Johan O. Smith 150 years: Righteousness as the foundation for life

It began with one man who quietly and calmly gave his whole heart to Jesus on May 17th 1898. Last weekend several thousand believers celebrated the jubilee of Johan O. Smith – the man who was livingly interested in leading individuals to Christ.

By Ulrikke Andresen – Photo by Andreas Lehmann/Inger S. Kristoffersen

As of October 11th, it’s been 150 years since Johan O. Smith was born, and this was commemorated in BCC during the mission feast this past weekend. The theme of the feast was the foundation that was laid for the church through his life and work.

The local church in Grenland, Norway, organized the semi-annual mission feast. There were over 3000 attendees in the hall at Oslofjord Convention Center, in addition to fellow believers from 48 countries who watched the event online.

Several thousand members attended the jubilee event, both in-person and online. Photo: BCC

A desire to reach the younger generations

The target audience for the event was young people and young adults. The desire was that young people who have grown up in BCC would get insight into Johan O. Smith’s significance for the church early in the previous century, and what this means for the generation growing up today.

“Smith built on Jesus Christ as the foundation, and that foundation which was laid for the church at that time has proved itself to be solid and able to bear loads with each new generation. Our hope is that all the young people and everyone involved will make sure to build on such a foundation. The same one that Paul laid in his time, which Johan O. Smith also continued to build on in our time”, says Bjørn Nilsen, elder of the local church in Grenland.

A desire to gather the god-fearing

In the first half of the feast, viewers heard about Smith’s conversion, and later in the second half, about his commtiment to spreading the gospel. He had a desire to gather the god-fearing in the country, at a time when several revivals were sweeping over Norway.

The last part focused on the meaning of righteousness, both in one’s own life and in the church. This was all conveyed through spoken messages, films, panel conversations, and songs written by Johan O. Smith.

The songs J.O. Smith wrote in his time often reveal a practical Christian life, and several of these songs were sung at the feast. Listen to one of the songs here:

In the films we got a small glimpse into Johan O. Smith’s life. It all began on the navy vessel Thor, where he was wholeheartedly converted to Jesus on the night of May 17th, 1898. From that day on he commited his whole life to living according to God’s word. He wanted to share the light he received with others, and began to actively work to spread the convictions he’d received, both verbally and on paper.

When Smith got converted over 120 years ago, there was little to suggest that this would develop into a church that spans the globe. A singular and deep personal faithfulness to God shines through his written articles and personal letters, something which inspires fellow believers around the world today.

Through conversations with individuals, postal correspondence, articles in several publications, and by seeking out Christian assemblies, he shared the light he had received. His desire was that others should come to the life of a disciple of Jesus and walk in light and truth, the same life that had made him happy.

Read more: From one man to a worldwide church

The feats inspired fellow believers to live a righteous and godly life, both through songs, speeches, films and panel conversations. Photo: BCC

With righteousness come boldness and power

The foundation J. O. Smith laid in his time is that which the church is continuing to build on into the future. This was illuminated in various ways, and listeners heard about the righteousness on which J.O. Smith built his life, namely God’s word:

“All of God’s word is righteous, and God Himself is righteous in everything He does and says. If we are to be His children, we must be like him”, said Kåre J. Smith.

“It lies in God’s Spirit, in the Spirit of truth, to live righteously and purely for God.”

He also spoke of how as a sailor, Johan O. Smith had the opportunity to meet people all along the coast of Norway. He loved people, and the power that drove him was to help them come to a personal life in Christ. As he himself lived according to the words in the Bible as far as he understood, he received boldness to share this with those who he met.

“I believe he felt the safety and strength that the fellowship he had with Jesus was for him. And you can see this; he begins with his brother Aksel. And it becomes very evident that he has an inner life in fellowship with God that is very strong, which makes him safe and leads him to not be afraid of anything or anyone”, we heard in the conversation on stage.

In a panel conversation, more was revealed about the righteousness J.O. Smith built his life on, namely the word of God. Photo: BCC

Great generosity among fellow believers

BCC is a result of a tireless mission work which both women and men have carried out, right from the time of J.O. Smith until now. BCC now invests heavily on digital missionary outreach, and it is wonderful that so many are commited to supporting this work so that more people can hear the gospel.

In the last few weeks in particular, many have shown their commitment through the mission collection. Fellow believers in every corner of the earth have participated, and towards the end of the feast we received the news that a total of 56.7 million NOK had been donated for the mission work.

The local church in Grenland arranged the feast and many voluntarily contributed to making the evening rich and encouraging. Photo: BCC