I have returned home from a weekend trip to New Jersey to speak at Faith Bible Church in Vineland, in south Jersey about 45 minutes east of Philadelphia. I was pleased to discover that there are many Word of Life connections at the church. Pastor Paul Barreca and his wife Kim met at Word of Life Bible Institute and many of the folks from the church attend Word of Life every summer. About two years ago George Theis introduced me to Paul. That led to a friendship and ultimately to the invitation to speak at the church. Here is my overriding impression. Besides being warm and friendly and very outgoing, this church has the strongest commitment to discipleship that I’ve ever seen. Perhaps I should say they not only talk about discipleship (every church talks about it), they actually do it. The pastor showed me a discipleship manual in two parts that he wrote. It covers the essentials of the Christian life plus the major doctrines of salvation. Everyone they lead to Christ goes through the discipleship program, either with a mentor or in a small group. As a result, the church members are so well grounded in the Word that other churches tell their people, “If you want to learn the Bible, go to Faith Bible Church.” Today the church averages around 400 (large for south Jersey), but I told the folks on Sunday night that they should start praying, “Lord, do things we’re not used to” because I think they can become a regional church with a Discipleship Training Center serving several thousand people with multiple congregations worshiping in multiple languages in various locations, all tied together by their unswerving commitment to evangelism, discipleship and sound Bible doctrine, producing a church planting movement among the nations of the world.
I’m going to keep my eye on the church because in God’s providence, they seem uniquely suited to take a major step forward in terms of their regional impact.