For years, there had been an expressed need for Gospel-centered churches that reach out to city-embracing young adults living on the proverbial “border” of Philadelphia’s city-suburban context. Aware of the ratio of people exiting their former church contexts during their college and post-college years, skeptics and new believers were struggling to identify a church with which they could find a true “connection point”, a church that was adept at handling the various questions, doubts, skepticisms, fears, and challenges regarding matters of faith. Donny Cho had just returned to Philadelphia in 2003 after spending 11 years in Boston, Massachusetts, with the hopes of joining a church-planting movement that embraced the growing number of skeptics who were inquiring of the Gospel.
In November 2008, Donny Cho met with Dr. William Krispin at a local Starbucks in Roxborough to share about a potential call to ministry as a church-planter; the Lord had used circumstances, and the growth of paradigm “seeds” planted by his mentors, to compel him to consider entering the city “mission field” directly—with a particular eye and heart toward the “dechurched”.
By September 2009, 17 people gathered regularly to meet and pray with Donny Cho regarding his call to become a church planter in Philadelphia; they affirmed him in his pursuit during this time, and by May 2010, most of the “original 17” were compelled to partner with him along this spiritual journey. By September 2010, those interested in partnering to plant a Gospel-centered church that connected with the career-minded skeptic grew to 24, and by the following year, the team grew to 42. Meanwhile, for Donny Cho, the “external” call met the “internal” call to ministry in 2010, and by the summer season of 2010, a pastoral leadership team was formed. In October 2010, the name Metro Church was adopted.
For the duration of 2011, Donny Cho, the pastoral leadership of the growing church plant, and various members of the Launch Team incubated at Bridge Community Church, a successful church plant in the Cheltenham-area of the city. For close to 1.5 years, this incubation period enabled the Launch Team to mature in a stable manner, as they watched and learned from their mentors.
In early 2012, the Launch Team prayerfully prepared for the “soft” launch of Metro Church on February 19, 2012. The Launch Team, comprised of 42 members, quickly grew to 51 by April. Metro Church also consisted of 6 active, vibrant Community Groups—originally located in Germantown, Warrington, King of Prussia, North Philly-Temple University, and Cherry Hill (NJ). The first conversions began around this time at church; several of the new congregants became believers, professing their faith in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
By Summer 2012, the Launch Team grew to over 60. By this time, Donny Cho was assessed with a rating of “highly recommended” by the Missions to North America (the domestic missions “arm” of the PCA) as a church planter in the North Atlantic Region. Organic partnerships with churches such as Bridge Community Church and Epiphany Fellowship (Camden) developed as well.
What the Launch Team needed was a “home” of their own; up until this point, for about 5 months, the church plant met primarily in the auditorium of the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. For close to 3 years, the Launch Team prayed with their eyes open to the City Avenue and East Falls section of the city. A search team was established in February to determine the likely location within which Metro would grow. In an amazing demonstration of God’s faithfulness, the second floor of a historic building in East Falls was offered to the search team for use as a permanent location for Metro Church; a former headquarters site for the Free Masons, the building was leased in June 2012 (with a 1.5-month advance in order to accommodate repairs), with repairs completed on-site for the church plant to meet regularly by mid-June.
Metro Church officially launched with a team of over 60 people, with six active Community Groups. The official launch date for the church plant was August 26, 2012. The church plant exists with the hope to “renew, re-train, and rebuild” the surrounding areas of the city—through worship, generosity, incarnational ministry, and community, and its hope is to be actively involved in the planting of 15 churches over the next 15 years.
Visit us sometime—we are located at 4200 Ridge Avenue (Philadelphia, 19129). We do not take God’s provision, or our growth, for granted—rather, we are compelled to connect with others, and serve the city with all sensitivity to God’s active work in His people. Our history, our story, is really a small contribution to the overall work of God to redeem His people, and advance His Kingdom, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.