Mark Petras knew after accepting Christ into his life at age 22 that he wanted to serve in ministry.
After six years of education and four internships at two churches, Petras submitted his resume to numerous churches but most wanted a spiritual leader with more experience.
Knowing his heart, his mother, about four years ago, told him about the Evangelical Free Church of America that was looking for young godly men to plant churches. His mother, who died of acute leukemia about a year later, was attending Providence Evangelical Free Church in Avon, Ohio, at the time. Petras and his family were living in Chicago.
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski) Mark Petras is pastor of Crossroads Community Church, Hollidaysburg. It is his first pastorate.
Meanwhile, the pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Hollidaysburg stepped down for personal reasons but notified the EFCA of the church's interest in joining the autonomous group and its need for a pastor. In the interim, a retired minister oversaw Crossroads Community.
Petras was notified by the EFCA's church planting director for the Allegheny District about the opening at Crossroads Community. He visited the church twice and gave a message. In May 2008, he was unanimously voted to serve as pastor.
"So we moved from Chicago to beautiful central Pennsylvania," Petras said.
The Petras file
Name: Mark Petras
Family: Wife, Kendra; three children, Anna, 5, Micah, 3, Charlotte, 3 months old
Hometown: North Ridgeville, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland
Education: M.A. in theology in Biblical exegesis from Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, Ill., and B.A.S. in Christian Ministries from Dallas Baptist University, Dallas, Texas.
Number of years in ministry: 2
Crossroads Community has about 30 members and meets at 10 a.m. Sundays in the Stuckey Room at the Hollidaysburg YMCA.
"It's a challenge to set up and tear down [the church setup] every week," Petras said. "But it's a blessing to be more dependent on the Lord, to not own our resources."
Petras said EFCA churches operate independently and focus on major issues of faith.
"The only requirement is to believe in Jesus Christ," Petras said.
The EFCA does not require baptism, but churches are highly encouraged to offer it, Petras said. "It is big on preaching and teaching the word of God," he said.
Crossroad Community is Petras' first pastorate, but he previously worked with youth at Cuyahoga Valley Church in Cleveland and did administrative work for two pastors at College Church in Wheaton, Ill.
The Mirror asked him the following questions about his work:
What is the most interesting aspect of your work?
To pray and watch God work in people's lives and see them embrace the Gospel.
I am humbled by how the Lord uses my weaknesses for his glory and that I get to have a small part in someone's transformation.
What is your favorite Scripture verse and why?
1 Thessalonians 2:8 which says, "So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us."
This verse communicates three things: sacrificial love, authentic love and purpose.
The gospel is not something disconnected from the Christian life but is our lives and we are to live it and proclaim with sacrifice, authenticity and purpose.
The verse describes how I believe gospel ministry should be done, not in an abstract way, but in the context of relationships.
What has been your biggest blessing?
My family. Without them, my ministry is meaningless. My church ministry flows out of my ministry with my family. If I neglect my family to focus on the church, I have lost my ministry. In 1 Timothy 3:5, it says if man can't manage his household, how can he manage the household of God?
In what ways are you reaching out to the community?
We are building relationships with the YMCA in Hollidaysburg, serving in different ways.
We sponsored a yard sale in July at the to benefit the YMCA and held a public worship service in its Dysart Park pavilionwith a free lunch.
I have volunteered at the Y on a regular basis, investing in the lives of elementary-age children since November 2008. This spring and summer, I volunteered for the track and field program with Executive Director Tom Kopriva.
At Christmas, we organized a food drive in the Y to donate bags of food, and the YMCA auxiliary gave toys to be donated to the American Rescue Workers.
What are your interests?
I love to read, exercise at the YMCA and play golf occasionally.
I love hanging out with my kids and taking them to different parks around the area. I enjoy watching movies with my wife, Kendra, and going on date nights.
I love the arts, ballet, symphony, plays and music. I also enjoy reading aloud books of fiction with my wife.