I was late to an appointment in the city on Wednesday and trying not to get lost. I knew the address of the church I was going to, but every street seemed to be going one way in the wrong direction. Finally I pulled around the corner and found a parking spot on the street just down from the church when I broke out in a cold sweat. I had done it again. Once again I had come downtown to park on a metered street and I did not bring any change. Fortunately, the pastor I was going to meet bailed me out and I was able to get the quarters I needed. Not the best start to a new relationship, but just what God had in mind. He wanted me to be open to His leading, not working from my own presuppositions and this start to the morning put me right where God wanted me – humbled and grateful.
As I walked down the street to meet my CLC colleague and the church pastor, I started seeing banners for the church on the light poles up and down the street. Clearly this church wanted to make a mark on the city and wanted to be sure that people knew where they were. As we walked up the steps of the church, I was stunned at beauty of the exterior edifice and wondered how old the building was. As we walked inside and met Pastor Ernest, the architecture just kept getting better. We learned that this building had been built over a hundred years ago and that the current congregation was in just in the process of completing a major renovation. Clearly this church cared for its building.
As we stood in the midst of the spacious sanctuary looking up at the incredible stained glass windows and the pipes on the pipe organ, I couldn’t help asking about the makeup of the current congregation. Pastor Ernest mentioned that given their close proximity to University City and both the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, they have a special emphasis on ministering to students. This sounded like a lively and young group of people. He quickly clarified that they also had people of all ages and backgrounds attending and that the church was growing and preparing to start a second service.
Pastor Ernest is an associate pastor and works closely with Founding Pastor, Terry Davis. I asked him what was their vision for the church – What did they believed God wanted them to do? He mentioned that they wanted to reach the world from this location with people from many nations worshiping together and ultimately ministering for the Kingdom. Given that this is close to the heart passion that we share in CLC, I started to get goose bumps as he described people from many different backgrounds praising God, learning and growing together. This was a bold vision for a predominantly African American church that relocated to this strategic street where students from all the nations of the world could practically walk to church.
We walked out into the foyer and began dreaming together about a strategic partnership for CLC and Christ Community Church to provide a Christian resource center stocked with great books and Bibles. I could imagine many of the congregants flocking around mobile book shelves every Sunday looking for resources that would enable them to grow spiritually and to impact their world. As we walked out into the narthex and were about to go upstairs into a large gathering space, Pastor Ernest mentioned that they were about to become a host location for the College of Prayer. At that point, I realized that this truly was a divine appointment. We had just published a book earlier this year by Fred Hartley the President of the College of Prayer and I could see how this church would make a great location for this move of God in our nation.
As the primary provider of Christian books and Bibles to the global church, CLC International is in a unique position in God’s kingdom. As the primary provider of Christian resources to the city of Philadelphia, CLC USA is also positioned for unique kingdom impact. I was reminded again this week that we play two very important roles – a triage tent for the Christian that is wounded in battle and a supply tent for the church that is preparing to do battle each and every day. I could not be more excited about this mandate as we partner with churches like Christ Community Church and Pastor Ernest Daniels.