Ministry in the City

December 09, 2010

Alumnus Rev. Geoff Bradford, PCA pastor in the city of Philadelphia, was recently invited to speak at a Westminster chapel service.  Rev. Bradford is the pastor of Liberti Fairmount Church, in Philadelphia, PA.  Liberti was planted in 2002 as a ministry to the city under alumni Rev. Bradford and Rev. Steve Huber; it became an independent church in 2005 and has since planted two sister churches in Philadelphia.

Listen to Geoff's chapel message - click here.

How did your time at Westminster grow you in the knowledge and the Grace of Christ?
My years at Westminster were an incredibly rich season in discovering the riches of Scripture (depth) and learning the broader utility of Scripture (breadth).  So, the Old Testament came alive under the lens of Biblical Theology.  I had been functionally working with half a Bible!  My hermeneutics courses, my language studies, theology classes awoke within me a deep love of God's word.  Coupled with that were two direct applications of God's word for the extension of the church: Westminster's focus on the urban context and the counseling world.  Westminster emphasized the urban calling of the church, one that gave me a vision and allowed me to hear a calling that was foreign to me--the city.  And the Counseling classes opened a utility of Scripture that I had never known: an application to the real issues of the human heart.

Was there a particular person that was influential in your decision to go to the ministry in Philadelphia?
Well, I actually had never heard of Westminster before.  I was unhappily taking classes at Princeton Seminary and became friends with Winston Smith, who was counseling at the time out of my church in Princeton.  Winston was my connection to Westminster.  And as far as influential in my decision to go to ministry in Philadelphia?  Harvie Conn.  I had Harvie for only a few classes at the end of his tenure at WTS.  But his vision for the church on mission in the city was infectious.

How did Westminster prepare you for your ministry in the city of Philadelphia?
It gave me tools for solid thinking about contextualization.  The danger inherent in any church life is always one of two ways that we can "mess up" the gospel: either in over-contextualizing it (syncretism) or under-contextualizing it (sectarianism).   Post-Christian America, and particularly post-Christian American cities present unique challenges every day for how the church speaks and lives the gospel before a watching world.  Westminster gave me tools to learn to think Christianly with a distinct Christian world-view that seeks to constantly ask self-reflective questions and to realize that the gospel has to be refreshed constantly in my own life in order to give it away.

What is your hope for Liberti Church?
1) To keep planting churches so that the city is transformed and Jesus is the most famous hero in this place.
2) To ruin people with the gospel so that they speak the gospel fluently, they have higher expectations of Jesus' church, they give away more, they pray with more expectation, they live in light of God's promises, and they live as citizens of the Kingdom of God and not the kingdom of self. 

How can the Westminster community pray for you, your ministry, and the city of Philadelphia?
Pray for God to continue to send kingdom workers and to keep our eyes open to the harvest.