TOWANDA, Pa. (BRN) – Pastor Chuck Fricker, senior pastor of Harvest House Community Fellowship, breaks the mold for ministry.
“I’m not a normal pastor, in that I didn’t go to seminary right after college. I had a whole non-Christian life before this one,” said Fricker.
Fricker did not commit his life to Christ until he was in his 30s, which was a life-change that came about after he took a job as a drummer at a Southern Baptist church in Texas.
“I have to say the Cooperative Program (CP) is probably part of that story in some way, because the church there that I got saved in was a church plant and they needed a drummer,” said Fricker.
“So, they hired me. And showing up to the church, needless to say, I heard the gospel every week. I couldn’t help but hear it and I got saved.”
In June of 2021, Fricker and his family moved from Texas to Towanda, Pennsylvania, to accepted his first role as a senior pastor at Harvest House.
“We moved up here knowing that it was going to be a church revitalization project. The church had about 12 families represented here,” explained Fricker.
Fricker described Harvest House as ‘sort of a church plant’ as the church first started out as First Baptist of Wysox. In the last 30 years, the church has moved and then just 20 years ago the church purchased the building they are in today.
During the late 2000’s, the gas fracking industry took off in Northern Bradford County, which brought many new families up from the south and many new faces through the doors of Harvest House.
Eventually, the boom slowed down and many left the area. Shortly after, the COVID pandemic hit, further decreasing numbers, and then the church’s pastor retired.
Although it was a challenging season, the church has since witnessed God’s good timing and restorative work.
“Right now, since we moved up here, we have more than tripled the attendance each week, our membership has grown to around 20 families and we’re seeing an average of 30 to 40 folks on a given Sunday – sometimes we have as high as 60,” said Fricker.
In this revitalizing season, the Cooperative Program has played a key part in rebuilding Harvest House.
“I would say that it (the Cooperative Program) is essential for churches like us. For small churches like us, it’s our lifeblood. It’s our crutch that we need to lean on because small ministries like this can’t operate like a bigger church that has a large annual budget,” said Fricker.
He continued: “When it comes to things like going into the community and doing outreach, I would explain to them (Harvest House members) that the Cooperative Program is absolutely essential because we couldn’t do it on our own.”
Through the Cooperative Program, Harvest House has benefited in two big ways: Having access to necessary resources/materials provided by the Baptist Resource Network (BRN) as well as funds to pursue evangelistic efforts.
“Specifically related to the BRN as a local association, it creates a prepackaged product that is very easy to get people excited about in the church. So, what’s really cool for my context, specifically, is without a staff I’m doing everything kind of solo [and] it’s really great to not have to reinvent the wheel,” said Fricker.
“None of this strategic stuff is novel or innovative. It’s just, here’s what the Bible says to do and we’re going to create really valuable tools that are visually pleasing to people, and it just takes a ton of workload off of the leadership in the local church.”
Secondly, the Cooperative Program has provided Harvest House with essential funds to host and participate in community outreach events.
“Some of the events that we do, would absolutely be impossible had it not been through the support of the Cooperative Program,” said Fricker.
He noted that one of their biggest outreach events was held during the summer at a local festival.
“We were able to set up a huge tent this summer…and we handed out free coffee, free water. We had baked goods [and] we put [out] a little donation can and it was basically, like, you can take a baked good for free, but if you want to donate, it doesn’t go to our church, it goes to that charity. We had kid’s games and we were out there all three days and, man, it was just rich,” said Fricker.
He added that 100% of the festival outreach was funded through an evangelism grant that Harvest House received from the BRN.
As Harvest House continues to grow and proceeds to share the love of Christ to the Towanda community, Fricker remains grateful for the collaborative support he, and Harvest House, receive through the Cooperative Program. He summed up the CP with a military term he learned while serving in the Army, calling the Cooperative Program a “Force Multiplier.”
“We would call the Cooperative Program, a Force Multiplier – a single person has the ability to do X amount of impact, but with certain tools given to that person, now they can do X squared or X to the third,” explained Fricker.
“So, a small church like us that would only be able to meet the needs of X amount of people in the community, because of the Cooperative Program, now [can] put an exponent above it.”
Hear more about how your cooperative giving is impacting Harvest House Community Fellowship this month’s episode of Celebrating Cooperative Missions: