AlongTheWay

“The Road Isn’t Over!” - Jon Shaffer AlongTheWay 99

September 20, 2021 John Matarazzo / Jon Shaffer Season 1 Episode 99
AlongTheWay
“The Road Isn’t Over!” - Jon Shaffer AlongTheWay 99
Show Notes Transcript

Jon Shaffer thought the only way he would survive to be 21 was if he was safely in a jail cell. After that self-fulfilling prophecy, Jesus changed his life, gave him a purpose, and called him back to impact his old “Hood” for the Kingdom.

Bridge City Church

https://www.bridgecitypgh.com/


AlongTheWay Links

Join My Email List

[email protected]

Become a Patreon https://www.patreon.com/AlongTheWay

More episodes and Social links for AlongTheWay

Watch episodes of My TV show RealLife & HopeToday

Charisma Podcast Network cpnshows.com 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/AlongTheWay)
John Matarazzo:

All right, Pastor john Shaffer, it's great to have you on along the way. Finally, we've been talking about this for quite a while. You, you've been my pastor now for several months since you took over the North Braddock campus. And you're also doing stuff with Cornerstone television on the move your mountain program is so fun to be able to work with you in a different capacity there and to get to know you that way too. And to see you grow in that. But the more we talk, the more, the more I just know that God's connected us. And I am so excited to be able to share your story along the way in this podcast. And so thanks for being here.

Jon Shaffer:

Fantastic. Thank you, I really appreciate the opportunity, looking forward to talk in and just I've always appreciated our relationship together. And so looking forward to seeing how this thing goes. Yeah, it's really cool.

John Matarazzo:

So I know bits and pieces of your story. But I don't think that I've had the opportunity to hear the whole thing from childhood to you know, because you did not grow up as a pastor. You know, obviously, that's that's, that's pretty apparent. But you had quite a unique road getting there. I know you. You grew up in North Braddock, and that God's brought you back here, which is so cool. And I love how God brings things back around in our lives. And so I want to hear your story of how God has led you to where you are today.

Jon Shaffer:

Absolutely. Well, as you said, I did not grow up as a pastor. And to be quite honest, I would grow, I grew up in what I would refer to now as a nominally Christian home, I always tease and say, I was a drug baby, my mom drugged me to church. But the reality of it was, we would go to church here and there, my mom knew the Lord Jesus, we celebrated Christmas and Easter. And we understood that God was real, we understood that Jesus was real, but really not a whole lot of aspects of my life, what I attach and say, Yes, we were, we were Christian. And so I was born, the oldest of three siblings, my mother never married my dad, my younger brother, who's the second of us three different dad, mom never married him. And then my sister who is the youngest, my mother did marry him kind of like in the justice of the peace kind of a deal. And so not only is it not really like Christian, we're not also seeing really good, strong values. My mom was, is she's still with us, is a great lady, first in her family to go to college. So that was always a big part of growing up. But I'm just really not a lot of like strong grounding values, I'd say were instilled in my life early on.

John Matarazzo:

So what values were instilled in your life, because you're going to get values instilled in your life, whether they're good or bad, what were some of those values that you did have?

Jon Shaffer:

Well, one of one of the values was that college was important. And so my siblings and I, we grew up with the understanding that high school wasn't the end. And when you contrast that with growing up with a lot of our friends, who either didn't go to college or didn't even necessarily graduate, high school, I have my really close friends growing up. I can't think of one that actually walked for graduation. Wow. So I mean, I had like, my inner circle of friends and that like a smaller group of friends outside of that, but so for us, that was a value, but even to with the the whole marriage idea. So I didn't grow up with marriages about you that just as long as you love each other. And you know, one of the I guess it's a fun fact that I share this with people when we do marriage counseling is that the first wedding I ever attended was my own. Really? Yes. So the fact like, I may have gone to a couple of wedding receptions or if there was libations, if you were, if you will. But yeah, so that wasn't a strong value. But caring for people was about you. My mom did instill that. She worked in the mental health profession. And so that is something that I'm very thankful of. Because even even in our day, today, two big areas where people have a lot of struggles, because of the stigma that's attached to him his mental health and substance use Sure. And so I remember my mom helping us to understand mental illness, as she called it, the invisible wheelchair. And so she would always say, you know, if somebody has cancer, you can see the effects of the chemo and you can have sympathy or empathize with them and say, Oh, how can I help you or somebody that that may be a quadriplegic or someone that may have vision issues or something, but the person that struggles with the the mental disease, not only can you not see it, but more often than not, it creates an atmosphere with that person where you're like, ooh, please like stay away. You're crazy. You're You're a problem. And so that was something that she instilled in us was that we would not treat people that way. And similarly, because everyone in my family, almost to a person either struggled with mental illness, or struggled with substance use, or both, or one masking the other. So that was something that was really ingrained in us was to treat people with respect. And to and to love people that might not be the most lovable. So I guess, in that there was a Christian premise as well.

John Matarazzo:

What were some of the other worldviews that you kind of picked up on? Because you didn't grew up in? As you said, you were drugged to church? And what were some of the worldview, the way that you looked at life? Like, kind of explain that and paint that picture? Yeah,

Jon Shaffer:

I mean, just just really didn't have a huge outlook vision wasn't a part of, you know, having a vision for your life. Because I think my mom being the first college attender, let alone college graduate, that was like, I mean, she had already surpassed everybody in her family, from an educational standpoint. And so really not like okay, well, what do you do after college? One big thing that was always a part was so my mother is a white woman from rural Pennsylvania. And my father, as well as my younger brother, father, and my youngest sister's Father, we're all African Americans. And so we were all biracial. So that really framed my worldview, in a lot of ways. And especially given the climate of our culture right now, I used to resent it very much, because unlike my brother, or sister, I was the fairest skinned of them all, if you will. And so I was always too white for the black kids and to black for the white kids. And I've experienced racism from both sides of the spectrum. And I always resented that until I did become a Christian, I realized what a great gift that God has given to me to be able to have that perspective, but also to know how to traffic if you will, in and out of both of those cultures, and to be able to not only engage, but maybe reach and interact with people who are not like me, because it felt like growing up, no one was very like me. Because, you know, being biracial was different from, you know, a lot of different things at that time. So that was something that really, really stuck out to me. And I'm really thankful to have had that even though, at the time growing up, I was not a big

John Matarazzo:

fan of it. So you kind of thought that was a curse, but it's turned into a blessing. Yes. If

Jon Shaffer:

you'd asked me up until I was probably 20, some years old, 2425 years old. If you'd have asked me I would have like even on forums, you know, they have the race question. Yes, like black. Because where I grew up, is predominantly African American, I gravitated towards that lifestyle or culture, more than I guess, what you would typically refer to as kind of an Anglo I don't know, what would be the best way to put it, but I'm sure and even then it was it was in Christ that I realized that like, I'm not black or white, I am biracial. And that's, that's my thing. I always like to joke and say, you know, President Obama wasn't the first black president. He was the first biracial president, you know, it was one of those things, but but being able to find that in Christ and be able to be like, Man, this is a great, great gift. But yeah, it was it was it was weird for a while there.

John Matarazzo:

Sure, sure. I appreciate that your mom really instilled a value for college and to get an A value for further education. And I know you went to you went to college. Can you tell me about that? And what did you study? And I know football was a big part of that too. Yeah.

Jon Shaffer:

So well, right out of high school, graduated from Woodland Hills High School in 1995. And right out of high school, I was accepted to the Penn State McKeesport campus. Now, I believe it's the Penn State Greater Allegheny campus, I think is the name of it. In the air branding there. Yeah, a little rebranding. I was I actually got accepted into the aerospace engineering program. Because here I am, as a teenager, running the streets, selling and doing drugs, messing around with guns and just different things like that. But I had a knack for mathematics. And so they put me in AP classes in high school. I was also in the gifted class in high school, and I and I even resented those things at that time, because, you know, the culture that I was growing up in education was not valued. It's like you're a nerd, you're a dork. You're this or that. But college wasn't an option. It was what you did. And so I liked mathematics. I liked engineering. I like physics, so jumped in there, but I'm still in that lifestyle. And so about a year and a half in, you know, in my firt in my freshman year, I was I was shot in a robbery attempt. So life was real crazy. And then my saw somebody was trying to rob you. Yes, someone was trying to rob me. Yep. And I got shot. I ended up shooting one of them. Total crazy story there. So I'm living in this this lifestyle, horribly depressed at the time wanted to take my own life saw no reason for living honestly didn't think I'd live to see 21 I always would say if I live to see the age of 21, it's because I'm safe in jail. Because if I was out on the streets, I'd be dead. Wow. And so freshman year, I get shot sophomore year, I get busted with felony drug charges. So I dropped out of college, and I moved up to Somerset County where my mother was from, and that's where I just kind of went to lay low, I ended up getting in more trouble there is trouble doesn't it's not limited to a location, no, you know, some some programs and different things. They say you need to change people, places and things. And the reality of it was is that even when I change people in places and things, the thing that really needed changed was me. I was the common denominator in all of these problems. And even in my journey of trying to change me, I realized that I couldn't change myself, only Jesus could do that. And so him finding me, in a jail cell at the age of 21 was a very, very big deal for me, because I was hopeless. And so

John Matarazzo:

you had a little bit of a self fulfilling prophecy there. Yeah, the only way I'd make it to 21 is if I'm safe in a jail. So

Jon Shaffer:

absolutely, I was. And I actually turned 21 during that time in jail and just prayed a very simple prayer. I just, I just was laying in my bunk during lights out, I'm staring at the wall. And I said, I said, God, if you're real, you have to do something because I can't come back to this place. And the Holy Spirit entered my body. My life I was I was born again, had no idea what was happening, though. No idea because remember, I have no real Christian framework, I have nothing outside of a nominal Christian belief system. And so I get out of jail. Find out that my my girlfriend at the time is pregnant with surprise, right with my eldest child is my oldest now. So I'm like, Okay, now I got to work. I got to take care of this family did that for a little while on how are you at this point, I was 21 at this time. So this is like 1998. And I wasn't I stopped using substances, okay. And I say that very specifically, because I wouldn't say I was in recovery. The Lord had a very funny way of setting me up. So where I was living out in rural Somerset County, the only job that I could get with felonies and other things on my record, was actually working in a restaurant attached to a bar. It just so happened to be the bar that my parole officer drank in every night. So there was no real opportunity for me to get back in to suck, but I wasn't living for the Lord, right. I'm saved at this time. But I'm not living for the Lord, I'm, I'm living with my girlfriend. Now my son is being born, I'm doing my best. I'm working two jobs to make ends meet to take care of them. And then my second opportunity for college came along. And this is where the football aspect of it comes in. I got accepted in 2000, to a junior college that had been a trade school, originally out in Lancaster, and they had a junior college football team. And so I get accepted into the architecture program there. My first semester, I'm doing very, very well. I'm still sober about October, my pro was up. And I'm now on the football team and, you know, hanging out with the guys and do not Thirsty Thursday, and all of these things. And, and unlike some people who may be able to casually Have a drink here or there, for me with addictive genes. That's just not possible. And so a couple of just hanging out and being friendly and social. I was back not only full blown into my addiction, but probably worse off than I had been before that. And I always say the only thing worse than a sinner in their sin is a saint in their sin because now you have the conviction of the Holy Spirit and God is actively wrecking your life to get you back on track. He does that. Yeah. And it got wrecked. So by the grace of God, I graduated, got my associates degree from there in 2002. And then I just basically, and hopefully this isn't too derogatory. This is my word describing me. I'm not saying I became a bomb. I just couch surfed I just, I lived with my brother. He was going to college and I just kind of crashed on his couch for a while and I'm full blown into my addiction and I'm drinking and getting high to blackout and doing things and not remembering it. My life is just such a wreck and I'm getting ready to go back to jail again in 2003 for a second time for a third time. I Wow. And I began to start coming to grips with the fact that you know what, I need to do something about this. And the way I always say it is this because they always say you burn your bridges. Well the only fireproof bridge with Jesus. And so I went back to church. Now this is a church, small rural church because I'm still migrating between Somerset and Pittsburgh and Indiana county and Cambria county and just kind of getting in where I can fit in. And I've tried to go to this church when I first got saved in jail, and everyone there kind of knew me. They knew who I was and what I was about. So no one ever really engaged me or stopped me. I just kind of sat there and but I went back to this church again. And the only thing that was different was there was a new pastor. And he just loved me. He invited me to his house for dinner. Now, this doesn't, I mean, I've been a pastor in vocational ministry now for over a decade. I've done volunteer ministry for probably four or five years prior to that, that doesn't seem like a big deal now, but that was a huge deal. Because I could still remember calling my brother who's still not a follower of Jesus to this day, and I remember saying, the preacher was going to let me come to his house. And you let me round his wife and his kids. And I'm, like, I got there. And I'm like, I'm so nervous, because I'm like, I'm gonna screw this up. Because at that point in time that was this one of the self fulfilling prophecies in my life, you're just going to screw this up. Like, hey, like made me a steak. Like it was like a New York trip second, like this is insane. Anyways, just loved on me. And he, he would say crazy things. He has a call of God on your life. I'm like, like a call a god. Like, I don't even have a cell phone man, Like what? Like, like, cuz I'm like, I don't even know the nomenclature and like, the, the this the Christian ease and all of these different things. And he just spoke life into me. And he encouraged me to go with him and some of the actual college age students cuz I'm 27. Now there's 2627. And he's, he's like, well, there's, you need to get trained for ministry. And so we took a trip with a couple of the other college age students that had graduated out of youth group at the church I was a part of, to a place at that time, was called Valley Forge Christian College, but now it's a university. So it's the University of Valley Forge, out in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. And so I went out there, and I know nothing of like, I'm still learning to be a Christian. And and if I could be totally honest, I wasn't a huge fan of Christians at this time. I still thought I still thought I was like, I was like, man, like, hypocritical, judgmental, like, lazy, like I just showed, and I mean, like, they don't mean that derogatorily. But that was just kind of my view. It's like, you guys talk a good game, but like, where are you at with this and all of this other stuff. And so I was like, I don't even know if I want to be like, I don't know what's gonna go on. And he's like you and you, we got to get you trained. And so I get accepted to University of Valley Forge, and in 2005, and so that was my third foray into college. And I signed up for the urban missions ministry degree. I said, you know what I'm paying for this, okay. But I also want to be the sharpest tool that I can be for Jesus. So I went full bore into this thing.

John Matarazzo:

Okay. So before we talk about how you went full bore, you were just telling me that you didn't even know if you wanted to be a Christian. What changed right there, cuz like, that's a big switch. That's like, 180 degree, almost, at least you're on the same side at that point. But it was like you almost want nothing to do with Christians like Jesus. But now you want to be Christian, leading other Christians in urban ministry, and you want to be the best at it. What happened?

Jon Shaffer:

So the thing that actually happened is because I, a lot of the Christians that I'm doing air quotes here, that I knew didn't reflect the Jesus that I loved and wanted to serve. So it wasn't it was more of a semantics, if you will, that what I understood colloquially as Christian, yeah, didn't match up because because I'm now reading the Bible and like the Bible is coming alive to me. And I'm like reading things and I'm, I get to the book of Judges. And I actually said this to my pastor. I was like, I was like, if you to preach this, I came to church every day. Because the book of Judges made sense to the lifestyle that I had live. Right? Be nicey nice and do Goody good when I could look and see like, yeah, that person's here today, but I see him some other places too. And are they really loving their neighbor? Are they really laying down their life and living a sacrificial life so so for me I wanted the whole I will live in a shoe box I will give my life under death for Jesus I'm going to spend my all that was always from the jump as my pastor began to pour into my life Hmm. But being around quote, unquote, Christians was not what I wanted to really be a part of it. Because I was just like, what I see in a lot of this and again, I'm being very judgmental myself. At this time, I'm being with a very limited exposure to actual Christians, I'm being very

John Matarazzo:

judgmental, because your main experience with it with Christians at that point was in that same church with a different pastor where you were kind of ostracized and kind of put in a corner,

Jon Shaffer:

right? Like, the one thing that changed at that church was the pastor and praise God, because I think a lot of those people, you know, looking back on that the reason why they may have been the way that they were at that time is because it might have just gotten stale to them, that maybe there had been a fire early on. Yeah, but I'm thankful because they got to see this guy who was a drug addict, drug dealer, convicted felon, violent person, life getting radically changed. And I think that helped re affirm their faith and their desire to serve God again. It was one of those weird deals where it's like, yeah, I wanted to give my life to serve Jesus, I just didn't know. You know, that I wanted to be a suit and tie kind of guy and say that these and the vows and the arts and the works and all of those other things. I mean, my freshman year, they still had a dress code and men couldn't have hair longer down past their color. And I'm like, Well, what about the guy from the hood that has dreads and get saved as he's supposed to cut his dreads, even though the Bible doesn't say he has to cut his dreads, he kind of gets the naza Right. Right. It's like It's like now he has to change his whole culture, his whole cultural expression to fit what you feel as a Christian cultural expression. Like you had to wear khakis. And I'm like, I don't even own khakis. So I wore Dickies, right like Dickies were a hood thing that was like our Dickies all day long. But it was just one of those one of those weird, weird deals, man, and I'm thankful that God has softened my heart. Because I realized I was just as much of a fantasy as somebody else in those days for sure.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah. So you're going to school, you're paying for it yourself. And you want to be the best. Tell me about that.

Jon Shaffer:

Yeah, I just I knew that I was living on borrowed time, the Bible calls it redeem time, because I should have been dead at 21 should have been dead probably at 18. And none of my time belong to me anymore. None of my possessions belong to me anymore. My breath didn't belong to me anymore. And so I'm there spending the Lord's money and the Lord's time and the Lord's breath. And I was going to make the most of it. The Scripture, you know, whatever you do, work at it with all your heart is working for the Lord, not for men, that was ingrained in my heart. And so I wanted to be the very, very best and whether that meant being a C student, or an A student, it was going to get my very, very best. And by the grace of God, I graduated summa cum laude with a 398 GPA. Wow, received the top award for the department, the admissions department that I was in and started numerous ministries was a part of other numerous ministries, homeless ministry nors, it was funny because we could get 300 students to try out for the worship bands, but we couldn't get six to go into downtown Philadelphia once a week to feed homeless people. So that was part of that, like, Christian like Christian servant of God kind of thing. But again, I realized that's not everybody's calling, because trust me, you don't want me trying out for the worship team. That would be the Bible says a joyful noise. I got noise covered. Yeah. But yeah, so I got this opportunity to do Yeah, I got joyful. Yeah, I hope I got joyful. But But yeah, I got this opportunity to grow and learn Christianity and meet people. And so it was an amazing time. And like the greatest person that I got to meet, there was my wife. So that was where I found my beautiful bride. Christine. We got to hear that story. Oh, man. It's, it's, she'll tell you a whole totally different ones. And she just couldn't take her eyes off. Let me tell you, just every chance she got she just tried to sneak a smooch. And I'm like, woman, I'm here to serve the Lord. No, that's 100% fabrication there. No, we met during orientation week. She was in the orientation group that a girl from my church was in so I had relationship with her because we were from the same church. And so that's how I met her. And because of my past and my background, I mean, I have a son who is six years old at this time, right? I got baby mama drama, if you will, and like I was a sinner. And so we very much I don't want to say slow walked it, but I was very cognizant of, you know, there wasn't a lot of public displays of affection. There wasn't a lot of you know, go into a private place on campus to make out or anything because That was safety for me and for her. And I was very thankful for her for being someone who was very modest. And for being someone who was very much sold out for the Lord as well, even though when we met, she was very quiet, and very shy. There's a big chronological age difference between us nine and a half years. But her spiritual and emotional maturity exceeded that of some of the young ladies who were there that were closer to my age Sure. 26 or 27. And, and that was very fascinating and attractive to me, because I could tell very early on, she had her, her head screwed on very tight, if you will. And she just she wanted to serve God. And she knew who she was. She was there, she studied music, education. So she has a degree in music, education, or bachelors in music, education. But she knew that her calling was to be a mom, and to marry a man of God who served the Lord, a mother that was a pastor or missionary, or whatever she knew that going in. And so that was a wonderful thing for us to grow and come to know each other in that setting. And then we got married our junior year, the Lord kind of expedited the timeline on that we're gonna wait till we graduated. And the Lord spoke to me during a season of prayer and fasting, and I was taking her back to her dorm and he said, he said, your ministry is incomplete because you're not one flesh. Wow, I asked you to marry me. And we, we planned it all out. We didn't rush it per se. But her family wasn't a fan of that. Because they were like, they're gonna get her pregnant. She's not gonna graduate, she's gonna have all this student debt, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And by the grace of God, none of that happened. And we were able to pay off all of our student debt. Very quickly. Debt Free. Yeah, that was that was the big takeaway from from college. I mean, I loved my degree. I love my experience there. But I got my beautiful bride.

John Matarazzo:

So you, you did go into urban ministry, though, too. And she came along with you. Yep. That's awesome. Tell me about that experience in urban ministry. Because that's, I mean, we're kind of at an urban church where we are right now. But this isn't your first church. Since that you've had other experiences. We're working with other ministries, and God has kind of led you in a different path that way, too. Yeah. I'd like to hear about that.

Jon Shaffer:

Yeah. So we we graduated in May of 2009. My wife also graduated summa cum laude. So that was pretty cool. And we would always compete like I had a higher GPA than her. That's for you, Christine. But we graduated. And we knew during our junior year, shortly after maybe four months after we were married, the Lord had showed me an open vision during prayer one time and I don't have a lot of visions. Could you explain what an open vision is? Yeah. So the way I would describe it is there's dreams which I would say happen when you're at sleep and your minds at rest. And the Lord is speaking to you on a deeper spiritual level, because your physical and mote like all of those, those faculties are kind of quieted or at arrest. But I was in my time of prayer, and I'm praying and in my mind's eye, I am seeing myself looking through my own eyes. So I didn't see myself but I'm in this in this vision. I'm seeing myself in Braddock, Pennsylvania, which is where I grew up, right Braddock in North Braddock, and I know exactly where I am, because I'm looking around, and I can see buildings in places that I recognize and so you're physically still at I'm physically sitting next to my bed in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. And I immediately discerned from that that God was calling us at some point in time to do a work in Braddock. Now, I had no timeline or no timeframe, because here I am now, mind you, I'm still a little over a year from graduation. Sure. I'm only a couple of years in from actually serving Jesus, right? Yeah, this time, I'm newly married. Forget knowing how to do ministry. I'm still figuring out how to be a Christian. It feels like in a lot of different ways, and a husband and a husband and you know, all of these different things. But we knew that God was calling us back. And then as we were getting ready to graduate, we just knew that God was opening a door for us to come back to the Pittsburgh area. And so we took a step of faith. We both had pretty decent jobs out there. We had an apartment that we love. We had friends we had wonderful inner city ministry in Allentown, Pennsylvania, that we were very much a part of, and very much loved dearly. But God was transitioning us out to come back to Pittsburgh, and a number of just crazy circumstances. But we ended up getting connected with an urban ministry in the north side of Pittsburgh called Pittsburgh city outreach. That's the name of the church. But they had an innovative approach to starting new churches. So they were a church plant. They were a new church than And they would have recovery homes that were attached to their church. So like they would have them for men and for women, so people with any kind of a life controlling issue, whether it was drug addiction, alcoholism, homelessness, prostitution, any we would take them in it was totally free. And it was a nine month discipleship program. And so we would, you know, hopefully lead them to the Lord, but also disciple them and raise them up and watch the power of God break addictions off of their life. And so God connected us with this ministry. And they were actually in the process of wanting to plant the church in the Pittsburgh area. And one of those areas was brought up. And so I got connected with the pastor there and came on staff in August of oh nine, opened our recovery home and Braddock in January of 2010. And then launched our church in Braddock, the our first church in September of 2010. Wow. And so that was amazing. It was wonderful. The denomination that we were a part of, we were received the top urban church plant of the Year Award for the efforts there. But what that did was that really sparked a movement of church planting, really urban church planning out of this church, because the denomination the fellowship that we were part of, really didn't reach the city. Well, okay, rural in suburbs, they were very good there, but but inner city, not very well. And so he did a different strategy for that. Absolutely. And I think a lot of people, there's a lot of misconceptions with urban ministry, to where one, I think people first and foremost fail to recognize that in a lot of ways, especially with at that time, you know, little over 10 years ago now, church planting and just church culture, in general, didn't really lend itself to the urban environment. There are a lot of factors and aspects that were not culturally assimilable, if you will, into an urban culture, okay, like what, um, so like one that was a big one, right? tithing? Well, you know, what, in the inner city 10% enough, and still nothing. But when you're living on a subsistence lifestyle, the tie itself is even a sacrificial gift. At times, the concept of family is radically different. Most inner cities have a fatherlessness rate of 70% or above. So you're having, you know, you're engaging people that don't know what a father figure is like. So they don't understand things like authority and discipline in a good, you know, healthy, Biblical way. There's, there's a lot of cultural ills, if you will, drug addiction is a lot more easily hidden in the suburbs. It's out in the open in the inner sphere, you're talking about a place because my wife who was not from the inner city, I like to call where she grew up sub rural rites of suburban is like, outside of the city. She wasn't fully rural, but she was close. And so her moving into a ministry like this, and seeing children out at 1112, one in the morning at night. That was shocking to her. For me, that was not abnormal. Yeah. Because not that it was good or agreeable. But that's just kind of the way it was children being maybe raised by a grandparent or an aunt, people living in homes where they didn't have heat, or electricity or running water. I mean, like that, those are real things. And so, you know, coming in and telling people, Jesus loves them, that's great. Well, how's Jesus going to help me with the light bill? So there was a number of those things. And so it made it very much like a mission field insurance, like primarily from the the financial aspect of it, you know, but the ministry that I was a part of ascribe to the philosophy that I had that, that a ministry should, you know, a church, you know, should have the goal of becoming not only self sustaining, but reproducing. And so, you're engaging people a lot of times who don't have financial resources. And so you kind of have to raise money and do a lot of those different things. And it's a lot harder to get that thing, self sustaining in the sense where, like, we can now pay a pastor full time, and he doesn't have to be by vocational, which is great in the hood, if you will, because you know, there's a lot of time that he's got to spend caring for people. Yeah. Or she's got to spend caring for people or however it is. And so there was a lot of those elements that were involved in urban church planning. But another misconception that I think, and we discovered this as well is that in the last 10 to 15 years, we were seeing so in the 1960s, there was a cultural phenomenon in our country, which is commonly referred to as white flight. This is when people that had the means and were up The mobile left the cities because the cities were becoming more dangerous and more different, you know, moral and social things were creeping in. And so if you had the ability to move out, you moved out. And that's when we see the suburbs actually become created as a cultural phenomenon in America. And typically, those were individuals who were, you know, Anglo and descent. But now, in the last 10 to 15 years, we've actually seen where people who are college educated master's degrees entrepreneurs, people with with means they're moving back into cities now. Okay, cities is the hip cool play? Sure, yeah. And so now you just can't have this, this urban ministry mindset that it's like, we're just there to reach the poor and the destitute and the down and out, you know, because it's not just the down and outers and cities anymore, it's the up and comers as well. And so now you have to have an an entirely new cultural philosophy to meeting it. And because these are individuals that are that are usually college educated now. Now you have to have a level of apologetics and an ability to causally reason the gospel in the scriptures to people because you know what, they're not just going to come in and feel the power of God hit them, they're going to start asking questions, they're going to challenge and they're gonna push back on some of the things that you say. So there's two big misconceptions in urban ministry that like, yeah, it's just like, pastor in a church somewhere else? No, it is not. Yeah. And I'd even say in a lot of places in America, the rural Church has the same problems as well, because people are spread further out. The the resources are less in areas like that. And so you have that, and then you have this idea that it's like, oh, yeah, urban ministry is just, you know, people who are struggling with poverty or addiction, or this or that none of businesses, you know, world Movers. Yeah, yeah. are in

John Matarazzo:

cities now. Yeah. So whatever Paul says, become all things to all people so that somebody might come to Christ, that takes on a new meaning, when it comes to urban ministry.

Jon Shaffer:

Yeah. And one of the, I think, unspoken, because it's an unconscious Christian mindset is that Paul says, I become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. But we have a missiological ideology, in the current Christian context, that says, you have to become like me. And that's problematic. Because there are elements to the gospel that not only don't demand a cultural shift, it actually encourages you the redemption of the redeemable elements of your culture. So explain that a little bit and use a lot of big words. Yeah. So. So one thing that was was really big. And I wasn't a part of the first wave of this, but I think it ties into it. And it wasn't my genre. But there was a time when Christian rock, yeah, was demonic. Yeah. Right. I grew up because of my cultural bent, if you will. I'm a hip hop child of the hip hop era, right rap. And so Christian Rap was demonic. And I was able to be exposed to Christian rappers and urban ministers, who illustrated that, first and foremost, Satan can't create anything, no. And so he didn't create rock'n'roll. He didn't create hip hop. But there are elements to any aspect of culture, whether it's music or art, but all of those elements are redeemable. There are aspects of those elements that are redeemable, and so could hip hop, not only should it not be shunned, but what can we borrow from this culture that's redeemable so that we can now take and apply the gospel in a culturally acceptable manner to this culture in a way that leads people to Jesus and disciples them and expands the kingdom into areas that it's just like, Well, those are just the centers, they're just doomed to their fate. No, no, no, no. Could you imagine Jesus ever saying such a thing? And so finding out how we can, culturally or colloquially integrate the gospel into these different cultures? That's something that intrigues me.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah, absolutely. And we need to really understand the gospel and really understand the word of God in its in its context, and its true state and really go back to the cultural stuff as well. And I'm gonna want to use that as a segue to talk about how we've really gotten to know each other more is I mean, you you know, we kind of skimming over part of your story where you know that that chapter of your life kind of came to a close and you started going to one of the one of the campuses of bridge city church, and then you were asked to actually be one of the teachers for this great hermeneutics and public speaking class that we had last year in 2020. Before Coronavirus, kind of screwed up everything, but basically for an entire month on Saturday morning. There was like 40 plus people from the church that were really interested in learning about hermeneutics, and, you know, studying the Word of God and it's in it's true for its truest form from cultural stuff. And you and pastor Gavin and pastor Rick, were, were teaching this and I love absolutely love how much I could see you love the word of God and how that brings life to you. Can you tell me about how the Word of God came to life for you. But then also, like, let's talk about the hermeneutics then because you geek out about that, and I love it.

Jon Shaffer:

I love it. And just kind of by way of a disclaimer, I still to this day, I'm not a big reader, I never was. And even now, when I read if I'm reading something actively and fully engaged, it's most likely a commentary, or leadership stuff. Now, I've liked it, but it's really the Bible. But whenever I first picked up the Bible, and began to read it back in 2004, when I really got serious about following Jesus, it just came alive to me. And so I started the beginning of the book, because I thought that's what you did. Disclaimer might not be the best way to start reading the Bible. If you haven't ever read it before. When you get to judges, it gets really good, it gets really good. And so so what I did was I read Genesis, and I and I have a notebook. And I'm like, all these things that are jumping out to me and Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and I said to myself, I'm gonna go back and I'm gonna reread these things, and then new things and like, and I'm like, seeing my life in the scriptures. Like, I'm seeing things that I'm like, like, Wow, I didn't know this was in here. And then, so read, read through the, you know, genesis of read through the first five books again. And then I started reading Joshua, Judges, Ruth, read through them again. And before I know it, I'm actually reading the Bible in its natural book divisions and not even knowing it. And I'm just, I'm just like, it's lighting up to me, like, like, one of my favorite stories of the Bible, is the story of the judge. He hood, right, the left handed assassin. And like, I read that I'm like, this is a mob hit. He goes back to egg lawn, and he says, egloff have a message to you from the Lord and egg lawn leans in, and he grabs his hidden weapon that he was able to sneak in and stabs him in the stomach. And I'm like, all Yeah, I'm like, like, they should make a movie about this. And, and so I geek out off of the word that way. And so it just came alive to me. And really, it's a supernatural thing. Because again, I'm not a big reader, like other things, don't Don't, don't do it for me like that. But I just, I just love it. And even more than that, learning to apply it is really the huge thing for me, because like, you know, I look at something like the Christmas story. And again, my background, you know, single mom different things like that. I look at the Christmas story. And I see the story of an unwed pregnant teenager, and a father who has to decide whether he's going to stay and raise his son or not. So that's the story of the hood. Yeah, I said that, that, that that that is for the hood, that's for me. And, you know, just being able to see those and be able to apply it to people's life so that people can see themselves in Godstone story. Yeah. So that they can begin to start seeing God's story in them. And they can come alive. And then Jesus can change what needs to be changed. And they can find a way to be an active and impactful member of their family and their community. And they can be used by God to expand his glorious kingdom on the earth. And, and so for me, the Bible does that. It does that for me. And I want to help it do that for other people if I can.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah, and you definitely do. And I love how God used you to kind of light that fire in me again. And somebody the other people that were in that Saturday morning class, I mean, giving up a Saturday morning, and that that takes commitment. Yeah,

Jon Shaffer:

it was four hours. It was a long day. It was it was four hours. And if I remember correctly, it was February. So it's the month before everything shut down. So you wanted to have a Saturday back that you might have wanted. February 2020. Right. But yeah, but like, seeing that's, that's what a blessing was for me is seeing people that wanted to go deeper into the scriptures. You know, I preach to a wall. Yeah, you know, but seeing people that are hungry, and if I can benefit anybody in any way, like that's, that's something that for me, it's like, it's not about who thinks I preach good, or it's like, Look, this is I I've been given this. I just want to give it away. Yeah, uh, you know what I mean, because it's changed my life. Maybe it can help you. Yeah.

John Matarazzo:

And so from that, you know, from that classes in February, then we have Coronavirus and then pastor Dan, who I've also done a podcast episode with. He feels God calling him to Move to Tennessee. And now we need somebody else to to be the pastor of the North Braddock campus. And for this guy that God spoke to that you're supposed to be at in Braddock. And now God, God uses the pastors to tap you on the shoulder and say, Hey, we need to meet with you. And we've got an opportunity for you What's going on? Because it seems like God kind of is working in full circles again.

Jon Shaffer:

Yeah, I mean, it was crazy. Because actually, today was March 18, was my last day in person at the job that I was working at the time I, I worked at a methadone clinic, I was a recovery support specialist, helping people in recovery clients who had come to our clinic, help them connect with resources and recover. And it was really great, because they would be like, we want you to help them to understand all of the different recovery pathways, whether it's a or na, or this or that, but we encourage you to share your recovery pathway. And I'm like, Jesus, so so I had this great, great opportunity. And so everything gets shut down. And probably about a week after that. Our lead pastor, Pastor Rick, came to our house and, you know, he asked if he asked my wife, Christine, and if it would be okay, if they stopped over now, we're super nervous because we're like, what did we do wrong? Right? Because we're currently attending our Marysville campus at that time, we had literally just completed the membership process. So we had just become members, and we were serving, my wife was in kids, and I was on our first impressions team and just loving it was just nice to, to just do ministry and not like have to be like the pastor. And at that time, we had been out of pastoring for about six to eight months. I was by vocational for the last couple of months of pastoring. And so he came and they asked if we would pray about stepping into the North Braddock campus. And that was interesting, for a couple of reasons. Because one, God had done such a work in my life, that I actually no longer found my sense of purpose or value in being a pastor. Wow. Which was a big No, no. And it was a big deal for me. And God really had to wreck a lot of things in my life to get me there. Because my worth and value is found in being his son. My worth and value has been found in being a husband, and being a father and to be quite honest, ministry up until that point, before we stepped out of pastoring ministry was keeping me from doing those things in the way that I should. So I was just loving being a dad and being a husband and just serve in the Lord and, you know, honoring, you know, my pastor, and, you know, just doing that deal. And we had had other opportunities for ministry. There was a number of people that had wanted to hire me when they found out that I was no longer, but we just knew it wasn't the Lord. We just knew it wasn't the Lord's time. And this we knew was God. But we when we prayed, but we knew it was God and pastor Rick, you know, he said, No, well, yeah. I'll we'll revisit this in a week and see where you're at. And so we said, well, we're gonna we'll step in, didn't know what it was going to look like. But we knew it was God. And really, that for my wife and I, that's all we've ever really needed. And so we started walking through this process. And so here we are, a couple of weeks after lockdown, not knowing what church or life is going to look like right now. Right? A lot of things are going on. navigating through that process. I'm still working from home for the methadone clinic. And so we kept walking through that. We began to start regathering, late May, early June. And I came on staff at the end of June, and then began to step into that role as Pastor Dan transitioned out of that role by July he got by the end of July, he was kind of out of that campus, Pastor role, he was still in the area, but he was preparing to move on to the next season. Just love pastor Dan and Amy so much, so thankful for them helping us with that transition. But now here we are pastoring, a new church. And it was weird because a church that has been here for a long time, not just has been here for a long time, which in and of itself, like being connected with Pastor Rick and with bridge city for as long as I had been, like, on as an outsider looking in I'm like, man, if God would ever bless me to, for our church to become something like that, I would I would be beyond blessed because there's just so much so much that was admired trouble and, and worthy in God honoring about about bridge city at that time, but also, I had never pastored a church that I hadn't started myself. And so while you were pastoring other churches that you would start it And that's that's when you and pastor Rick, the lead pastor of bridge city church, that's where you guys really started to get to know each other. So it wasn't like you just showed up at the Marysville campus one day, there was already relationship that had been established for a while. Yes, absolutely. And that was one of the things that I was so thankful for is because when everything did start falling apart, and just just just coming undone, it felt like at the time, in our previous ministry, I had pastor Rick had already been in my life as like a father figure and a mentor as well. And so he was the first person that I went to. And he helped me to navigate through this before we ever heard the call from God, to step out of our last pastor at the second church that we had planted. But as soon as that call came, I knew exactly where we were going to go. And so yeah, that was that was not like we just like kind of jumped in. And again, we had no intentions, like we did not come to bridge city looking for a position, we just came to bridge city to be pastored and shepherded to be honest and to grow in the Lord and see what the next step was. I mean, we were pretty sure that God wasn't done with us from a ministry perspective. But we also knew that God wasn't calling us to do full time vocational ministry at that time. And so being with Pastor Rick and Natalie and just the entire bridge, city family, I mean, I'd known you for several years prior to that. But it was just such a blessing to be in that. But now here's this like way the call like, we want you to pastor and I'm like, this is no small thing. Yeah, this is not a small thing that just pastor Rick, and the church, but the people who have been here for 30 plus years. They are faithfully serving God. Yeah. And I'm like, God, you got to have someone better for these people than me. Right? You have to have someone that's that's, that's more worthy of this than me. It is no small thing for me to be a part of the ministry team at bridge city church, and especially at bridge city, North Braddock because this was the original place,

John Matarazzo:

right? And this is where you grew up. And, you know, I grew up in this church, I'm 36 years old. And this has been my home church my entire life, right? I'm so grateful for that. But I've seen the different changes that have happened here. This used to be a church where people from the suburbs came into it more inner city area, we would come in and worship together and then leave and there wasn't much happening. There wasn't much of the local local population that was represented in the congregation. Now, if we fast forward to what it is right now, could you describe what Sunday morning kind of looks like?

Jon Shaffer:

Wow, it's awesome. I mean, we have an amazing worship team and production seem like one of the things that I've always admired about bridge city is the dedication to excellence. Because this this is for the Lord. This is what we're not cutting corners or just doing it halfway. It's got to be the best. But when you look at the congregation, and you can see someone who might be a business owner, sitting next to someone who might have been imprisoned two years ago. That's awesome. Yeah, so many different nations are represented at our church as well. And so there are people that do come from maybe not North Braddock per se, I mean, North Braddock's, not a very big bar. But people that are within the vicinity, but there are also people from right down the road. And the goal is, is to do our very best to be a representation of Jesus in this place. Like, I believe it's proverbs 1111. It says, By the blessing of the upright, the city is exalted. And I don't think that that just means the upright people speaking blessing over a place. I believe that that means the upright people who are in that place, lifting the city up. And so we have a great opportunity and for as much challenges and just difficulties as our nation has faced in the last 12 to 14 months with racial division and political schisms and Coronavirus, pandemics and economic things. I believe that this is the time for the capital C church, especially the church in America to rise up because I believe that the answer for all of those ills are found in Jesus. And let me tell you something for being a bi racial person pastoring in the same place where he used to sell drugs and shoot guns, and having that opportunity, man, like, who gets to be that guy? Like, like, I get to be that guy. That's like, so amazing. And so I'm super looking forward for what God has because it's, it has very little to do with me and everything to do with the faithfulness Of the people. I get the privilege of serving here. Yeah, as the campus pastor as the shepherd here, but man, just so many amazing people, just so many people who are all willing to roll up their sleeves and dive in to see Jesus glorified and the kingdom advanced, all what a blessing. Yeah,

John Matarazzo:

there's a there's a bright future. And especially whenever you're, you're following after Jesus, and the path that we've been on in life, you know, Jesus is walking with us, we know that, like, we can look back, and we can see that the premise and the theme of this podcast is based around the mass road and how the disciples were walking with Jesus, but had no clue that it was him that they were really talking to, until they sit down at the table, Jesus blesses the food, breaks the bread, their eyes are open, and then poof, he's gone. Yeah. And we have moments like that. And I love that they turn to each other and say, weren't our hearts burning within us along the way, as he was revealing the scriptures to us? So we're going to ask you, Pastor john, can you tell me about a moment, we're looking back now you realize that Jesus was right there with you and your heart was burning. But you didn't realize it there. You see it now.

Jon Shaffer:

My entire life before I met Jesus, growing up in a poor, single parent household, cross, to white for the black kids into black for the white kids. Intelligent but resenting my intelligence, scare, lacking self esteem and confidence, because my father never instilled any of those things in me, because he was never there. And resenting that for so long, but then coming to know Jesus, and seeing how every one of those things was divinely woven, to make me not just the man that I am, but to give me the gifts and the tools to be the minister that I'm called to be. That is a moment that I think back and I say, Man, wasn't Jesus with me. When the cops pulled me over, and I had a trunk full of drugs. And they let me go, they didn't search the car. Wasn't Jesus with me when the gun that a man tried to shoot me with my face jam? Wasn't Jesus with me? through all of those things, scripting, not this was not accidental. And he's even with me now giving me the wisdom and revelation to understand that there is not one part of my past that can be resented because it was all orchestrated for this great future that He has for me. Oh, heartburns, even now, thinking about that. Wow. But if I wouldn't have missed them, then what I really appreciated as much now what I really want to be like polioplus in his friend and jump up and go tell everybody, man, we were walking with Jesus, but we missed it. I don't think any of them told them that I think they told them in Jesus was here. And I think those moments of divine restriction where we can't necessarily see him just increase the anticipation and excitement that comes when the Lord is revealed. And so, yeah, to answer your question, in a very long way, every moment before knowing Jesus, I felt his heartburn and even in moments and door, and when I just felt like, I mean, three years ago was literally the worst time of my life, pre or post Jesus. Wow. Not knowing if it losing, not just my job, but the organization that I helped build from the ground up. Having things said about me, people that I invested in turn on me. Not even knowing if I wanted to live, let alone serve Jesus. My wife and I were just talking the other night and saying, Do you realize that three years ago we were worried about losing our house? But Jesus? And yeah, there may even be some more coming down the road because the story's not written the roads. not over yet. Yeah. But I anticipate those moments now. And I encourage people, I'm blessed to encourage people who are in moments like that, where they don't feel like they can see the Lord. They feel like they're walking away, let down by God because something that they believed in didn't happen. But the thing that they believed in the one that they believed in is walking right next to them, and being like, just give it some time. Yeah, he's going to show Himself to you. Yes, he will. And He's faithful to do that. Amen.

John Matarazzo:

And, you know, my follow up question for this is with what you know, now, if you could go back in time, and intersect. young pastor john would be pre pastor. Giant, little hooligan john, maybe you could give yourself some advice. You could sit yourself down and give yourself some advice, what's going on in that situation? And what would you tell yourself?

Jon Shaffer:

Don't worry so much. It's not as hard as you think it is. And I think even as post pastor john sitting here today, reminding myself and reminding others, that God didn't need our help to get us here, doesn't need our help to keep us going. And if we can just let go and let God and I know that's so cliche and cheesy, but if we can just truly trust Him, and not let anxiety so overwhelm us. That's what I tell you. I be like, Don't worry, God's got this. God's God's. That's it with a smile, like I knew something that he didn't know, because I do. Yeah. But that's what I'd say. That's what I'd say.

John Matarazzo:

You know, as we're closing here, I'm gonna ask you to pray in just a moment. But there's people that are listening right now that they might be in their car, they might be cleaning up the house, and they're just listening, wherever people are listening to podcasts. But there it is, whatever. Wherever physically, they are listening to it emotionally, spiritually, mentally, they could be anywhere. And, you know, you talked about yourself, as you were in really bad places. And you felt like there's there was no worse there was nothing. There was no purpose in life. Would you pray for somebody that is just feeling like, I don't feel like I fit in? I don't feel like I have any purpose in life. You know, somebody that would be like, a younger version of you. Would you pray for pray for that person?

Jon Shaffer:

Yes, amen. Father, I just come before you today thankful that you sent your son Jesus, who became the living way through the veil, which was his body torn his flesh so that we could enter the Most Holy of places so that we can enter into the throne room to seek mercy, and help in time of need. And so Lord, I thank you for that opportunity right now. But Lord, I use this opportunity to pray for those who might not know that, who might think somehow some way that there's no value or no worth or God I pray right now that they would be reminded that their life is worth nothing less than the life of the King of the universe, because Jesus, you die for all of us. And so I pray that that reality would wash over their heart and mind right now that Jesus died for me. But Lord, that they wouldn't just sit there and, and ponder on that as a memorial of something great that you did, but their mind would shift from the death, the price that you paid for them to the resurrection power, that, that you rose from the grave, because death is not the end. It's the beginning of a new life. And so Lord, I pray for those right now who may even feel dead inside. Or they may be looking at relationships, or businesses or thoughts or feelings or different circumstances in their life and feeling like this thing is dead, it will never live again. I pray for resurrection power to enter them and to enter their situation, Lord God, and that they would celebrate knowing that you are the resurrection and the life. And Lord, I pray for that sweet power of your Holy Spirit to come upon them, to mark them with the seal of your grace and empower them to let a smile come across their face, knowing that everything is okay because you're in control. God, I pray for them right now. In Jesus name. Amen.

John Matarazzo:

Amen. Amen. Thank you so much for that. Pastor john, I really just appreciate this conversation that we've been able to have today and to, you know, hear more of your story and I appreciate you as a friend, and as my pastor. And I want to thank you for allowing me to join you along your way.

Jon Shaffer:

Amen. Thank you, john. had such a great time and love you brother.