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August 23, 2014, 9:21 am

Churches launch annual outreach

GREENVILLE, Pa. —This coming Sunday, Upper Perkiomen Community Church (UPCC), in East Greenville, Pa., will be one of countless churches making a grand effort to draw millions of Americans back to worship as part of “Back to Church Sunday.”

A national evangelical initiative, National Back to Church Sunday is a unique day set aside each year on the third Sunday of September for faithful church members to invite and welcome people who do not regularly attend church to rediscover or establish their affiliation.

According to LifeWay Research, a national Christian research/resource organization, “Only two percent of church members invite an un-churched person to church. Ninety-eight percent of churchgoers never extend an invitation in a given year.”

George “Buck” Barnhart said, “[Back to Church Sunday] is an opportunity for people who have left the church [or other houses of worship] to go back to renew the worship they had in the past. A lot of people have lost touch with the church.”

Barnhart, 73, is a member of UPCC, a 2-year-old church making great evangelical impact in the local community. Barnhart sees Back to Church Sunday as a great way to steer people in the community toward a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.

Ashley Bosico, an 11th grade honor student at Souderton High School, said she believes that some of the negative challenges that may prevent teens from attending church are parties, drugs and alcohol.

Bosico, 16, believes UPCC, however, has the right spiritual recipe to attract new members — especially young people — back to church.

“(UPCC is) very friendly,” she explained. “We have a lot of outreach activities, and we really go outside and get into the community and do a lot of just great activities to get to know you, and we’re really focused on God and loving others.”

Bosico and her family were a part of the original small Bible study group that eventually gave birth to UPCC. Bosico leads weekly Bible studies for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at her school. Bosico aspires later to attend Lancaster Bible College, to study to become a middle school teacher.

The Web site Backtochurch.com states that, “(Most people) who drop out of church haven’t lost their faith in God, they simply fell out of the habit of churchgoing. Some moved or had a change in life circumstances, or they had a falling out with their former church and simply drifted away. Most often, life became too busy.”

Mark and Karen Weigner know a little bit about being busy: They’ve been preparing all summer for their Sept. 15th visit to Korea to finalize the official adoption of a little girl. They have opted to adopt because one of their two biological children is a carrier of cystic fibrosis, an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system.

They have two other adopted girls from Korea.

“There are so many people in our community that are hurting that have nowhere to turn, and we as a church wanted to be that center of town where people can come,” said Mark, 38. “We can help them and encourage them, and show the love of Christ to people who are struggling…because that’s why Jesus came. He came to love those who are lost.”

“[Our] goal is to be ‘Jesus with skin on to people that come into your life’, and that is what’s embraced here at [UPCC]. We can be Jesus with skin on,” said Karen, 37, recalling words of wisdom a ministry leader shared with her during a 2010 trip in Bangkok, Thailand.

John Buckley, senior pastor of UPCC, said he was in awe that families from Georgia, and other areas of Pennsylvania like Scranton, Oil City and the Poconos, were drawn to join the membership at his growing church.

“It is a humbling thing to be a part of this [ministry],” said Buckley. “Everyday, every Sunday when I get in front of [the congregation], and I see who’s there, it’s like ‘Wow, God. Thank you for the opportunity.’”

While serving as a minister at a church in the neighboring town of Sellersville, a half-hour away from East Greenville, Buckley immediately recognized the large commuter membership trekking in from East Greenville.

“We felt the need to kind of get local churches planted in local communities that can reach the local population,” said Buckley. “We are a very relationally driven church…We have over 90 percent of our [church members] that serve in some capacity.”

This year, Backtochurch.com has a goal to have at least 10,000 churches conducting creative evangelical outreach, like UPCC, to invite people back to church.

“Our goal is to reignite the power of the personal invitation,” Buckley added.

Buckley and his wife Sandy extend an open invitation to visitors to attend UPCC Sunday worship service at 9:30 a.m. The church is located at 258 Main Street, East Greenville, PA 18041. For more information about UPCC, call 267-424-2066.