Appropriately located in the “city of brotherly love,” Philadelphia Bible Church International is staying true to its name by ministering to brothers and sisters in Christ from all nations, races and ethnicities — right in their backyard.
“We named it Philadelphia Bible Church International because we’re situated in Philadelphia and then, ‘Bible,’ because that’s the element [and] the source of our faith and practice,” said lead pastor Roger Manao, who planted the church in northeast Philly in 2002, his fourth church plant.
“[It’s] ‘International’ because we gave it a ministry for internationals and [because of] the composition of the membership. Of course, we have a majority of Filipinos, a few Caucasians, Chinese, [and] we have African Americans as well, [all] a part of the ministry — so it becomes international.”
Originally from the Philippines, Manao has always had a heart for his fellow Filipinos and other internationals to know Christ.
He came to the U.S. in 1991 and, not long after, started planting churches in the greater Philadelphia area.
“I thought I was just focusing on the Filipinos, but that’s what all the pastors have to understand,” Manao said. “All of the Asian pastors, or other kinds of leaders, you are an ethnic leader [and] you have to be open to the Lord’s calling. When you accept that calling, you really have to understand that this becomes general.
“You will never design your ministry just to cater to your own race. … You will open the door to anyone. Thank God, because for the past 20 years the Lord has really led us to reach out to internationals.”
Also, “if you are an ethnic pastor, [one thing you have to realize is] the next generation is no longer speaking your language or your dialect. They have already been introduced to the American culture,” he said. “Really, the moment you begin your ministry in the U.S., not only will you be thinking of other nationalities, but about the second [and] third generations.”
Throughout the years at PBCI, the church has grown and cultivated various ministry opportunities.
“We have musical events during Easter season and Christmas season, we have (summer) camp, [and] we have youth and children’s ministry. Our young people are engaged in reaching students as well at the universities and they conduct Bible studies,” Manao said.
The annual Christmas Cantata is a community favorite, he added. After the cantata, the church provided a meal for its guests, a tradition in the Filipino culture.
“Our kind of culture always provides food, that’s how we do it,” Manao said. “All of the families will bring food and we will feed — even [having] 200–300 people attend the cantata. They will be blessed [by] the messages of the songs and after that we provide free dinner. … This is us, this is part of our culture.”
Listen to the interview here.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was written by Macala Mays and was originally published by the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey.