Johan Oscar Smith was born in Norway 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.
Johan O. Smith dedicated his life to God at the age of 26. From the time Smith began receiving these revelations from God, he began talking with people. He felt that it was imperative for him to share with others what God taught him. His efforts did not produce immediate results; in the religious circles in Norway at the time, there were plenty of charismatic and popular preachers who gathered far more people than the teaching about Christ manifest in the flesh did. Smith was neither interested in holding back the truth in order to draw many people, nor in putting on a great show to attract attention to himself. “God longs for people who will live before His face. There are already plenty of those who live before people,” he wrote to his brother on April 29, 1909.
By 1910 between 50 and 60 people in Eastern and Southern Norway had joined him. This was the start of Brunstad Christian Church. Through Johan O. Smith’s travels in the navy, his teachings took root in many places along Norway’s coast. Today there are churches 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 have been established churches throughout Canada and the United States.
The church came to Latin America, Asia and Australasia in the 1970s and to many countries in Africa in the 1980s.
As early as the 1970s the church had a good relationship with underground Christians in many Eastern European countries, but the circumstances made missionary trips there difficult. After the fall of Communism in the early 1990s, however, mission work in Eastern Europe 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.
A personal connection with the Head
“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 Brunstad Christian 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.