Delaware Church Strategy: Surprising the World with God’s Love
By Carl Stagner
After forty-seven years shepherding the flock at New Community Church of God in Wilmington, Delaware, Pastor Edward Cross has made more than a few observations about the surrounding culture. For example, there’s a prevailing suspicion that nothing’s ever really free, and if you’ve got something to offer, you must want something in return. But by building authentic relationships in the community, not just hosting events and doing more programs, the Delaware congregation is catching a few people off guard—in a good way! They’re demonstrating that they really do care, surprising the world with God’s love.
“It comes as a surprise because they say, ‘Oh, what do you want?’” Edward explains. “They’ll scrutinize you and test you to see if you’re real. Today, too many people feel that Christians aren’t real. And they feel we’re after something—that we want something over against connecting with their life and being with them through the challenges they face. So, we’re showing them that we’re here for them in Jesus’ name.”
“Be kind.” The admonition may seem like an oversimplification, or perhaps an unnecessary instruction to the believer. But Pastor Edward knows Christians can sometimes unwittingly feed the stereotypes that exist. He doesn’t want to take it for granted that Christ-followers are actually exercising kindness. “I say it to the congregation all the time,” he explains. “Your kindness is so important. People see agendas. We certainly give witness concerning Christ, but we do it through connecting with people and building relationships. Often that’s simply spending time with people.”
Whether at the grocery store, the corner café, or the local little league game, Pastor Edward Cross recognizes there’s an opportunity to connect with people. He desperately wants people anywhere and everywhere to know that God cares and their local church cares, too. One recurring act of love coming out of New Community Church of God is their ministry known as Caring Hands. By reaching out to the homeless, the jobless, the addicted, and the down-and-out, New Community has, for several decades, left an indelible mark on the lives of countless individuals. Besides walking alongside persons in need, the ministry has provided a means for the church to get into the area shelters, share the gospel, serve meals, host clothing giveaways, and share in activities for children and adults. Last summer, many were again surprised by God’s love through New Community Church, when they brought their neighbors Christmas—in July.
One of the biggest challenges for Pastor Edward and the congregation has been reaching the unreached millennial generation in and around Wilmington. But Pastor Edward isn’t sitting on the sidelines, either. He intentionally seeks opportunities to sit down and chat with young adults about life, values, needs, and God. The work is a stretch for him, and certainly a matter of prayer. But even the most skeptical—or the ones most difficult to reach—are often moved by the element of surprise. And that’s New Community’s forte.
Before his long tenure at New Community Church of God, Pastor Edward Cross served as an assistant minister at High Street Church of God in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, under the leadership of the late Horace Sheppard. He’s blessed today to serve alongside his wife Jean, and now enjoys fourteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His son—and associate, Mark Cross, has been with them ever since they began pastoring in Delaware. In his spare time, he loves reading, gardening, and going on walks in the beauty of God’s creation.
Thank you for your prayers for Pastor Cross and the New Community congregation.
In Delaware, across North America, and around the world, God is on the move in the Church of God. Join the movement. Give life. Donate today at give.jesusisthesubject.org.