Like a driving student using the brakes for the first time, March 2020 lurched us to an awkward halt. Wissinoming BFC in the lower Northeast of Philadelphia was struggling even before we hit the Covid wall. The learning curve was steep as we sought to continue on after such a hard stop. We did many of the things other BFC congregations did; and we did better than we expected. We had “followers” on YouTube as far away as Utah.
Still, we desired to be a presence on the street. Every Lord’s Day, some of us sat in front of the church offering coffee, concern, prayer, Gospels of John, and – with the help of the corner store – yogurt. On Resurrection Day, through a gift of flowers, we gave away lilies. Our new congregation was often twice as large as in former days. No one refused the offer of prayer, many stayed to share their heart concerns. With warmer weather, we began worshiping in the parking lot.
As your fellowship probably did, we began to ask the question, “What next?” To say that our core congregation was graying would be an understatement. What could we do that would move the local church forward? In prayer, it occurred to us that we were already doing what we could do best – engaging in intercessory prayer for the neighborhood. Many were already praying with and for community members – cashiers, waitresses, medical personnel, neighbors, etc. Even non-believers accepted prayer – often with tears.
Instead of returning to older efforts, we created Prayer Cells. These groups begin with prayer on behalf of the community. Specific prayers are offered for various nearby neighborhoods, for the issues they face, and for their blessing. We do not pray against anyone, but for their transformation by the grace of God. Prayer Cells continue after the time of prayer to whatever the particular cell needs or wants. Some have a Bible Study, some do committee work, some fellowship around the possibilities for evangelism and addressing local needs. A fourth cell group may soon be added for Crafters.
In 2022 as the Lord wills, WBFC will celebrate its 100th anniversary. There will be much to celebrate besides the past. Our church community has tripled in size. Midweek gatherings (Prayer Cells) have more than tripled our community interaction through the week. People are being saved, coming for baptism, and desiring membership. When the WBFC alumni gather, they will find the church of 2022 to be a whole new place. Whatever our hands find to do for the good of the community and the progress of the Kingdom of God is what we desire to do.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17).
Ralph Ritter is the pastor of Wissinoming Bible Fellowship Church in Philadelphia, PA.