Changing Our Communities


“Together we can make our communities better” – Adventist Northwest Growing Young Cohort. Pastor Marquis Johns, of the North Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church, shares a powerful story of life change involving a young man named Lionel. Through God’s leading local churches can become safe, warm, and welcoming environments for everyone to feel loved and empowered to create change for God’s glory. Change is possible.

Discussion Questions

  • The research for Growing Young discovered that “like family” was the most common phrase used to describe these thriving churches. To what extent does our church feel “like family”?
  • What are some of the obstacles to warmth (defined as authenticity, hospitality, caring, welcoming, accepting, belonging) in our congregation?
  • What is it like for newcomers to visit our church? How easy is it for newer people to access smaller gatherings in which they might find relational connection?
  • Where do you see intergenerational relationships thriving in our church? What could foster more—and deeper—connection across generations?
  • How could our worship services feel more like “family room” gatherings? Are there other contexts in the life of our church we’d like to warm up?

The Adventist Northwest Growing Young Cohort is a learning journey for cultural change, in order to create thriving churches for all generations, while helping churches grow young by reaching, loving, and empowering youth and young adults more effectively.


Marquis D. Johns is the lead pastor for the North Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church. Prior to receiving God’s call to ministry, he dropped out of school, spent time in jail, and sold drugs. He also became a chart-topping rap artist. But in 2002, through the power of prayer, the Holy Spirit spoke God’s call on Pastor Johns’ life, and he accepted God’s salvation and call to ministry. A native of South Central Los Angeles, California, he has a passion for evangelism and a desire to see synergy across generations. Pastor Johns graduated from Oakwood University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Church Leadership. He is married to Rhonda Billingy. Marquis serves as the #GYA point person for the Columbia Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists which includes the territories of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

*Discussion questions from Growing Young Church Discussion Guide

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