A local Plant City man has decided to sell his home in search of a life of ministry.
What do you do when you decide you’d like to devote your life to ministry, but the church you volunteer for can’t bring you on staff?
If you’re Jon Finley, you quit your job, sell your house and you go with God. Five months ago, that’s the decision he made.
Finley is a member and volunteer with Plant City’s City Pointe Church. He first attended a service in the spring of 2016, following the death of his grandmother. Before that, his life was more about hard living than serving God. That, however, quickly changed.
At the start of 2016, Finley, now 33, was still in party mode. He had spent more than a decade working days in call centers, starting with cold calls for Terminix and eventually managing a team with TruGreen. At night, he was bouncing in bars and clubs throughout the Tampa area, there, too, working his way to managing security teams.
“I was really living in the world,” he said.
By appearance, the former Plant City High School offensive lineman looks the part. Standing over six feet tall, the burly and bearded
Finley looks more likely to be the groundskeeper at Hogwarts than a full-time pastor. His life before finding City Pointe was about collecting things. He worked hard, he said, to be a single, self-sufficient man. He took pride in the ownership of his Sam Allen Road home, the same home he lived in since he was six years old. He bought it from his parents after they moved to North Carolina.
And there was the violence. So much time in security and bouncing, he said, was dangerous and isolating. He’s been stabbed with bottles, had guns pulled on him and been jumped outside of clubs. Eventually, he wouldn’t go out unless he knew who was working security. Mostly, he hung out with other bouncers, drinking and partying when not at work.
“I got tired of the violence,” Finley said. “It’s not the safest job in the world.”
Then his grandmother got sick. He helped care for her as much as he could but was still focused on his call center job. Spending time with her began to change him, he said.
Growing up, he admits, he wasn’t the most devout. He does, however, remember spending time with his grandmother as a child. Every day, she’d spend about an hour reading the bible.
“She’d read it cover to cover about four times a year,” Finley recalls. “She’d sit at the counter and read for about 45 minutes to an hour every day. One day, when I was 9, she looked up and said, ‘you know what, you’re going to be in ministry.’ I laughed.”
Just over 20 years later, as he was again sitting with her over a bible, she asked him to say the Lord’s Prayer. It had been more than ten years, but he recited it perfectly. He asked her if she remembered that day and she smiled. He knew he was on to something. Something changed in that moment, but wasn’t quite there yet.
Then came the day he was stuck in traffic on Interstate 4. He was heading back from work in Tampa and he was tired, but supposed to spend time with his grandmother. Reaching over for his phone, he was ready to cancel and then he saw something. As he passed the McIntosh Road exit, he saw a white cross in the distance. He saw it as a sign and didn’t cancel. Delma Barton, Finley’s grandmother, died that day.
“That was the strong sign God was calling. I felt this is what I’m supposed to be doing, but I had no idea how.” Finley said. “It’s quite a life change, going into ministry full time.”
Shortly after, Finley attended his first City Pointe service and met pastor Scott McIntosh. He quickly became deeply involved in the church.
“I currently have him working with our adult ministries, such as the fall festival, small groups, missions, etcetera,” McIntosh said. “I’ve seldom seen such dedication.”
McIntosh accepted Finley, no matter the life he had previously lived. Something Finley said other churches hadn’t done. A little over a year later, McIntosh said Finley is as much an inspiration to him as he is to Finley.
“Jon Finley embodies the radical life change we long for everyone to experience when they meet Christ,” McIntosh said. “When he came into City Pointe Church for the first time, he lived only for himself and now he is living a life to impact others with God's love. He is a radically changed life impacting others for Christ. He's an inspiration to me and all that are around him.”
He’s got the support of his family, friends, and congregation and others, too, recently speaking at other area churches and telling his story.
“It’s definitely generating positive conversation. People are intrigued,” Christina Burgess, a fellow City Pointe goer and Finley’s realtor said. “It’s a big leap of faith. It’s not something that you see often.”
Finley made the decision to sell his home and most of his belongings five months ago and has been living off the proceeds and good will of others since, he said. It’s a big sacrifice and one that won’t last forever, he said, but he hopes the path will lead to him being ordained and finding full-time employment at City Pointe or wherever his path leads.
There are moments of doubt and stress, wondering where he’ll live, what the timeline will be like after the sale of his house, the little details that will make it all work.
“Those moments, I have to sit down and remember God is handling it,” he said.
Then, he said, the peace comes and he knows it will work. The sacrifices he is making are to help others and, maybe, to one day show someone the same understanding and guidance McIntosh has shown him. That, he said, makes it all worth it. But it’d be nice to lead the prayer before a Plant City Raiders game, too.