The History of CBMC
CBMC began as Christian Business Men’s Committee in the United States in 1930, when a group of Christian businessmen coordinated a series of pre-Easter rallies. With the Great Depression in its second year, these men saw a need for a spiritual revival in the Chicago area, and a six week evangelistic crusade was held at the Garrick Theatre, located in downtown Chicago. Public response from the first meeting on January 6, 1931, was overwhelming. Crowds regularly packed out the over 800-seat theater. Apparently, God had greater plans for CBMC than its founders (C.B. Hedstrom, A.H. Leaman, John L. Lincoln, John M. Oury, Frank W. Sheriff, Dr. Ernest Wadsworth, and Edwin G. Zorn) had envisioned.
The noon, weekday meetings soon were extended beyond the scheduled six weeks into six months, then one year. Eventually, the six weeks grew into 26 years as the meetings continued uninterrupted until 1956.
Another indication that God was blessing CBMC from its inception was that similar groups were being started in San Francisco, Seattle, and several other large cities throughout the country. These separate groups linked together and established CBMC in 1937.
Five men, Charles E. Gremmels, Arnold Grunigen, C.B. Hedstrom, Dr. N.A. Jepson, and R.G. LeTourneau, comprised the steering committee selected to direct the CBMC ministry.
In 1938, the first CBMC international conference was held in Chicago, seeking to bring men from committees around the world into closer fellowship and mutual commitment. Our headquarters was located in Chicago, but not until 1953 did we purchase our first building. During the next 25 years, the administrative center of the ministry was in Chicago. In 1978, the center relocated to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
As the years passed, our work spread throughout the world, into Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, India, and more, over 60 nations in all. Truly, men of all cultures have an equal need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
We wrote Operation Timothy, a unique program of Bible study designed primarily for one-on-one discipleship, in 1970. It has become a vital tool for helping men along the path to spiritual maturity and equipping them to share their faith and to disciple others.
We underwent a significant reorganization in 1973, with autonomous CBMC organizations being established in individual countries to better deal with linguistic and cultural differences. Although these CBMC bodies have independent governing powers, an International Board of Directors oversees the work around the world, seeking to pool effective strategies and to show how they can be adapted in differing national environments to successfully present the Gospel to non-Christians.
In the 1970s and 80s, we began to recruit full time staff throughout a number of U.S. cities. The grassroots of the ministry continued to flourish with this increased attention and help.
Today, CBMC has grown from a small group of men in Chicago to over 18,000 members in 700 teams across the United States. Worldwide, CBMC is active in over 70 countries with over 50,000 members total. Our methods continue to evolve to reflect the circumstances of modern men, but our purpose remains the same: to evangelize and disciple business and professional men for Christ.