significant, because during the "Hippie" movement, many churches did not welcome the young people with their long hair, jeans and casual lifestyle. Meanwhile, Meta Taylor's women's Bible study group started an evening session that would include their husbands. This Bible study, led by mature Christian men, began to meet on Fridays at The Upper Room. The Bible Study group included Herb and Stella Wendt and James and Mary Jacoby, and several others who were still traveling to Omaha every Sunday to attend Ecclesia. In April of 1974, these people arranged for a series of six Saturday night services, featuring the preaching of Gene Lee to be held at the Upper Room. The services were very well attended and during the coffee time following the last service, Gene challenged Herb Wendt and James Jacoby with, "What do you want to do now?" Based on the response of the community, the group decided to begin holding Sunday morning worship services. Gene Lee was hired as Preacher for $10.00/week plus a tank of gas. He preached at the Upper Room at 9:00 AM and then at Ecclesia at 11:00.
The congregation met in The Upper Room for about a year, growing constantly, describing itself as a non-denominational fellowship. Bible Studies for men, women and teens met in The Upper Room weekday evenings and Sunday mornings included a worship service and Sunday School classes.
The Upper Room Chapel
In May of 1975, Jim Jacoby approached the Cuming City School Board to request renting the empty school building at 13376 County Road 16, two miles north of Blair on Highway 75, to use as a church for the growing congregation. The School Board could not rent the building to The Upper Room, but they agreed to let them use it at no charge in exchange for maintenance. The Cuming City School house had two school rooms and a kitchen on the main floor and a furnace room and two bathrooms in the basement. Volunteers removed the blackboards, installed carpeting and painted the walls. In the course of their remodeling, they discovered a huge walnut folding door which could be folded to open the two school rooms into one large room, for seating 150-200 people. The first worship service was held at The Upper Room Chapel June 15, 1975. Mary Jacoby came up with a new name for the congregation and The Upper Room Chapel became Country Bible Church July 17, 1975.
Country Bible Church
Sunday morning worship services and Sunday afternoon fellowship activities, such as games and movies, were held at the new location and the Upper Room continued to be the site of Bible Studies and other weekday evening meetings. Pastor Lee's office was also located at the Upper Room. He left his job at Safeway and became full time pastor of Country Bible Church September 1, 1975.
Rapid growth continued and the church bought six acres from Jim Juul in 1977 for $12,000. Kirby Wendt purchased half of the land and the church broke ground in 1978. The first building at 13121 County Road 16 was constructed entirely by volunteers from within the congregation. The completed building consisted of a sanctuary, (currently the Fellowship Hall), and one office on the main level for the Pastor. The basement held a secretary's office, a fellowship room, Sunday School rooms and a kitchen. Also on the lower level was an outdoor basketball court and 'patio' area. (This is now the Atrium and Sunday school classrooms). The first worship service was held in the new building on Easter Sunday, 1980. They met in the basement, because the Sanctuary was not yet complete. A bell in the steeple rang out to call the worshippers to the Sunday morning service and Sunday School. A second service was added in 1992, beginning on March 22.
The 7,300 sq ft which was added beginning in April of 1996, includes the west wing. This wing originally housed a large fellowship hall, a kitchen (the east half of the current kitchen), one nursery room and six classrooms. A suite of four offices was added on to the south side of the building.
From 1996-1999, Country Bible Church held Easter Services at the Blair High School in order to accommodate everyone. Three Sunday morning worship services and Sunday School classes for all ages met weekly at CBC.
Beginning in May of 2000, the west wing underwent remodeling: the fellowship hall was divided up and made into a classroom, a second nursery room, additional kitchen space and the Library. In addition to the renovations of the West wing, the current 450 seat Sanctuary, three more offices, a reception area and workroom, the music office, a classroom and the Atrium were added. To accommodate the growing numbers during construction, the Jr. and Sr. High met at the vacant Kingdom Hall just north of Blair. It was dubbed "CBC South" and was closed when construction was completed in time for Easter, April 15, 2001.
Changes and additions continue as the staff and congregation continues to grow.
COUNTRY BIBLE CHURCH
402.426.5592 | 13121 Co. Rd. P16 | Blair, NE