Serving Neighbors an Outflow of Intentional Discipleship at PA Church
By Carl Stagner
If you were strolling down West Chelton Avenue on the north side of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Sunday, July 12, you would have come across an inspirational sight. The first thing you would have noticed in the 1600 block was that the church had left the building; no, the congregation hadn’t abandoned their facility, there wasn’t a drive-in worship service, and the congregation hadn’t dispersed far and wide into the community. On this particular day, they’d simply set up “shop” right outside the front doors of the building, along a well-traveled sidewalk and busy street. Of course, they were neither selling goods nor establishing a storefront. A simple blue tent for shade and a couple of portable tables were sufficient for their purposes that day—to bless passersby with cool treats, farm-fresh vegetables, basic pandemic necessities, and, most importantly, prayer.
For two hours in the heat of the afternoon, the “NextGen” ministry of Christ Center Church of God turned their faith into action. Led by Yolanda Boykin and her husband Brian, this group of young men and women continue to find opportunities to serve their community. In the midst of a pandemic, on a summer day, what better way to do that than provide refreshment for the body and soul?
“This group is so excited about serving,” Yolanda exclaims. “The church is here, and we’re not just a building. Especially at this time in the country, we want the community to know we’re here for them.”
She goes on to explain that, beside ice water and other refreshing treats, “blessing bags” included gloves, hats, hand sanitizer, and other resources for their neighbors. As her husband Brian explains, the effort was a natural extension of the discipleship culture they’re working to build among the younger generation at the church, which is pastored by Rev. Dr. David Stevens (wife, Dorothy).
“This is what Jesus did,” Brian explains. “So, we’re in training to reach up to the Father, in with our families, and out to others. On July 12, that was considered our ‘out’ mission. Outreach is hard, and it was difficult even before the pandemic. But our group loves it. We didn’t have to force them to do it.”
Elsa Johnson-Bass, who serves the church as associate pastor of worship arts and is involved with Christian Women Connection locally and nationally, calls Christ Center Church of God home. In support of the church’s ministry with the young people that afternoon, she stopped by the prayer-and-resource tent and was blessed by what she saw. “#ISeeTheChurch!” she posted on Facebook, along with several pictures. In an interview with Church of God Ministries, she added, “They’re mission-minded. What started out as a Sunday school class has grown into so much more.”
The “NextGen” ministry of Christ Center Church of God already has plans to do it all again in August. Until then, Brian offers encouragement to other leaders who want to rally their congregations to live out the gospel amid the restrictions and challenges caused by COVID-19.
“Teach about how Jesus did it,” Brian explains. “I always refrain from saying you need to, you ought to, or you should. It’s not a legalistic thing! This is who we are. It’s a kingdom responsibility. Convey that to the people, and look to God and what he has done for you. No matter the difficulty, no matter the pandemic, remember who you are and what you do!”
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.
*Feature (top) photo: Brian, Yolanda, and several others offered joyful greetings to passersby.