Founded in 1966, Christian Stronghold Baptist Church has blossomed into a major spiritual center for Christian education, Christian counseling, Christian evangelism, family solidarity and solid Biblical preaching. Its founder and senior pastor, the Rev. Willie Richardson, has been called one of America’s top ministry educators and Christian counselors. He is a preacher with incredible integrity, and he was recently celebrated nationally as a “living legend” by his clergy peers.
Tawanda Barnes, 46, and David E. Barnes have been married for 26 years. They have three daughters: Elyse, 25, Jennifer, 22, and Alivia, 10. Marriage is sacred to Tawanda Barnes because both she and her husband grew up without their fathers.
“My husband and I both come from broken homes; neither one of us was raised by two parents,” she said. “We didn’t have our fathers’ impact. And so, through Pastor Richardson, he’s shown my husband how to be a leader, a father, and how to be a man of God and how to bring that into the family.”
She loves Richardson’s ministry because of his emphasis on family values and marriage.
“Without Jesus, we can’t do anything,” she said. “In a marriage it takes three, the husband, the wife and the Holy Spirit. Dr. Richardson has shown us all things are possible with Christ. He has been married for 50 years!”
David E. Barnes, 49, has been a member at Stronghold for approximately 17 years. “I am the director of the New Members Ministry.”
Reflecting on how he has spiritually grown as a husband and ministry leader at Christian Stronghold, he said, “The things that I’ve learned at Christian Stronghold pertain to how to treat my wife, such as honoring her, providing for her, encouraging her — these are some of the things that I have learned. And she’s been taught what to expect from me.”
“I’ve been a member since 1986,” said Rita Scarborough. The youth coordinator for special events,” she handles all the organization and coordination of youth events for the church. Scarborough, 46, was introduced to Christian Stronghold when she was invited by a friend to attend a drama ministry performance.
Of her and her husband Alphonso’s experience at Christian Stronghold, she said, “It’s an awesome ministry … It’s transformed our thinking on the Word of God, on how to apply the Scriptures in our own lives, and how to affect other people, as far as evangelism — salvation is for everyone.”
The Scarboroughs are the proud parents of two young girls, and the entire family fellowships at Christian Stronghold. They enjoy sharing the Word of God to impact the lives of others. The couple spent nine years in Egypt serving as missionaries.
Annette Hampton, Richardson’s sister, has been a member of Christian Stronghold for 46 years. She is the executive director of the Alpha Community Development Corp. “It’s our community outreach arm to the community,” she said.
Growing up having Richardson for a brother, Hampton said, “was a wonderful thing, he’s a very tender-hearted person.”
According to Hampton, “The church has always had an open door policy to serve the community.” In her role, she has oversight of the following outreach services:
- Family and Healthy Marriage
- Prison Re-entry
- Job Creation and Retention
- Community Economic Development
- Youth Services
Christian Stronghold has a strong youth ministry and youths in the community receive the same services that youth members of the church receive.
“I’m the chairperson of the Deacons Ministry at Christian Stronghold,” said Craig Browne, a retired Philadelphia and New Jersey educator. Browne has been a member of Christian Stronghold since 1977, and he has served as chair of the deacons for 20 years. For him, “Bringing others to the knowledge of Christ” is one of the greatest impacts he feels the church has had on families and the community.
Christian Stronghold is renowned for its focus on families. “Seeing families grow … Our pastor is very big on spiritually impacting families; as we impact families, we impact blocks, from there, certain sections of the city,” said Browne.
The Cell Church at Christian Stronghold has had “tremendous impact, for not only our church, but outside,” he said.
Cell Church is a concept that breaks a large congregation into many small groups for fellowship, Bible lessons, etc. It’s a great way for an extra-large congregation to maintain personal close connection with its congregants.
Also, according to Browne, the church has a successful Town Watch group, and hosts frequent community meetings with city officials and legislators for area residents.
Pastor Richardson is an accomplished author. He’s abounding with wisdom and is quite a visionary. A conversation with him is rich with valuable information and wise counsel. He is a very faith-driven man. He has an incredible testimony about overcoming prostate cancer and offers very insightful medical options for men afflicted with the disease.
Chatting about his ministry’s success, Richardson always deflects credit to God. He has a passion for loving the people in his community.
“We go to people, rather than waiting for people to come to church,” he said. “We’ve always been active in the neighborhood and the community, in reaching out to bring opportunities to people to people that don’t even belong to our church.”
In 2010, Richardson received the “Living Legend Award” during the E.K. Bailey International Expository Preaching Conference, in Dallas, Texas, one of the most popular national conferences for Baptist preachers in the country.
He is not conventional in thought.
“We’ve always done things outside the box,” he said, “and we’re still doing things outside the box.”
He’s been invited to the White House by several presidents to take part in various initiatives and events.
“And now I’m encouraging young folks in our church … to do things that nobody else is doing. (Christian Stronghold) has become a pacesetter for other churches, locally, and nationally,” he said. “I always believe that the Bible has some kind of principle to teach on every kind of problem.”