A 2007 graduate from Nyack College, Justin Thornton knew that by studying pastoral ministry he wanted to plant churches. He knew he wanted to be a pastor and he knew that “youth ministry was the first option [he had] to learn how to love people.”
Currently, he resides in Michigan with his wife and family. There, he is the lead pastor at Jericho Road Church as well as the Church Planting Coach for the Great Lakes District. Holding two distinct positions may seem like a huge feat but Justin stated that though the time seems split “it all flows together.”
Over the phone, we asked about his life’s work and his past experiences at Nyack College.
What core program are you working on right now?
The Multiplication Center.
As an option for pastoral ministry students, this church planting program functions as an internship experience where participants can have a chance to lead, preach, train, and teach with peers inside a community. After the internship’s completion, they are prepared to plant within Michigan or to set out on their own. As he stated, “the culture of multiplication” is a new concept and almost like an incubator experience. Outside of an associate’s position at a church or within youth ministry, new college graduates may find their career options limited. But Justin invites undergrad students into the internship program where they can receive leadership development and expand on their true potential.
In the past he has welcomed Nyack College students to the Multiplication Center and he continues to encourage our community to experience the incubator for themselves.
What Advice would you Give Current Nyack Students?
Justin explained that at Nyack College, he was “surrounded by—for the first time—young men and women who loved Jesus and were relatable.” He found true brothers in Christ. They didn’t want the college keg parties or the senseless waste of undergrad time. Instead, he and his friends enjoyed depth of true friendship and observation of God in their lives. They “kicked it” like any other college kids and had fun but at Nyack there was something more meaningful brewing. Pointedly, he remarked, “I don’t think I’d get that at many other places.”
He added that students should take advantage of the leadership opportunities on campus. Good leaders lead from a young age and in college, Justin served as a resident assistant, the captain of the soccer team and as a chaplain. These experiences honed his leadership potential and paved a path to where he is in life now. They should also just enjoy. Enjoy travel, enjoy worship, enjoy life now because everything just speeds up after graduation. “Let the word of God pour into you everyday.”
More on his Work at Jericho Road Church
Justin Thornton’s community at Jericho Road Church is all about outreach and radical love. Their “missional communities” are small groups that build intentional relationships with neighbors and beyond. Their goal is to become disciples and make disciples. By studying the bible, laughing, praying and serving together, these groups serve the greater good.
On every twelfth Sunday, church services are observed differently. Instead of going to church, Justin’s community goes out to “be the church.” Partnering with a neighborhood, they share meals, construct “garden socks” and pray. At the core of these church days, they believe that “we don’t have all the answers but we do have love and we do have a Savior. These are things worth sharing, not just talking about.”
Thank you to Justin for sharing his alumni story with our Nyack College community!