To understand the history of Christian Challenge you have to know the founders. Christian Challenge was founded by Lawrence “Buddy” Martin (but nobody knows him as “Lawrence”!) in 1976 but its beginnings go back even further than that.
Bro. Buddy was a pastor and evangelist with the United Pentecostal Church beginning in the mid 1960’s, soon after his marriage to Betty Green in Colorado, herself the daughter of a United Pentecostal Church pastor. However, the Lord began to deal with Bro. Buddy about some of the “mis-teachings” of that organization, especially with regard to salvation issues. In 1971 he let his ministerial license drop with the UPC denomination and served in a local church in Lafayette, LA. During this time the Lord continued to heal his heart and bring him to a clearer view of salvation by grace through faith.
In 1974 he formally left the UPC denomination and shortly thereafter was led by the Lord to pastor an independent Pentecostal church in Mora, a rural community in northwest Rapides Parish. However, he felt the call to begin a “School for Christian Workers” that would not be affiliated with any denomination and would provide training for Christians who could not pull up roots to go to Bible school.
On March 9, 1976 Christian Challenge held its first service in Boyce, LA, in a closed-down grocery store. The ministry registered as “Christian Challenge Incorporated” (later changed to “Christian Challenge International”) and the sign next to the door simply read “School for Christian Workers.” The name “Christian Challenge” was partly influenced by “Teen Challenge,” a ministry to New York gangs whose story is told in the book “The Cross and the Switchblade” which greatly challenged Bro. Buddy’s faith.
The Early Years
Over the next couple of years the ministry grew and it became clear that it needed to move to serve its growing congregation, which came from all over Central Louisiana. In 1978 the ministry moved to Pineville and rented part of “the old Rent-It Company” building (now a law office near the intersection of Hwy 28E and the Pineville Expressway, under the water tower). The ministry continued to grow, eventually renting the entire building.
In the mid-1980’s it became plain that it was time to build. Bro. Buddy had taught a debt-free lifestyle of faith and he led Christian Challenge to believe God to build without borrowing money. From 1986-1990 CCI built a 12,000 square foot worship center at 300 Pearce Road. It took four years, during which time the members of the church did the work as the Lord provided the money. From time to time the Lord would bring someone along to donate special skills, such as plumbing, electrical work, roofing, etc, all in His perfect timing. In 1990 the first service was held in the nearly completed building and not a penny was ever borrowed!
During this time the Martin’s oldest son, Nathan, had felt a call to the mission field. He was attending Louisiana College but transferred to King’s Way Missionary Institute in McAllen, TX. He returned to Pineville to serve briefly on staff and to help with construction but in December, 1986 he moved to southern Mexico to serve as a church planter. Over the next four years he helped oversee or plant 13 churches in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Veracruz. He married Lori Chapman of McAllen in 1987 and they had their first of three daughters while living in Mexico. Those churches are part of the “International” aspect of Christian Challenge.