Eleven years ago, Pastor Jeff Aten felt God's calling. He was to do evangelism, and in the decade since, he's volunteered as a prison minister around the country.
But on Sunday, the time came to preach to a new crowd, as the new pastor of , 10900 Ravenna Road.
Though he mentioned his prison experience a couple times, he spoke mostly about pride and humility in his first sermon to the congregation. He said pride causes strife and worldliness kills humility.
Aten, 50, a resident of Streetsboro and graduate of Malone University, said he plans to maintain the status quo at the church until he gets a sense of their ministry. He is replacing Pastor Glenn Collins, who announced his retirement earlier this year.
“I think CCF really likes Pastor Glenn, and I hope there isn't so much disappointment in him leaving, and people see it as an opportunity,” Aten said. “I ask the congregation to stick with me and give me a shot and give me a chance."
He began his service with prayer requests, and then gathered the congregation in a circle to hold hands and pray. The service was sprinkled with worship music and stories from Aten's personal life. He had introduced himself last Sunday, with the help of Collins.
After Collins' announcement, the six-member church leadership team thought of five people, including Aten, who might fill the position. The team remembered Aten from a sermon he gave at the church on Jan. 2, filling in when Collins was out of town.
“We liked him,” said Tamara Gageham, 58, a member of the leadership team. “Even though he came just one time, he came highly recommended."
Aten volunteered inside prisons with Bill Glass Champions For Life, ministering to prisoners in over 70 facilities, and has nearly completed a Master's degree in Christian Studies with Crown College in Minnesota.
On Sunday, Aten's wife sat in the front row, along with five of his six young children. She is a stay-at-home mother, and Aten keeps a full-time sales job at Temple-Inland, part of a 31-year career in sales and advertising. His job at the church is part-time.
“I sell corrugated boxes,” he told the congregation Sunday. “Someone has to do it."
Aten said the church has about 60 members. About 30 attended the service Sunday. Changes in church leadership can cause people to come and go, but Aten said it's not about the numbers.
“We're looking at becoming a healthy church spiritually,” he said. “Until we do that, we are not going to be able to serve the people of Twinsburg like the Lord wants us to.”
Tracy Brown, 37, who has been a member of the church for more than 10 years – nearly the church's entire history – said she's open to change.
“One thing we learned about from the old pastor is when God moves, it's our responsibility to accept that and move with him,” Brown said.