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Pa. church discovers resources, other benefits of SBC connection

PHILADELPHIA (BP)–“Until I became part of the Southern Baptist Convention, I was reinventing the wheel,” said Brian D. King Sr., pastor of Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia. “Now I just have to make a phone call. It’s great!”

Ezekiel Baptist is stop No. 16 on Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch’s national bus tour to kick off “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” — setting forth a goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” by SBC churches in one year.

The church where about 350 attend Sunday morning services was started in 1962 by a deacon and his wife who wanted a Christ-centered church. King was called as senior pastor in 1993 after six years as associate pastor. It is his first pastorate.

Before a friend introduced him to the SBC two years ago, King had led Ezekiel to relocate. He also was trying to develop his own Sunday School and Discipleship Training materials. But a trip to Nashville sold him on Southern Baptists because of the materials from LifeWay Christian Resources and because of their assistance in making his new church building more efficient.

“We’d been praying and saving for a new building,” King said. “One day when I was visiting a member who’d been absent, I saw a vacant lot — two acres in southwest Philadelphia — that we were able to buy for $60,000.”

The new facility seats 500. Because of cost overruns — a plumber tried to get by with PVC pipe when city codes required cast iron, and the site engineer neglected to notice the foundation of the previous building — the building is only two-thirds finished. A multipurpose room and the administrative wing are awaiting volunteer mission teams, should God supply them.

“When I was able to do a tour of LifeWay, the Lord brought everything together for me,” King said. “The timing was perfect. I knew with us being a church that was going through transition and me not really understanding how to prepare the church for the move, I needed some resources.

“I got all the resources I needed through the SBC,” he said. “And I needed everything. They helped me review floor plans and help with changes that made the building more functional. We did not have a mission statement and they helped with that. I learned about the Black Leadership Conference and attended that.”

At the Black Leadership Conference, he sat in on classes to learn how to reorganize the Sunday School structure at his church. Since then he’s taken key leaders each year to Black Leadership Week to help them learn.

“Our relocation was really a church plant,” King said. “There is only one other church in this community, and we’re the only evangelical church.”

Ezekiel moved to the new neighborhood with 200 members.

“Since the move we’ve had more than 200 join, and probably close to 50 percent were baptisms,” the pastor said.

One of those baptisms was a former Islamic imam who was led to the Lord by the woman he was dating. That was in May. In August, King performed the couple’s wedding ceremony.

“We’re trying to reach out to the community,” King said. “The Lord has impressed on my heart that the church needs to be the community hub, that our neighbors see us as an integral part of their community.”

Because it loans its building and sometimes sound equipment for community outdoor functions, Ezekiel is becoming known to local groups and political leaders, the pastor said. A Vacation Bible school this summer drew in 150 youngsters, who were joined by their parents for a Friday cookout.

“We haven’t really been strong in outdoor evangelism yet, but we’ve had prayerwalks and sometimes we put flyers in doors to let people know about events at the church,” King said. “We have a tremendous opportunity for after school programs. That’s one of the goals for our multipurpose building when we get it finished.”

Literacy classes also are limping along because there isn’t enough space, the pastor said. He talked about several other ways the church could be ministering in its community.

“When we did our first prayerwalk, I remember asking the Lord for what He sees that’s going on that we can’t see,” King said. “Some of the more overwhelming responses: elderly shut-ins. We’d like to reach out to them. And we want to be a church that strengthens families, that is family-friendly — and that includes the number of single parents in the neighborhood.”

This outward focus is a big change for the church, the pastor said. Southern Baptists have taught him to be Kingdom-focused.

“When we became Southern Baptist, we didn’t even have a missionary budget, and now it’s up to $10,000,” King said. “We’re supporting a missionary in Spain, and a church here in Philadelphia. Our goal is to do this and to increase our giving to the Cooperative Program to 10 percent.”