Love Christ, love each other, love our city. It is the motto pastor Jeff Boettcher of Christ Church South Philadelphia holds his congregation to.
Boettcher’s goal is to get the community excited about the teachings of Jesus Christ. Boettcher has been preaching on 2nd and Moore streets for three years since relocating from New Jersey. Being in a diverse neighborhood, Boettcher believes that love amongst one another in the city can help unite people. The church’s mission is to make mature and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ. Boettcher is dedicated to making a positive and immediate impact on South Philadelphia in hopes that it spreads.
When did you know that you wanted to be a pastor?
I knew I wanted to be a pastor during my senior year of high school. That summer I had come face to face with the reality, that so many of us try to run from, that I was not a good person, but actually a very selfish sinner. … In Christianity, I found something unlike any other worldview or religion. Everything else only offered good advice on how to be a good person, but that did nothing to resolve my understanding of my own sinfulness. Only in Christianity, which is not about following good advice, but believing the good news of Jesus, was my life truly transformed.
How significant is it to share the word of God in an area like this one?
It is incredibly significant because not many people are doing it. There are other churches in South Philadelphia, but most pull much of their congregation from outside the city and aren’t really having an impact on their neighborhood. I have purposefully built Christ Church into the fabric of our community and 90 percent of people who are part of the church live within a one-mile radius of our church building. I think this is incredibly important if we are truly going to have an influence on Philadelphia, because I believe that the way to do that is to seek to reach one neighborhood at a time.
Are there any challenges you face with spreading the word in the inner city?
Absolutely. Not many people are looking for a relationship with Jesus, not to mention, looking for a church where they can learn how to grow in their relationship with Jesus. Thus, there is no ready made market that the church can pull from. As a result, the growth of the church is slow, which puts a strain on the church financially and limits what we can do in the community. Right now, our vision is bigger than our volunteer base and so we are just continuing to try to take one step at a time and grow into what we believe God wants us to be as influencers here in the city.
Do you feel pressure to make an immediate impact on the community?
I want to make an immediate impact and I am very grateful for the favor we have had here in our community. I was asked to join the board of directors for my neighborhood association, and to speak regularly at community events and have enjoyed a great network of relationships throughout South Philadelphia. However, at the end of the day, what happens with Christ Church South Philadelphia is in God’s hands. I view myself really as just a manager of what is His. I want Christ Church to go all out in loving our community and seeking to be a positive influence here. But it is God who will ultimately determine the level of influence we have. So no, I don’t feel any pressure, because that’s not my responsibility.
What do you see for the future of your church and it’s community?
I believe that we will continue to grow one transformed life at a time as people hear about Jesus and learn how to apply what he has done to their lives. The unique message of the love of God positions Christians to be a the forefront of loving their community. In being a follower of Jesus, we already have all that we need in Jesus and so we are free to truly give of ourselves in service to others. As we continue to grow one life at a time, I hope that we will be able to start many other neighborhood churches throughout Philadelphia, where more and more people can hear about the good news of Jesus has for their lives, their families lives and their family’s legacy transformed. In my lifetime, I want to see another percentage of Philadelphians knowing, loving and serving Jesus and therefore committed to the good of the city. Our vision is that we would love Christ, love one another and love our city. I believe that vision is God’s vision and so I am excited to see what He is going to do.
-Text and images by Rasheed Reynolds and Brandon Toro.