Meet the Pastor
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for taking the time to visit our website!
I am Nathan Leslie. I'm a local boy, having grown up on a nearby dairy farm that has been in my family since 1815. After graduating from Mohawk High School, I attended both Grove City College and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. After completing all of that, I was also ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament by the Presbytery of Shenango in 2010. That gave me the title "Reverend" and so I've now earned the nickname "The Rev" around the church and community.
Speaking of that, I met the good people of BPC while in high school when I served as a substitute accompanist for worship. I was introduced to a congregation that was sincerely trying to be faithful to God's calling, but were struggling to make that happen. When they were unable to afford a full-time pastor in 2006, one of their members suggested that they pursue a student pastor - a preferably younger seminary student who could step into the role of pastor, and perhaps re-energize the church. They presented the idea to me one September day in 2006 when I came to preach for them. After some prayer, time and discussion with the Presbytery of Shenango, I started my duties as Student Pastor in July 2007.
Their hopes for me were simple: To lead the congregation in revitalization. I had some theological training and some experience in preaching, but I knew nothing about church revitalization or growth (or so I thought). That summer, I began a season of regular prayer and reading Scripture, along with the members of the session. The result was a transformation: a transformation of lives, a transformation of the church body, and a transformation of our approach and understanding of the church. Suddenly, we became a body of believers on a mission in our community. Suddenly, we no longer saw ourselves as a dying church, but now as a church that embodied the heart of the Gospel, a resurrection hope; we were a church emerging from near death by the power of the Holy Spirit. And from there, God has done some pretty amazing things. Most of all, he used these people to train me for the work of ministry, and gave them the patience (most of the time) to deal with me as we took some risks, tried new things but above all learned and grew together. I look back on the blessed saints who patiently and prayerfully nurtured and supported me in this time, and I'm truly grateful for them. Finally in June of 2010, I graduated from Seminary and was ready to take my first call; but BPC didn't want me to leave and I didn’t want to leave them. So I was elected unanimously by the congregation as the next Pastor of Bessemer Presbyterian Church, the position to which I was then ordained and installed. Since then, we have continued to work together to further the mission and ministry of the Bessemer Presbyterian Church in this community, and I'm delighted to watch the growth and transformation that continues to happen among us. Truly the Spirit of the Lord is at work in our midst! It's a joy to look out on a Sunday morning and see faces of all ages learning, worshipping and fellowshipping together.
One of my greatest joys in this calling has been helping to establish the Mohawk Coffee House (MoCo House) here in Bessemer. The purpose was to get Christians outside the walls of the church by creating a safe-space to interact with our community, build relationships, and share the Gospel with others. In the end, the result was a partnership of members from BPC and four other churches in our area to create such a place, a coffee house which finally opened in December 2014. It's a regular part of life and ministry for me now. If you catch me at the right time, you'll find me working as a barista behind the counter. Other times, I'm just hanging out in what's become my "mobile office" armed with my cell phone and computer, but most of all, willing to chat, listen and pray with those who stop by to visit. After all, this is how I see Jesus ministering in his world, and because ministry is, frankly, carrying on Jesus' ministry by the Holy Spirit, it's the best way to practice ministry. I see Jesus' taking on flesh and dwelling among us, his selfless service to and sacrifice for humanity, and the hope which comes from his resurrection, as markers for the attitudes and actions of ministry. So I like to be where people are, inside and outside the church, embodying Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. And because of that, I've become something of a pastor to the community as well.
In fact, because of relationships built with our local police through their patronage of the coffee house, I was appointed the chaplain of the Bessemer Police Department in January 2017. This new position became an extension of my pastoral care to our community at large, and I'm blessed to be in this role for the law enforcement officers who protect and serve our community. In November of that year, I was elected a member of borough council, and although I resigned my official position because of that election, I continue to foster relationships with our local law enforcement. I was also elected President of the Council in April 2018, a position which has been challenging but also has helped me to have a direct hand in shaping public policy for our community.
But "under the collar," I'm a normal guy. I like music (all kinds of music, you'll find... plus I play several instruments), I'm a tech-junkie, I love trains (both models and chasing real ones), doing yard and home repair work, watching football, and I like to think I'm artistic and creative, too. I enjoy the outdoors, especially camping, hiking and swimming. I enjoy just spending time with friends and family, especially sitting around a fire when the weather's warm.
But most of all, I love my family. I love being a husband, a dad, and a foster dad. I've been married to my best friend Mary Kay (a Bessemer native) since October 2012, and we are blessed to have two sons: Carson and Grayson. The boys keep us busy, but they've also taught us so much about life and love. We spent five years as foster parents as well, and have fostered 11 different children during that time. We also became residents of the Borough of Bessemer in 2016, and have enjoyed making our home among the people to whom we feel called to minister.
Enough about me. In short, come check out our church. We're not about bells and whistles, and we're not perfect. We're a group of sinful people trying to figure out how to be faithful followers of Jesus, even though we all screw up sometimes. But we are about authentic ministry and mission in our community, about building relationships, about growing and making disciples of Jesus Christ, and sharing the hope that is ours in Him. If that's what you're looking for in a church, I highly recommend BPC!
In Christ's Love and Service,
Pastor Nathan (a.k.a. "The Rev")
P. S. If you'd like to listen to my sermons, check out our New Sermons page and our Old Sermons (pre-2018) page. Pardon the shameless self-promotion, but it's one way I can extend our ministry beyond the walls of the church. They are typically updated each week.