by Ryan Fiore (Staff Writer and Reporter)
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa.- What started out as a home Bible study of about six people in Lee and Linda Kricher’s home in 1976 overtime led to more than fifty people and the sense that it was more than just a Bible study; it was a church.
The legacy for Amplify Church all started with two college students, Lee and Linda Kricher. “When my wife and I committed our lives to Christ as college students at IUP, something inside of us said, ‘Our lives have been so positively changed as a result. We’d loved to be a part of that story for other people,’” said Senior Associate and Lead Pastor of the Amplify Church Pittsburgh East campus, Lee Kricher. “We were invited to start this home Bible study. We would start by singing some worship songs with one guitar and then do a Bible study and that was it. We didn’t expect it to become more than a Bible study.”
When the realization was made that they were essentially a church, they started to meet at Plum Creek Hall in the early 1980s, growing to about 300 people. The hall is located across the street from the church’s Pittsburgh East campus in Plum Borough.
Nearly ten years after, the land now known as “Amplify Church Pittsburgh East” was bought and a church was formed. Kricher made the decision to leave the church and go into Human Resources at Dei in Pittsburgh, stating that “there were subsequent pastors and there continued to be an emphasis of lives being changed by Christ.”
However, nearly a decade and a half later, the church attendance started to go into decline. With an average attendee age of 50 years old and the average community age being 35 years old, the church knew they were in need of some changes. So that’s what they did: made some changes.
Kricher made his return to the church, known as Pittsburgh East Community Church at the time, in 2003 and the church was able to grow and reach people of all generations. “We kept getting questions and even visits from other pastors and other church members who were saying, ‘Our church is facing some similar issues. How did you turn things around?’” With all the visits and questions Kricher received, he made the decision to write the 2016 book titled, “For a New Generation”, on how the church was able to make a comeback. “It’s to tell the story of what we did and how the church turned around from being a declining, aging church to a healthy, multigenerational church. We’ve since added two other campuses that meet on the weekends.”
“One is on Smallman Street in the Strip District and one is in Indiana, Pa. Our attendance between all three is somewhere in the vicinity of 1600-1800 people. It’s not the biggest church in the city, but we’re healthy again and that’s a really good thing,” said Kricher. He added that the church’s children and youth ministry is one of their greatest strengths. He also added that when they expanded their ministries and created two other campuses, they made the decision to change the church’s name from Pittsburgh East Community Church to Amplify Church.
September 11, 2016 brought celebration and fun to Amplify Church, where the mission is “to lead as many people as possible into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ,” as that was the day they decided to celebrate the church’s 40th anniversary. A special church service was provided about the history of how the church started, followed by a party in the parking lot. The party consisted of fun carnival games, such as spin art and ring toss, and inflatable moon bounces and an inflatable skee-ball machine. Hamburgers and hotdogs were provided, as well as popcorn and snow cones.
One of the popular activities enjoyed by children was the balloon artists. “The event was a huge success,” said the volunteer coordinator of the Pittsburgh East campus, Terry Bachner. “There were between 800-900 people who attended. Everything ran smoothly and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. This celebration needed to occur to remind us of how the faithfulness of two people have changed and impacted many lives and to remind all of us that God will work through all of us as we trust in Him.”
And so Lee and Linda Kricher’s legacy for Amplify Church will live on. “I think that we’re in the middle of a miracle,” said Senior Associate Pastor of the Pittsburgh East Campus and Lead Pastor of the City Campus, Jason Howard, in a video to promote the church’s 40th anniversary. “God is looking for a group of people who will change the world. God is not looking for a group of people who are the most qualified or able. He is not looking for the people who are the prettiest or the most talented. He is not looking for the people who have their act together the most and He is not looking for the people who have the most resource. God is about to break open the dam and He’s going to do something phenomenal in this city.”