Urban church planting ministry has unique challenges. In places where Pete Forshtay ministers as congregational pastor at Crossroads Community Church (Philadelphia, Pa.), individuals and families are often entrenched in generations of poverty, family imbalance, violence, and mental illness.
Sharing the gospel with individuals who come from such backgrounds is a life-changing matter of the heart, but often the outer changes are met with forces that include years of destructive habits that are deeply rooted in negative thought processes.
“These kinds of challenges absorb great amounts of time, take a deep emotional toll and drain spiritual energy,” reminds MetroGrace executive director Jim Brown. Last February, MetroGrace church planters Pete and Danielle Forshtay began such a journey with a young man named John.*
“John was saved and baptized last summer at Crossroads Community Church,” explains Brown. “As he began to grow in Christ, he shared with Pete that he had fled another city to avoid some criminal charges. In an act of repentance, he turned himself in to authorities and is now facing jail time. That’s a tough path to walk!”
Pete and the congregation at Crossroads began praying that this act of faith will help John focus on his relationship with the Lord.
“At the same time,” Brown continues, “John’s girlfriend was left with a two-month old baby. She, too, is newly saved. She had been growing well at first, but then she lapsed for a period of time. After the baby’s birth, a serious mental illness presented itself. She has recently been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital and the baby has been entrusted to the custody of the woman’s father.
What does a church family do when two new souls in God’s flock are struggling?
They reach out. And they pray. After finding out that John’s sentence is about a year and a half, the church immediately requested his address in order to allow individuals to begin writing him and encourage him through the process.
“We continue to pray for him regularly, hoping that the Lord would continue the work He has begun in him,” says Forshtay. The church is in it for the long haul.
Currently, John’s girlfriend has been released from the mental health facility, has obtained a job, is working on improving conditions in her apartment and towards regaining custody of her daughter.
“Her situation continues to be tumultuous, so we appreciate prayers for her and her walk with the Lord,” says Forshtay. Join Pastor Forshtay and Crossroads Community Church in asking God to help John and his girlfriend emerge stronger, committed to serving Christ with their lives.
MetroGrace is an urban ministry that gathers, trains, sends, and coaches teams to develop gospel- centered community-based churches in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia. Find out more about ministry opportunities at www.metrograce.org.
Send Pastor Forshtay a letter of encouragement at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.