Reaching the World, Near and Far

A soup kitchen made all the difference.

That is where Terry Donohue and his wife Mary Jo were volunteering when they first learned about First Baptist Church of Perkasie in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia. At the time, the couple belonged to another church in town. 

“The problem was that we couldn’t really get connected, and we wanted to serve,” Terry says.

When the Donohues began volunteering at the soup kitchen, a couple of other volunteers invited them to their home church, which was First Baptist Church of Perkasie.

“The first time we went, the pastor at the time greeted us like he had known us forever,” Terry says, noting he also enjoyed hearing Chris Heller preach, who was the assistant pastor at the time. “He gave you a great application to take home with you, and we really liked that.” 

Three months after their first visit to First Baptist, the Donohues joined the congregation. Not long afterward, the church purchased a three-story former restaurant and banquet hall two miles from the church to house its RE:VIVALS outreach ministry. Terry says he jumped in to help wherever he could. 

“I am a retired carpenter, so I got involved with all the building projects that were going on,” he says.

Today, RE:VIVALS operates a soup kitchen where Terry is one of the managers. The kitchen continued serving meals on Tuesday nights throughout the pandemic.

“We came up with a system for curbside meals, and during the height of the virus we were giving out 200 meals each Tuesday,” he says.

RE:VIVALS also offers pastoral and professional counseling services, peer discipleship and support groups. Heller, who today is First Baptist Church’s lead teaching pastor, says RE:VIVALS is one reason for the church’s growth. 

“It’s become another foyer for our church where we get to meet people on their turf, instead of them coming onto ours,” says Heller.

Another reason for the church’s growth, he says, is its emphasis on Bible teaching.

“We’re preaching the Bible,” he says. “People want to hear truth. That’s a big thing, and we’re preaching the truth on Sunday mornings.”

During 2020, the church began beefing up its online media ministry. People can watch services live and on demand on the church’s website, YouTube, Facebook and using the church’s app.

“We now have thousands of people who watch us online during the week. The only real changes we’re making are in how we’re going to approach online media ministry,” Heller says. “If that many people are watching, we feel we’d better be good stewards of it.”

But through the pandemic, Heller says the inability to plan ahead and having to adapt from week to week taught him a valuable lesson about leadership.

“We would get a news report for our community, and we’d have to adapt to that and trust that God would deliver in the moment and not necessarily ahead of the moment,” Heller says.

“That has really helped our leadership to go, You know what? We don’t have all the answers for what we’ll do three years from now, but we really feel this is what God’s calling us to do this month, and just do it that way.”

Gail Allyn Short
Gail Allyn Short

Gail Allyn Short is freelance writer in Birmingham, Alabama. She leads a nursing home ministry and teaches a Bible study class for new believers at Integrity Bible Church.