The call of the Christian church has been clear from the very beginning- make disciples of all nations for the work and witness of Jesus Christ. The same holds true for the ministry of Rev. David Sanchez and the faithful of Christ’s Presbyterian Church in South Philadelphia. Located at the intersection of 10th and Kimball, Christ’s Presbyterian Church has claimed discipleship as a central emphasis within a neighborhood of new arrivals eager to build a life in this city. Rev. Sanchez affirmed the mission of Christ’s Presbyterian, “We are longing for intentional training and spiritual formation to move people from Christian identity to discipleship.”
While the core vision of Christ’s Presbyterian Church has remained constant, their ministry and discipleship efforts have intentionally evolved. As the neighborhood has grown from a predominantly Italian community into a multi-ethnic populous, which now includes residents of Indonesian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean descent, Christ’s Presbyterian has embraced their multicultural reality as a unique opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Rev. Sanchez commented, “We want people to be connected to God in a way they may have never experienced before.” A large part of this connection to God has hinged on a shared and renewed corporate identity. Rev. Sanchez added, “It’s no longer a them and an us; it’s a we. We are the church. We are one church, one body in South Philly.” This mindset has not only unified a multicultural congregation but also inspired a commitment to multiethnic and ecumenical partnerships in South Philadelphia.
In 2014, Christ’s Presbyterian Church was the recipient of the Synod of the Trinity Small Church Leadership Development Fund. The awarded funds were used to offset costs of a five-week summer children’s ministry program in conjunction with three other local, multicultural congregations. The program, of which the largest participating church was a Mandarin-speaking Chinese congregation, included a week of vacation Bible school and four weeks of educational programming. Over the course of the five weeks, approximately 150 neighborhood kids gathered in and around Christ’s Presbyterian Church for worship, Bible stories, academic classes, and recreational activities. As a result of these networked initiatives, young people took a vested interest in both their own spiritual formation and the discipleship of younger generations.
These summer programs are not the only attestations to Christ’s Presbyterian’s thoughtful and multicultural discipleship efforts. Christ’s Presbyterian Church also worships in three languages, hosts Bible studies throughout the week, and collaborates with local churches to organize youth programs and service opportunities. In addition, many members of Christ’s Presbyterian Church are both first-generation immigrants and first-generation Christians thirsty to discover more about faith and related discipleship. In light of this reality, Rev. David Sanchez and the thoughtful leadership at Christ’s Presbyterian Church have empowered congregants, especially teenagers whose discipleship is at the earliest of beginnings, to share their budding faith with family and peers.
In other words, young disciples of Christ’s Presbyterian Church are equipped for evangelism as practiced with love and grace, in word and deed. This is where Rev. Sanchez finds his ministry most rewarding and transformative, “Imagine if we were all doing more for the local church. Our communities would really be transformed in a new way. I especially see this in the kids who are go-getters. This generation [of youth] absorbs faith and then wants to live it out. That’s what gets me excited.”
Thanks be to God for the work and witness of Christ’s Presbyterian Church as they live out their collective identities as followers of Jesus alongside their neighbors in South Philadelphia. Through their embrace of missional unity in the midst of cultural and ethnic diversity, the faithful of Christ’s Presbyterian Church are indeed impacting their neighborhood and making gracious and gifted disciples.