The city of Cleveland, Ohio, according to church planter Nathan Wells, was “once a thriving industrial city, now desperate, desolate, dependent, and dangerous.”
And that’s where Pastor Mark Ritzman decided to plant churches.
Ritzman grew up attending Grace Church of Greater Akron, Ohio, Norton Campus (Dan Gregory, lead pastor), located south of Cleveland. He spent 11 years as pastor at Metro Grace, (an urban ministry in Philadelphia that recruits, trains, sends, and coaches teams to plant churches in neighborhoods throughout the city) but felt God calling him to something else.
Ritzman, along with his wife, Candi, and three children, officially joined SEEDNet full-time in September as a regional church planter ministering to low income apartment complexes. (SEEDNet works in Spiritually, Emotionally, Economically, and Developmentally oppressed areas in Ohio.)
“We really felt God calling us back to Ohio,” Ritzman explained. “Joe Curuso, [pastor of mobilization at Grace Church of Greater Akron, Ohio, Bath Campus (Jeff Bogue, lead pastor)],connected me with Nathan Wells [director of SEEDNet]. It really fit with what I wanted to do and what God was calling me to do.” (Grace church is one of Ritzman’s supporting churches.)
Right now, Ritzman is focusing on three apartment complexes in the old Brooklyn neighborhood on the west side of Cleveland. He walk the blocks around the complexes with ministry partners (including George Swain, who is working with SEEDNet on the east side of Cleveland) and do what they called “PEWing” — Praying and Evangelizing while Walking. They strike up conversations with people they meet and ask how they can pray for them.
“We look for opportunities to tell people about Jesus right up front,” said Ritzman. “It’s been exciting to see that lots of people want to be prayed for, which took me off guard at first.
“We want to raise up leaders from the people that we’re ministering to,” he continued. “Many of the people we know may have come from backgrounds of addiction or urban problem backgrounds, people selling drugs, and living in sinful environments. That’s a challenge, but it’s one I’m excited to face…you have read how the disciples turned the world upside down for Jesus and we’re reaching the same kind of people.”
Pray for the Ritzmans, for SEEDNet, and for the city of Cleveland as they establish and expand their ministry there. Follow their ministry at Ritzmans.wordpress.com, or send them a note of encouragement at email@example.com.
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.