The word “missions” probably conjures some specific associations in your mind: international locations, unfamiliar languages, dramatic spiritual calls to drastically different cultural contexts.
But what if God gave you a mission much closer to home? What if His call was as simple, but perhaps just as uncomfortable, as exchanging your familiar pew in your home church for a folding chair in a rented space in the next town over: the current home of the new church seeking to reach an unreached community for Christ?
In Bible Fellowship Church church planting, laypeople who go out from another church and minister alongside church planters in mission churches are called Aquila and Priscilla Partners. They serve in different ways and time frames, often supplementing specific needs at a church plant until its support system grows, or they choose to stay as part of the church long term.
And in one BFC mission church, God has used Aquila and Priscilla Partners in a mighty way….CROSSroads Bible Fellowship Church is just outside Elverson, PA, a cozy farm town on the edge of western Chester county. The church building sits near an intersection on route 23 (or, as everyone who passes through seems to identify it, the road to Shady Maple), and was once home to an independent church. Sadly, the church declined, leaving a small group with the decision to close its doors or seek out a new beginning. With God’s guidance, they connected to the BFC.
Church Extension agreed to assume the church property and work to reopen a BFC church with the remaining people as the core group. The new mission came under the leadership of interim church planter Mark Morrison in 2018, who faithfully served and worked to grow the fledgling church, a challenging task made all the more difficult by the sudden shutdowns of the pandemic. In 2021, Tim Radcliff joined CROSSroads’ church planting team, transitioned as lead church planter in 2022, and became the solo church planter when Pastor Mark retired in early 2023. During those five years, it became clear that CROSSroads faced obstacles to its growth that traditional church plants may not encounter.
“Restarting or revitalizing a church is a different process from starting a brand new church,” says Pastor Tim. “For CROSSroads, like so many church revitalizations, it’s one that starts by ministering to a smaller, often hurting, congregation. And because it involves bringing healing and restoration to the current church, plus the growth and community involvement required in church planting, this can present its own unique challenges.”
Thankfully, the core group was full of people willing to grow and serve, even as they recognized the unique challenges CROSSroads faced. Together, the small group prayed for revitalization and for opportunities to minister to the community, and through this, God also led the congregation to pray for help. Specifically, mature believers who could join and serve in the areas most needed. God answered. Not long after, Pastor Tim attended a leadership conference at Faith Bible Fellowship, Spring City, PA, where he reconnected with an old friend, Gary Landes. Gary, who had previously attended Grace Bible Fellowship Church in Quakertown where Pastor Tim served as an assistant pastor, now attended Harvest Bible Fellowship in Boyertown, which officially joined the BFC in 2019. The two discussed the work of revitalization at CROSSroads. Gary felt the Spirit’s tug to serve, specifically in music ministry. After receiving the blessing and support of Harvest’s leadership, Gary, his wife Crystal, and their five children helped with Sunday service once a month. As they spent more time at CROSSroads, however, they began to feel God calling them to serve in a larger capacity.
With a lot of prayer, and the blessing and commissioning from the elders of Harvest BFC, the Landes family joined CROSSroads as Aquila and Priscilla Partners in May 2023. Now Gary regularly leads worship through music and is helping to prepare others to be a part of the music ministry. Isaac, Gary’s oldest son, often runs slides during the service, while the rest of the clan helps where needed and welcomes visitors to the church. The family is excited to serve and see how God will work in the coming year, but Gary is quick to tell anyone that what they are doing shouldn’t be seen as extraordinary. Rather, all lay people are called to serve without fanfare or recognition, using the gifts that God gives to reach those around them. For Gary, serving Christ’s church at CROSSroads is one way to do that. Indeed, other Aquila and Priscilla Partners have served at CROSSroads and helped the church over the life of its ministry in the way Gary described. Rick and Mary Kay Paquette from Grace BFC, Reading, PA, served from 2020 to 2021, and Phil and Jan Morrison from Ephrata BFC served from 2021 to 2022. Their volunteer commitments took them from their home churches and communities, but their time in Elverson greatly blessed and encouraged the mission church.
And at the same time, though not officially as Aquila and Priscilla teams, others in the BFC have joined the fellowship in Elverson. Back when Arden and Martha Musselman were ending their time serving at a church plant in the Philadelphia area and praying for another place to serve, they drove by CROSSroads and its newly installed sign. Martha, who had grown up at Bethany BFC, Hatfield, PA, recognized the denomination on the sign immediately. The couple began attending prior to the pandemic and have become integral volunteers, serving as part of the administrative team, helping with the service, discipling, and opening up their home for church events. Another couple, Rick and Mary Jayne Harris, had recently moved to Shillington, PA, a little north of Elverson. Rick, the former pastor of BFC, Denville, NJ, had retired after decades of faithful ministry, but he and Mary Jayne were praying for and seeking out a place to serve and use their gifts and experience. After connecting with Mark Morrison, the Harrises began attending CROSSroads. They soon decided to make the mission church their home. Currently, Rick helps with the music ministry, and the couple serves as the Lord leads. These partnerships have blessed CROSSroads in many ways, but most notably have provided wonderful encouragement when it was most needed. In an area like Elverson, where rel giosity is widespread but biblically grounded faith is not, the work is hard. But as CROSSroads has discovered, God answers prayer and builds His church. And often, He uses those who step out and follow in faith, fanning the flame of spiritual renewal in places where hope had dwindled.
Want to know more about serving as Aquila and Priscilla Partners with Church Extension Ministries? Check out the Aquila and Priscilla Handbook or contact the Director of Church Extension Ministries at CEMoffice@bfc.org.
Article by Kaylena Radcliff, member of CROSSroads BFC in Elverson, PA, managing editor of Christian History Magazine and member of the BFC Communications Committee. Kaylena is also the author of the Elmnas Chronicles book series.