Action Biblique : Church History


Action Biblique Suisse is one of the fruits of the Ministry of Scottish Evangelist Hugh  Edward Alexander (1884 – 1957). Trained at the Biblical Institute in Glasgow, at the time of revival in Wales, he came to Cologny, near Geneva, on 6 August 1906. A zealous witness of Jesus Christ, he was a world missionary and at the core of his values was a strong biblical faith. His vocation was based on the texts of Acts 1:8, and Genesis 13.14-15, Jeremiah 1.18-19 and Acts 1:8.

The Video (French only) contains a hand drawn animation of the church history.

Development of the church in switzerland and around the world

H.-E. Alexander alongside Colonel Albin Peyron from 1912 to 1916 participated in many envagelization campaigns that gave Switzerland its awakening. The revival of Switzerland began in 1910 and continued over a decade. By 1916, H.-E. Alexander had devoted himself to teaching and his ministry of apologetics..

Noting that the so-called new theology, jeopardized the faith of the young converted, they published a monthly biblical teaching, « The Witness » and created « The Biblical Alliance. « In 1919 he opened a » Missionary Bible School at Ried on Biel. A few years later, the United Bible became « L’Action Biblique and a Bible School was established in Cologny, it subsequently became the Bible Institute of Geneva.  See the website of the Bible Institute of Geneva IBG (website primarily in French).

Through the ministry of former students, the missionary outreach of the Action Biblique extends to Italy, Yugoslavia, Spain, Portugal, North Africa, Egypt, Lebanon, India, Central Asia and West Africa and Brazil. Many of these early missionaries go simply by relying on God and the exercise of their profession to support themselves. The spread of Sacred Scripture, the preaching of the Gospel biblical teaching gave birth to churches united by a single confession of faith. Today Action Biblique churches have formed associations in Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland.

History of the Churches Biblical Action of French-speaking Switzerland

When God calls a person or a work, he does so by plan. We draw on the past for teaching, guidance and encouragement. What God has done is the pledge of what he can still accomplish. Just as the heritage of a family and a nation must be known and honored, so it is vital that that of a work of God be. We want proof of this in the words of the psalmist: “My people, listen to my instructions! Give ear to the words of my mouth! I open my mouth with sentences, I publish the wisdom of ancient times. What we have heard, what we know, what our fathers told us, we will not hide from their children; we will speak to the generation to come of the praises of the Lord, and of his power, and of the wonders which he has wrought” (Psalm 78:1-4).
The history of Biblical Action corresponds to three phases: that of its birth, that of its consolidation and that of its extension.

Birth (1901-1924)

The germ of Biblical Action goes back to the conversion of its founder, Hugh E. Alexander (1884-1957), in 1901, then to the blossoming of his vocation.

The milestones of this development are the two-year internship at the Biblical Institute in Glasgow and the revival of Wales. During this period, the irrepressible need for witness, missionary vision and commitment to the fight for the faith are affirmed. These three lines of force of his vocation correspond to the three imperatives contained in Acts 1:8, Genesis 13:14-15 and Jeremiah 1:18-19.

The extension of this fulfillment is manifested by seven years of in-depth study of Scripture and persevering prayers in Cologny, near Geneva. At this time, work among children, biblical culture courses for adults and the public preaching of salvation in Jesus Christ began. Evangelization campaigns are undertaken in the East of France, Gard, Drôme and Haute-Loire, at the invitation of pastors of the Reformed Church.

The year 1913 marked the beginning of evangelization campaigns in French-speaking Switzerland where the awakening broke out which generated the vocations of those who constituted the first generation of Biblical Action. Although H.-E. Alexander has no ambition to create a new denomination, he found that the spiritual ground of some churches is not conducive to the development of young converts, and that these souls cannot be delivered to the harmful effects of liberal theology. As early as 1914, the monthly “Le Temoin” journal appeared of the Biblical Alliance, which immediately presented itself as an organ for the defense of the faith. In 1916, the publication of the pamphlet entitled “I-Kabod” (cp. 1 Samuel 4:1-22) splits the camps by the denunciation and vigorous condemnation of what is called the new theology and which is nothing other than the denial of the facts which make the strength of Christianity: inspiration, inerrancy and authority of the Scriptures, divinity of Jesus Christ, eternal Word made flesh, atonement by the blood of the cross, bodily resurrection, glorification at the right hand of the Father and return to glory.
At the same time, H.-E. Alexander opens, in Geneva, the first “Maison de la Bible” which has for sign: Bible Fellowship Repository and Publications Office.

The publication of I-Kabod aroused an upsurge of religious opposition. Converts are gathered together and built solidly in biblical faith. This prepares the moment when the Biblical Covenant will become the Biblical Action.

H. E. Alexander had the desire to open the first Biblical School in the French language and he prayed about it for thirteen years. The answer came in 1919, at Ried sur Bienne, thanks to the provision of a property by the family of the painter Paul Robert. Five successive sessions saw the departure of biblical peddlers and evangelists. Many students settle abroad, in their profession, in order to bear witness to their faith there.

In 1924, the religious opposition, exacerbated, tried, by acting on the civil authorities, to obtain the expulsion of H.-E. Alexander of Swiss territory. But when his innocence is recognized, the maneuver fails. The “weapon forged” against the embryo of the Work is “ineffective” (cp. Isaiah 54:17). This painful moment will contribute to the strengthening of what was born from above and that men could not destroy (cp. Acts 5:38-39).

Strengthening (1925-1940)

We have said what are the effects of the theological position of H.-E. Alexander: delimitation of the camps and regrouping of those who wanted to remain faithful to the Word of God. Without this precise starting point, Biblical Action would not exist. Throughout his ministry, the founder manifested an unequivocal theological attitude. This is expressed clearly in the face of rationalism, Pentecostalism and later neo-modernism and ecumenism.

Internally, the founder wants to know whom he can rely on (cp. Judges 7:1-8). To this end, he wrote the “Instruction Manual for the members of Biblical Action”. This small booklet explains the nature of Biblical Action, its mission in the world and within the Church of Jesus Christ, with the symbols of the trumpet, the torch and the sword (cp. Judges 7:15 -23). The trumpet relates to testimony, the torch to the spreading of the Word of God, and the sword to the good fight of faith.

This being well posed, the author approaches the declaration of faith and, to conclude, emphasizes the principles of consecration, discipline, loyalty, association of heart and fact.
Continuing this organizational task, H.-E. Alexander appoints a body of elders, launches circulars of missionary information to fuel the prayer of the members and opens the Maison de la Bible in Paris, in 1925. Bible peddlers leave for France. All of this confirms the vast movement of disengagement, the rupture of the adverse embrace which tried to stifle the Work.

After the events of 1924 which took place in Biel, the future of the Ecole Biblique is worrying. At the beginning of 1926, H.-E. Alexander receives the conviction that the new School will open in Cologny near Geneva, the place of his conversion. So everything happens very quickly. The elders are informed of this thought of buying land in Cologny (the deed is already signed in February) and a brochure appealing for the building fund arouses a marvelous impulse of liberality. It is a question of bringing together 410,000 SFr. – of the time! Less than two years later, the Ecole Biblique was completed and entirely paid for by donations. The house is consecrated to God on the basis of Isaiah 54:2-3 and the property of the Ecole Biblique receives the name “The Rock”; in 1928 it hosted the 6th session.

This construction is more of a starting point than an end point. Other missionary fields are reached, for example: Italy, Yugoslavia, Spain, Portugal, North Africa, Egypt, Lebanon, India, Central Asia. Other “Maison de la Bible” are open.

In 1930 “the Militia of Biblical Action” was born, today “Jeunesse Action Biblique”. Then began, in France, the camps for teenagers where hundreds of young men and young women converted and gave themselves to Christ.

Before the Second World War, God gave very good opportunities for the distribution of the Bible: eleven thousand copies sold during the Colonial Exhibition, four thousand five hundred on the occasion of the International Exhibition and fourteen thousand on the boulevards of Paris.
Thus, from 1924 to 1940, God places the Work on safe ground, gives it a structure, and, from there, guarantees for its extension. This strengthening phase precedes and assures the lengthening of the ropes and the unfolding of the coverings (cp. Isaiah 54:2-3). If the stakes had not been strengthened, the space of the “tent” could not have been enlarged.
During the period in question, local churches are born and develop mainly in Switzerland, France and Portugal.

Extension (from 1940)

In the spring of 1940, Switzerland was surrounded by belligerent powers. H.E. Alexander is convinced that he must undertake the printing and publishing of the Holy Scriptures in order to supply the French-speaking countries, completely deprived of the Word of God. He created the Biblical Society of Geneva, supervising the “Maison de la Bible” already established in France and Morocco. This activity takes a great extension and has not ceased extending. In fifty years, two million Bibles are printed. In addition to this, God entrusts to the work a whole ministry of publications of evangelization and edification, not to mention newspapers for children, adolescents and adults. Thus Biblical Action assumes a responsibility to the whole body of Christ in the publishing of the Word of God.

The year 1943 saw the acquisition of the Berghaus in Isenfluh (Bernese Oberland), as a place for youth camps and Bible courses for adults (1944).

Over time, the equipment in buildings is supplemented by various constructions: in Isenfluh, in Cologny, in Contamines, in Engadine and on the missionary field. God completes the material edifice of Biblical Action to provide new possibilities for spiritual strengthening and radiance.
The year 1944 is that of the creation of the Corps of Arms Bearers. In the historical example of Jonathan, the founder sees the symbol of the association of young and old in spiritual battle, the former in need of guidance, training and protection, the latter devoting their care to spiritual posterity. and benefiting from the contribution of fresh forces.
This posterity is called to spread over the missionary fields opened by the pioneers of the Work. To those we have already named are added first Brazil, then West Africa.

In 1981, the body of Arms Bearers, today JAB senior, was integrated into the local churches.
The children’s camps at Le Roc were inaugurated in 1962 and the Arms Bearers’ camps in 1964. Bible courses for adults experienced a successful development in favor of German speakers and, since 1975, Italian speakers.
Without going into the details of the stages of our African establishment, the culmination of persevering peddling, let us quote the date of 1959-1960 for the start of work in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.
Between 1966 and 1984, Action Biblique gradually reduced its staff in Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Senegal) but developed its activities in Abidjan.
In Brazil, the Work begins in the form of a deposit of the Holy Scriptures (1931). This continues with the rental of a store, transformed into the Maison de la Bible (1938). In 1951, the Maison de la Bible moved into premises in the center of Sao Paulo and this was the starting point for missionary work and the opening of other Maisons de la Bible.
In 1956, the Cosmopolis camp and Bible training center opened on property donated to Action Biblique. In 1964 God provided the Work with a base of action called “Casa Alexander”, in Sao Paulo. The development of the Work in Latin America is done with the reinforcement of collaborators from Europe, the formation and active collaboration of Brazilian elements.
After having fought the good fight, finishing the race and keeping the faith, the founder was taken back by God on April 8, 1957. Since then, the Work has not only survived, but has expanded even further.

Thus the chain reaction took place and the threefold character of the vocation was manifested.
Many former students of the Ecole Biblique de Genève bear witness while working in their profession; some also serve the Lord full-time in other works.
For half a century, most of the servants and servants of God who developed the work of Biblical Action in Europe and on other continents came from the AB churches of Switzerland and France. These two countries also provided the bulk of the financial support.
Now, all the churches in each country are called to take up their responsibilities, while keeping close contact with the international leadership.
In 1965, Action Biblique was incorporated as an Association under the Swiss Civil Code. It includes all individual members worldwide. Subsequently, the various countries adopted a national legal structure. This manual outlines the goals and organization of churches in all countries where Biblical Action exists.
Our eyes are turned towards the future, where God wants to lead us in greater works, in depth and in scope, insofar as the Spirit of life which is in Jesus Christ lives in us and that we remain faithful to God and to the vocation he has addressed to us.