Kevin E. Bynes Sr. attended services at his father’s church in New Brunswick for years, but he never thought he would lead a congregation one day.
“I really had no desire,” he said in a slow cadence inside the Morning Star Church of God in Christ, the Pentecostal church on Birch Avenue that he is seeking to rebuild without using bricks and mortar.
Seated in a pew, he explained his journey to the pulpit and his plans for the church that he was appointed to lead in October. He wants Morning Star to be a place for those without “a church home,” in his words, at a time when he finds that many people sample churches without staying permanently in one anymore.
Mr. Bynes, 61, was born and raised in New Brunswick, the city where his now late father, William, was the pastor of a church. In that time, Mr. Bynes was involved as choir director and other tasks for more than 30 years, but he was not interested in leadership — “something I had been avoiding very much,” he said.
He would become a minister in 2004 — at the same time he still was working at Johnson and Johnson — and later start his own church, also in New Brunswick. With a vacancy in the pulpit in Princeton, he decided to relocate here to help revive a congregation located in the historically black section of town.
By Princeton standards, Morning Star is a veritable newcomer to the community.
Turning 75 years old this year, it first had services in a bungalow on the other side of the parsonage before the current house of worship was built in 1952. Different men led the congregation over the years, but in more recent times, membership had dwindled to about a handful of people.
“The growth is going to be slow,” said Mr. Bynes, who does not put a number on how many members he would like to add. “All we can do, Biblically speaking, is plant the seed.”
He is seeking to cast his net into the community and beyond, but he does not emphasize a head count.
“Biblically speaking, our focus is not so much on numbers but the quality of those that are here,” he said.
Yet as he surveys the broader church world, he said he finds a disturbing trend.
“That’s the sad part about what I’m seeing now, in the church realm, is folks don’t want to commit to any one church anymore,” he said. “The membership is dwindling everywhere. And people are not wanting to commit to one shepherd.”
Regardless of those challenges, he said he would not compromise to attract members to Morning Star.
“I get people looking at me cross-eyed sometimes, mainly because I let them know what our purpose is,” he said. “We’re not here to conform to the world. We’re here to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we cannot conform to the world just to get them in the door.”