Greater Exodus Baptist Church is a ministry that provides a holistic approach to serving its congregation and the greater Philadelphia community. Under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Herbert Lusk, II the church has made incredible spiritual, social and economic impact and uplift in the lives of many thousands of people locally, nationally and internationally.
“Our church is very, very holistic in its approach to ministry, and our philosophy is that Jesus did all things well. He healed, he fed, he clothed people, he set people free, the list goes on. And so, we believe in order to be a holistic church, we have to do the same thing in our community,” said Lusk. His ministry consists of multi-million-dollar enterprises that include a charter school, a welfare-to-work program, security team, banquet facility, daycare facility, a college annex on site, credit union, abroad missions services in Africa and major real estate holdings.
His community development organization People for People, Inc. is the engine that fuels his multifaceted multi-layered ministries and outreach. Lusk created People for People, Inc. in 1991; since its inception, this nonprofit entity has delivered impactful life-changing socioeconomic and education services to its church members and the larger community.
“We’ve started multiple programs, different types of programs, many of them are social in their context, others are Biblically centered. But the fact of the matter is, from welfare to work, we’ve actually trained over 15,000 welfare recipients in the last 20 years. We’re very proud of that. We’re training right now about 700 per year,” moving people off the welfare rolls and into the job market as taxpaying, productive citizens,” Lusk said.
Lusk is arguably one of the most politically savvy pastors in Philadelphia. His bipartisan association and relationship with U.S. presidents, congressmen, senators, governors, mayors and others has given him favor in the often turbulent and caustic political environment. In 2001, President George W. Bush visited Greater Exodus as part of a promotion for his national faith-based initiatives.
“We give people a second chance. Our philosophy is, ‘We change lives.’ We have a prison re-entry grant from the federal government. As a matter of fact, we have four different types of them. We’re working with young men that come out of prison to curb the recidivism that takes place in our community. We’re very proud of that as well,” said Lusk.
Education is a priority for Lusk. Of all his ministry and community enterprises, he is most proud of his charter school that serves approximately 600 students in kindergarten through grade. “Most of our kids are right at poverty or a little above poverty, and we’ve provided for them some very, very unique things,” he explained.
Lusk, in partnership with the Vetri Foundation, provides his school kids with a unique school lunch program that uses fresh, healthy food, family-style dining, and other principles to improve the lives of children. According to the Vetri Foundation website, its “Eatiquette” school lunch initiative “aims to transform a child's lunch from the traditional cafeteria assembly line to an environment where children gather around round tables, pass plates of food to one another, and experience social interaction and communication. Family-style eating creates an interactive environment where kids don't just eat lunch, they dine. Teachers and adult volunteers model for students how to set a table, how to work together as a team, how to try new foods. Children learn to serve each other, to respect those who prepared their food, and to appreciate how healthy food can make you feel.”
Lusk was called to pastor Greater Exodus in 1982. He inherited a church riddled with physical dilapidation, anemic membership, and flirting with bankruptcy and financial ruin. Slowly, steadily, strategically and faithfully, he has unfurled a spiritual vision and action plan for Greater Exodus and the North Philadelphia community. He has grown the congregation from 27 active members to over 1,500, and between 1982 and 1989 the church recovered from near bankruptcy, paid all of its outstanding debts, repaired all its structural damage, made infrastructure improvements totaling more than $1 million, and has helped transformed a forsaken neighborhood into an economic model for the North Philadelphia corridor. Lusk, an ex-NFL running back who spent three seasons with the Eagles in the 1970s, has accomplished great and marvelous things for his congregation and the greater Philadelphia community.
One of his current big visionary projects is a partnership with Project H.O.M.E., They are building a 55-unit oone-bedroom apartment complex with for people who were previously homeless, are now gainfully employed, but tcan’t find a place to stay.
The $17 million housing complex is being built at the intersection of Fairmount and Ridge avenues in North Philadelphia, “All the money has been raised, and by November of this year, hopefully, people will be in their apartments,” Lusk said.
Lusk is a man who values marriage and family. He highly esteems his wife Vickey and their three children: Danuelle, Laiah and Herbert H. Lusk III.
Frank Robinson, director of development for People for People, Inc., is an integral part of Lusk’s leadership team, “I’ve been affiliated with the ministry for nine years now. I am director of development, I have been in charge of all the grant writing, all the event planning, all the property development, all the community relations, and special projects.”
A former banker and business owner, Robinson has an impressive pedigree. He is an associate minister at Greater Exodus. He graduated from North Carolina A&T with a bachelor’s degree in political science, graduated from Eastern University with an MBA in economic development, “and I’m currently finishing a theology degree at Westminster Theological Seminary.”
“This place has done a great job of connecting faith with works...We help people as we are called by our faith to do. That is, not just preaching the Gospel to them, but providing them with services, providing them with the things they need,” Robinson said.
“I’ve been at Greater Exodus for the past 13 years. Five of those years, I served as the business manager for the charter school,” said the Rev. Sydney Flores. In the past seven years, Flores has served as an assistant to Lusk. He leads the marriage ministry, premarital counseling, and general counseling serving Greater Exodus congregants. He also previously served as the youth ministry leader.
“I come alongside Pastor Lusk and help to put legs to his vision,” said Flores. He said Lusk is “pregnant with spiritual vision.
Cassanda “Mickey” Goodson has been a member for about 12 years, and she is one of many ministry supporters and admires of Pastor Lusk. A photography buff, above her office desk hangs a favorite photo she shot of Lusk during a ministry event at the prestigious Kimmel Center in center city.
When asked what she loves most about Lusk’s ministry, Goodson said, “His love. His genuine love. I can’t say no more than that. (Pastor Lusk) has seen me through two trials of breast cancer. He’s prayed me through it; he’s gotten me through it. He uplifted my spirits.”