Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
By the grace of God, Christ Church continues to be able to see God fulfill this promise. Here is just a quick snapshot of some of the ways God is building His Church here in South Philly.
Making New Disciples
A man was on his way to commit suicide when he walked past our church. He was invited in by the ushers standing outside. He has been coming every Sunday since and has given his life to Christ.
Several different neighbors who had turned down multiple invitations to come to church decided to finally “give it a try”. They are now coming consistently and bring others with them.
We have seen 3 people find freedom from addiction through faith in Jesus.
Several weeks ago, I received an email from a troubled young man who visited our church once. He urgently wanted to meet, because he had been waking up with bruises in the forms of hand prints on his arm. He was constantly cold, even though his room was warm. He was blacking out and doing very out of character things. He was scared and he wanted to talk. Joe and I met with him and found out that he was heavily involved in the occult. I asked him if he knew what the gospel was and he said no. We then spent over an hour going through the book of Romans with him and by the end of this time, he was bowing his head and giving his life to Christ. I received a text from him the next morning, “I’m awake. I’m warm. I’m at peace. Praise God for Jesus!”
There have been 12 people who have gone from death to life this past year. Half our membership has never been a member of a previous church.
Ripple effect on our community
After being in our community for 3 years, we have established a compelling reputation as a church that cares for the neighborhood. I regularly get stopped on my “commute” (4 block walk from my home to the church building) by strangers who ask for prayer, counsel, etc… because they know I am a pastor of that “church in the old warehouse”. I’ve had the privilege of being asked to do several funerals for people who never darkened the door of our church, but knew about us and reached out in their time of need. This has allowed me to share the gospel with hundreds who otherwise would never have heard about the good news of Jesus. We recently had an article written about us by a local south philly blog (check it out here)
Maturing Existing Disciples
Growth isn’t just about making new disciples. It is also about maturing existing ones.
Several people this past month have told me, “I’ve been a Christian for years, but I have never known Jesus like this. I feel like for the first time I’m really walking out my faith, sharing Christ with others and finding joy in God.
This year has marked some tremendous breakthroughs for people as they have confessed and repented of long standing sin. As I counsel, I am regularly in awe of how God moves in people’s lives
A sign of Christian maturity is our growth in diversity. It takes a lot of gospel work for racial barriers to be broken down. There are now 8 different ethnicities represented in our church and my sermon notes are being translated into Arabic and Spanish.
Another sign of maturity is how many people are actively participating in our church community. Our membership has over 95% participation in both our small groups and on a ministry team. Friends, you have to understand that is unheard of in the church world.
In our church of 150, we have 30 people who serve in various roles of leadership including, 2 deacons and 3 individuals pursuing pastoral ministry.
This is all a miracle
I don’t say any of this to brag, but rather to give God praise. The fact that we have tripled in size in just under 3 years in a highly unchurched area is simple a move of God. Considering our rocky start, we have no reason to even exist. Our church plant started with us leasing a building that ended up costing us three times what we anticipated and taking twice as long to complete as planned. We didn’t have any money. But other churches stepped up and pitched in. We were given a sound system, chairs and construction materials. Our landlord gave us the bathroom flooring and 2 months free rent. I wasn’t even with the church half the time, because I was going through a major flare of my Crohn’s disease that led to me being hospitalized on multiple occasions. When I was present, I was running at half speed with IV’s hanging out of my arms. Our story is miraculous. It is only possible because of God. These highlights are meant to be worship!
For those of you who pray for us, thank you. I hope this recap serves to stir your faith about how God is answering your prayers.
For those of you who financially support us, thank you. We couldn’t do all that God has called us to without others being willing to shoulder the burden with us. Your investment makes a profound difference.
Will you please pray?
For the people pursuing pastoral ministry as we seek to establish our own local pastoral team.
For financial provision so that we can continue to pursue God’s mission
For more deacons to be raised up and deployed to serve the church
For wisdom for myself as I continue to seek to lead this precious body of believers
For my continued health, strength and remission of my Crohn’s disease
For protection from spiritual attack and faith to continue to face challenges with courage
For our new non profit, Transformation to Recovery (www.transformationtorecvoery.com) that is seeking to help people in addiction find new life in Christ.
That God would continue to make, mature and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God.
Happy New Year!