From its humble inception in 1952, the Bible Way Baptist Church pastoral leadership and congregation have been making great impact for the kingdom of God in the city of Philadelphia and beyond. On Sunday, March 25, Bible Way will culminate its month-long 60th anniversary celebration with special guest the Rev. Dr. William Moore, senior pastor of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, preaching at both 7:30 and 10:30 morning services.
McKinley Gaither, the church founder, accepted the call to ministry and formed a missionary Baptist church in his West Philadelphia home; it was later officially named Bible Way Baptist Church. The church has an incredible history of inspiring its congregants to make an impact in the community.
“Bible Way is a strong church; it was a strong church when I came in,” mused the Rev. Dr. Damone B. Jones, Sr. Jones speaks very reverently about Gaither’s and Mrs. Scotia Gaither’s leadership and legacy. According to Jones, the Gaithers, “…actually built the church on the idea of everyone being discipled, that’s our DNA, and that’s what I push here today…it’s the hallmark of our church.”
Jones is the second and current senior pastor of Bible Way. He succeeded Gaither’s 42 years of service in 1993, and he’s been shepherding Bible Way ever since. Jones is one of Philadelphia’s premier young pastors; he’s a Bible scholar, he’s a strong advocate for education and family solidarity, and he’s been a committed leader in mentoring at-risk males.
Among Jones’ long list of servant leadership roles in ministry, he has been a member of the district attorney’s Youth Aid Panel, president of the police clergy program in the 19th Police District and was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter in 2010 to the board of trustees of the Philadelphia Prison System. As a trusted community leader, Jones has assisted and accompanied four homicide fugitives in turning themselves in to the authorities. He is an active member of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention and the Black Clergy of Philadelphia.
As moderator of the Pennsylvania Eastern Keystone Baptist Association, he and his leadership team provide services “To produce healthy churches in an unhealthy time,” says Jones.
Alice Ann Anderson, one of the few living and long-standing members from the church’s early years, now resides in Florida. But she recently returned to Philadelphia to be honored for her decades of service during a gala anniversary luncheon celebration the church held at the Crown Plaza Hotel–City Line Avenue, Saturday, March 17. “I’ve been a member for 59 years, and I was director of music for 57 years,” Anderson proudly proclaimed.
“If you’re looking for a church home, pray about Bible Way, there’s no better place to be, then to be at the Bible Way Baptist Church,” boasts a beaming Audrey Christine Reed, a very active ministry leader and member for 47 years. Among her extensive ministry involvements, she currently teaches Sunday school to high school upper classmen. She says it’s sometimes a challenge, but she loves it. She quips, “I keep them in line!”
Bible Way is a diverse congregation, although its 1,000+ members are predominantly African-American. Included among its members are white collegians, young professionals, seniors, lawyers, blue-collar professionals, public school principals and teachers, homemakers, college administrators, policemen, ex-offenders and other cross-sections of Americana.
Garland Thompson, now in his early 30s, is president of the National Black MBA Association–Philadelphia Chapter. He was raised at the church, “I’ve been at Bible Way all my life, over 30 years.” He recalls Gaither as being a stern but very loving pastor, and he admires him for his dynamic preaching and teaching ministry style.
West Philadelphia native Khalil Rogers, 32, another person who grew up in Bible Way, serves as one of the four associate ministers. “Pastor Jones has been a blessing in my life...I don’t know what I’d do without (Bible Way), God bless Pastor Gaither, God bless Pastor Jones!” Rogers breaks into a sly smile as he recalls a time in his early years being disciplined by Mrs. Gaither, “If it wasn’t for Bible Way, put it this way, I’d be a statistic.”
The chairman of the deacons is Jerome Bell, a man who possesses a very spirited, friendly and charismatic personality. “We have a great leader in our pastor…he has a vision, he has a commitment to grow the congregants up in the nurture and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Bell’s been a member for about 12 years.
Robin Jackson, assistant principal at West Philadelphia High School, is the older sister of Pastor Jones. Remarking about her brother’s success, she offered, “I’m proud of him, I’m proud to be in the mix, I’m proud of the church!”
Jones’ wife Melissa oversees the Counseling Ministry. She says, “It’s very important for a church to have a counseling ministry,” to help members unpack some of the emotional, personal and spiritual challenges they need help overcoming.” She likens the church to a hospital, a safe haven for wounded people to come for their healing.
Aleah is the oldest child in the Jones clan, followed by her siblings Damone, Jr., Alyssa and Dominic. Aleah shared this about her father: “It’s just amazing how much influence his has, not only at Bible Way, but in the community also…It brings me closer to God to see how great my parents are, and to see that they are really working hard to strive for the kingdom.” What Aleah admires most about her parents’ ministry is the aspect of, “bringing people to Christ,” and witnessing the transformation of people and their lives becoming better.
Bible Way is actively involved in missions work locally and abroad, including clothing donations, weekly serving food to the needy and seniors, providing monetary relief for local fire victims and disaster victims in Haiti, awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships for college-bound students, arranging safe surrender of wanted criminals, giving special awards and recognition to community leaders and politicians, conducting an active prison ministry and implementing numerous other impactful ministry outreach initiatives.
Bible Way Baptist Church is located at 1323 N. 52nd St. Bible study is held on Wednesdays at 7 p.m./prayer meeting at 8 p.m. Sunday services are at 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., with Sunday school classes at 9:30 a.m.