PHILADELPHIA (BP) — A divine appointment at a Starbucks in the Philadelphia suburb of Jenkintown led Mark Chripczuk into church planting.
In late 1999, Chripczuk stopped in for a coffee break and met Aaron Harvie, a Louisville, Ky., transplant new to the area and looking to plant a church in the Jenkintown area. Chripczuk was looking for a fresh opportunity to serve the city and Harvie was looking for fresh faces to help launch his church plant.
Nine months later, Riverside Community Church opened in Horsham, Pa., with Chripczuk on the team. But that was only the beginning.
“Being a part of Riverside Community Church gave me a taste of what it means to be a part of a church plant,” Chripczuk said. “Just surveying the landscape around us, it became evident to me that there simply are not enough churches in the Philadelphia metro area to serve the huge population of people. The idea came back to me to plant a church in Philadelphia somewhere and it just felt like a calling the Lord placed on my life.”
Harvie and the team at Riverside quickly jumped behind Chripczuk, offering their full support and partnership with him in this call to plant. They sent him to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he completed his master’s degree and formed a relationship with Sojourn Community Church in Louisville.
“The support of Riverside, the teaching I received at Southern and my time serving with Sojourn Community Church all came together to shape the vision for what this new church would look like,” he said.
Returning to the area in the summer of 2010, Chripczuk set to work with his core team to build the foundation for what would become Trinity Church.
“The very first time that Trinity Church got together as a core group, there were six people,” he recalled. “We committed to praying and pursuing the Lord and slowly continued to grow over time.”
By June 2011, Trinity Church was ready to open their doors for weekly services. The fledgling congregation is still growing, bringing in about 60 adults and 20 children each week. Chripczuk and his team are hoping to reach the growing suburban community of Fort Washington through the church.
“Fort Washington is a suburb just outside the city of Philadelphia. It is kind of a combination between a lot of conveniences of the suburbs but still the encroachment of the city,” Chripczuk said. “At Trinity Church, we’re attracting a lot of young families with kids, working professionals and commuters, internationals …. It’s a diverse population to reach.”
But if anyone can reach them, it’s Chripczuk. He was raised in a Ukrainian Baptist church in Philadelphia where his father served as pastor. A native of the area, he recognizes better than anyone how great the need for a strong Gospel presence in the Philadelphia metro area is.
“When you drive down any road in the Philadelphia area, you pass a lot of church buildings, but just because there’s a church building doesn’t mean the Gospel is truly being proclaimed there. That’s one of the things that gives me the greatest joy in serving here: I know people need to hear about Jesus.”
This heart for the lost in the Philadelphia metro area is driving not just the work Chripczuk is doing now at Trinity Church but also his hope to continue to plant and multiply other churches throughout the area.
“Multiplication is the heartbeat of what we are all about,” Chripczuk said. “We want to pass on what we’ve learned and raise up leaders in our church.”
Chripczuk believes there is no better ground for church planting than in Philly. Here, the harvest is truly plentiful and the vision for more churches is strong in the hearts of leaders.
“Philadelphia is fertile ground. There’s tremendous opportunity to lay a solid foundation for church planting so that in years to come many more churches will be planted, many more pastors will be sent out and many more souls saved.”
Philadelphia is just one of 32 cities the North American Mission Board has chosen for specific evangelistic and church planting efforts through Send North America. As a part of Send North America, NAMB is working to involve more Southern Baptist churches directly in church planting in some of the most under-reached and under-served parts of the U.S. and Canada.
Sara Shelton is a writer for the North American Mission Board. For more on Mark Chripczuk and Trinity Church, visit tcphilly.org. For more information or to become involved in Send North America, visit namb.net/mobilize-me.