Marvin Jacobo long has had a passion for changing the heartbeat of his community.
As a youth pastor and later youth director with First Baptist Church, now CrossPoint, in downtown Modesto for 29 years, he wanted youngsters to know how much God loved them. As a two-year employee with Modesto City Schools, he worked to reduce the dropout rates and encourage teens to value education. As a Youth for Christ leader for 12 years, he founded Tapestry, a program for at-risk teens that fought the pull of gangs; Jacobo became a father figure for many of the participants.
In 2005, he helped found City Ministry Network so that Christian nonprofits and church ministries had a place to connect with one another. The goal was to share resources, bring encouragement and prevent a duplication of services.
Monday, Jacobo became executive director of the group, which mostly has been run by volunteers. He is the only full-time employee of CMN, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit. .
The organization has expanded in membership and vision. In 2013, it began inviting those outside of the evangelical Christian mindset to its monthly meetings, called Catalyst. The goal: Working together to transform our community. Subgroups of special interests, such as those focusing on homelessness, immigration, schools, business and medicine, were formed. Cooperation, such as working on projects with other churches and organizations, is encouraged.
We really are a connector, Jacobo said. We find our greatest success when people connected with us are successful. We want to create a place where all types of people can connect and find an answer.
Moving into the paid position is a step of faith for Jacobo. We wanted to be a group of volunteers doing this on the side, he said. But weve reached the point that we want to accelerate this, to do it in a very intentional way. ... If the Lord is in this thing, it will be funded. If not, there will be something else.
Churches and individuals have donated enough to fund the position for six months, he said. Jacobos aim will be to work with the nine-person CMN board of directors to find donors or grants to ensure stable financing.
His first order of business: We want to chase the wild goose for a while. In Celtic Christianity, the Holy Spirit was called the wild goose. Chasing the wild goose meant you were going to chase the Spirit of God and join in his work. For a season, we want to see what the Holy Spirit is doing in our city immigration reform, homelessness, other things. We want to get our ears to the wind and find out whats really going on.
Primarily, he said at a recent Catalyst meeting, We exist to be a catalyst for partnerships. We want to put away our egos and our logos and figure out how to do church (together).
After chasing the wild goose, he said, then we want to be intentional in investing in collaborative ministry efforts. The day of stand-alone ministry efforts are (over). We want to do things together. One of the things Ive been passionate about is to identify, develop and empower emerging leaders ... to ask them if they want to do more, be involved. ...
We want to continue to support congregations, especially when it comes to marriage or connecting them with resources in the community. And the last thing is focused prayer. We need to do a better job empowering people to pray and creating a systematic way to pray for our city.
The ultimate goal, he said, is to improve neighborhoods and see Modesto transformed into a better community.
My style of ministry is coming alongside and coming under, Jacobo said. If youre concerned about the quality of life in our city, get involved. Youll see all the love, the mentoring, the 15 different (subgroups) that may be of interest to you, the monthly Thursday morning Catalysts at CrossPoint Community Church. Or get in touch with me. Ill listen to your story and hear what you care about and see if I can connect you.
What if a person is not a Christian but is interested in getting involved?
We dont apologize for being faith-based, Jacobo said. Youre going to hear the word Jesus and were going to pray. But were not going to beat you over the head. If youre not of the Christian faith, youll be accepted here. The model is government and church and business all together. We should be able to come together and have a rational conversation about things that concern us.
We want this to be a creative place for a think tank, for relationships, for conferences and seminars, Jacobo said. Theres a lot of great stuff going on here. We want to help accelerate it.
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2012.