In 1979 Jim Van Gelderen had just come home from college when he asked his youth pastor (which happened to be his older brother Wayne) if they could have a series of tent meetings the coming summer. This had been done in the past at Jim’s home church, Marquette Manor Baptist Church in Downers Grove, IL. Pastor Wayne Van Gelderen, Jr. suggested the idea of using camp type competition they had experienced at nearby Camp Joy and then having a Gospel message to conclude. The first year it was done in conjunction with Bible school in the morning and the week for Jr. High and Sr. High teens was called Country Chaos. The competition was between the Hatfields and McCoys. In 1980 it was called Cactus Chaos and became a western theme between the Daltons and the James and Younger gang. In 1981 the program was moved to the evening and was called the Uncivil War between the Yankees and the Rebels.
In that same summer of 1981, Dr. Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr. set up a couple of meetings for his son, John Van Gelderen. He decided to turn them into the same program that had been conducted at Marquette Manor. God greatly blessed. John invited Jim to come over for one of the meetings and both young men were stirred at the teens that came and their response to the Gospel.
In 1982 after Jim Van Gelderen’s senior year of college a couple of college friends traveled with him to about ten churches conducting the Uncivil War. Although they did not really know what they were doing, the Lord blessed with many crowds over 100 and many souls saved. Jim Van Gelderen saw things he had never seen before and he saw the Gospel’s power like he had never seen. This ignited a fire in his heart to continue to move forward.
In the summer of 1983 while Jim was youth pastor at the Marquette Manor Baptist Church the decision was made to send out three teams. Jim stayed home and directed things from afar while Tim Chevalier, Juan Moreno and John Van Gelderen led teams all over the US. Marquette Manor financed the teams and lost $10,000 over the summer. Dr. Van Gelderen, Sr., Jim’s dad and the pastor of MMBC, was glad to helped birth the ministry, but knew the church could not sustain those kind of losses. He called Dr. Bob Jones III and asked if Bob Jones University would be interested in having the teams operate from there. Dr. Bob was glad for the call because there had been some talk about starting something like this, but the consensus was that the Van Gelderens were starting something and let’s see how it is going to go. Well the Lord was in it and BJU became the new home of the Minutemen Evangelistic Team. At the same time a new theme was developed called The War. The teams were Army vs. Navy. The change was due to the ministry becoming nationwide and there was a sense that a theme was needed that had nationwide appeal.
In 1984 after being married to Rhonda Cross of Greenville, SC, Jim and his new wife began traveling conducting The War (Army vs. Navy). Again, the Lord did some amazing things in that first year that the stirred the Van Gelderens concerning the power of the Gospel.
In 1994 the War of Special Forces was birthed. This adapted The War theme and program to Christian schools. Since that time Evangelist Jim Van Gelderen has primarily led that team and ministry. Its burden is not only for the evangelism of lost teens, but has added a burden to see Christian school students revived in their walk with God.
In 1998 the Minutemen Evangelistic Team became an independent ministry. The Lord burdened Jim that his was the step that was needed. Bob Jones University was extremely gracious to the ministry and assisted in their launching out. Jim has a deep appreciation the key part BJU had in the development and nurturing of the ministry.
Over the years Mark Kittrell (1989-1991), Frank Bailey (1992-2002) and Evangelist Billy Ingram (2003-2007) led teams in addition to Evangelist Jim Van Gelderen. Now there several teams associated with the ministry. Jim leads the War of Special Forces in churches with Christian schools. Evangelist Bobby Bosler leads the team conducting The War. This program is being re- launched after a few years of not being conducted. Evangelist Mike Fisher is launching Real Character, a ministry in public schools. In the summer Evangelist Jon Barber conducts the Cola Clash ministry. This team is completely financed by Baptist College of Ministry.
This is not a program driven ministry. It is theologically driven. The Lord has raised it up for such a time as this. We trust our best days are ahead!