In the early 1970s, there began to emerge in the Williamsport area the desire on the part of a small group of believers to meet regularly in various homes for the purpose of studying the Bible. These believers all once belonged to organized churches and had left those churches for various reasons, but mostly because they felt their spiritual needs had not been met in the area of Biblical teaching. From a beginning of a few home Bible studies, the number of groups expanded and increased to include new believers. Most of these came from various church backgrounds, but some also came with no previous affiliation in any organized church.
The groups began to see a need to become more organized in order to better minister to those not affiliated with a local church, especially in the area of fellowship, communion, and prayer. On August, 1977, a meeting was held in the home of Earl and Elouise Bachman in Williamsport, PA, for the purpose of exploring the possibilities of forming of a fellowship of believers to function in worship, ministry, and evangelistic outreach as close as possible to New Testament principles. After much prayer and seeking God’s leading in the matter, the unanimous conviction of the group was to move forward and establish one fellowship group from the many.
Shortly thereafter Sunday evening meetings were held at the Holiday Inn in Williamsport, PA, and the group decided to be known as “The Good News Fellowship”. Attendances in the fifties were common. The Fellowship initially selected Gary Emrick, Jim Sauers, and Earl Bachman to serve as Elders and these men administered Communion and Baptism and had the general oversight.
The Fellowship, having no designated Pastor, relied on the Elders to minister the Word. Special speakers, films, or a singing group were occasionally engaged. A time of fellowship and refreshments followed each meeting and during this period of interaction many needs within the group were discussed. Fellowship dinners were held at regular intervals and a basket was placed at the door for offerings which supplied the necessary funds for room rental, refreshments, babysitting, etc.
Early in 1979 some differences of opinion over doctrinal issues began to arise within the Fellowship. And, there were questionable practices being introduced into the Fellowship. These problems came to a climax in June of 1979 and a number of people then left the fellowship.
The majority of those remaining then felt the need for sound biblical teaching from someone, a pastor, who had seminary training. Since many within the Fellowship had a high regard for the caliber of men educated by Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), a decision was made to contact DTS. In July the elders attended a Bible Conference in Whiting, N.J. where they conferred with Dr. John Hannah, Professor of Historical theology at DTS, who offered much advice and counsel and as a result a letter explaining the need of the Fellowship was sent to Robert Salstrum, Director of Alumni and Church Relations at the Seminary.
Several weeks later the Elders met with Mr. Salstrum, who was visiting in the area. He presented the names and backgrounds of several prospective pastor candidates who were current or recent graduates of DTS. After some phone calls and reviewing the given information with the Fellowship, a decision was made by all to ask Dan W. Towery to be the Pastor of the Fellowship. On October 7, 1979, Dan officially became pastor on a part-time basis.
The Fellowship continued meeting on Sunday evenings at the Holiday Inn, but the following March (1980) the meeting place was moved to a new location, a former church building, owned and operated by the American Rescue Workers at the corner of Ross and Packer Streets in Williamsport. By June 1980 it was further decided to begin meeting on Sunday mornings instead of Sunday evenings, and further, to begin a Sunday School for the children and the adults. Set-up for each Sunday morning’s services required about 45 minutes. Equipment and materials for the services had to be carried up from the basement of the church facility.
In the Fall of 1980 the name was changed to the Good News Bible Church in order to make its purpose clearer to the public. On February 7th, 1980, the Good News Bible Church (GNBC) was incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a non-profit corporation. It was not until November 29th, 1984, that GNBC was recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt non-profit organization.
In the summer of 1984 the need for the church to move into its own facility was evident and a Facility Fund was started in September. By June, 1985, the Facility Fund had grown sufficiently to enable serious searching for a facility. A Montoursville location was considered but was eventually rejected.
In July the former Calvary Church of the Nazarene, located at 714 Green St. in Williamsport became available. After careful consideration, a vote of the congregation was taken on September 8, 1985 and the GNBC congregation decided to make an offer for the building. The offer was accepted, and on October 27, 1985, the first official service of the Good News Bible Church in its new home was held. And, an evening service was added to the Sunday morning Worship services. In early 1986, a piano, hymnals and folding tables and chairs were purchased. Two-thirds of their costs were paid for by a grant from the Oldham Little Church foundation in Houston, TX.
GNBC @ Green Street - 1985 to 1991
On June 29, 1986, Pastor Towery announced that he believed God was winding down his ministry at Good News and the elders began the process of transition and search for another pastor. This transition included a revision of the By-Laws which took place over the time period of January to April 1987. Pastor Towery concluded on May 3, 1987, his ministry for GNBC after 8 years service.
A Pulpit Committee was formed to in order to fill the vacancy left by Pastor Towery’s resignation. Some 150 resumes, including sermon tapes, were received and reviewed. From those, the Pulpit Committee selected three men. Each was asked to come to Good News to teach on a Sunday during the ensuing summer months. The last of the three, Pastor Danny Rockwell, came to teach on August 9. The Pulpit Committee decided from these three candidates to present Pastor Rockwell’s name before the congregation for a vote which occurred on August 17th. The congregation voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Pulpit Committee’s choice. Dan Rockwell was offered the position and started pastoring at Good News on September 20th, 1987 and is the current pastor of the church.
Note about Missions:
GNBC’s support of missionary work began while at the Green Street facility. Good News began to support Harry and Reidan Groot who attended the church while in training at the New Tribes Mission training center located near Jersey Shore. Good News’ first missions support began in 1987 at $200 or 0.5% of its yearly budget. Missions support has since expanded to 12% of the church’s annual budget(2009). Good News continues to support the Groots (Senegal) and is the home or sending church for Chris and Peg Bittner (Papua New Guinea), Dawn Shaylor (Sanford, FL) and Phillip Schuring (Brazil) --- all of New Tribes Mission.
In 1991 the neighboring Williamsport Medical Center sought to buy up several blocks adjacent to the hospital complex including the block on which the church existed. Good News decided to sell the church building to the hospital. The church’s last service at the Green St. location was on October 27th, 1991, and on the following Sunday moved to a temporary facility at Med Hall in the Williamsport Medical Center. The Good News body met at Med Hall from November 3rd, 1991 until February 7th, 1993, when the church moved to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) building on Market St. in Williamsport and remained there until March 27th, 1999, when a larger, more suitable facility adjacent to Schon’s Hardware on Lycoming Creek was found. Good News met there for the next 11 years.
On August 2nd, 2009, due to a growing membership and a desire to be more connected to the community, Good News made a transition to meeting in the Williamsport Cinema Center. The move to downtown Williamsport was a transition that brought on new challenges and fruitful results. Good News was seeing people come who would never feel comfortable stepping into a normal church building. In August 2011, based on a need for an environment that allowed for more opportunity for connectedness and fellowship, Good News moved to the Center for Independent Living in Williamsport, Good New's current home.