Ministry Resources

More Than the American Dream – CityReach Church Philly

Author: Bethany Jarmul

Mark Novales grew up in East Chicago, Indiana.

He was raised in a Spanish Pentecostal church in an area with a lot of gang activity. At 17 years old, Mark joined the army and shortly afterwards he had an encounter with God and gave his life to the Lord.

At the age of 23, Mark got married and moved to Philadelphia. He and his wife settled into a happy life and had two children.


At 38 years old, shortly after returning from a tour in Iraq, Mark lost his best friend, Miguel, a 30-year-old youth pastor who drowned. “He had been a drug dealer in Philly, and I led him to Christ. But, he had surpassed me and challenged me to do something for God.”

When Miguel had originally challenged Mark with, “What are you doing for God?” Mark was offended and angry. However, after his friend passed away Mark had a different perspective. “I saw how many people he had impacted in just one year as a youth pastor. I started thinking—we take our kids to church, but are we really pleasing God? It challenged how I thought about serving the Lord,” he says.


In 2011, Mark attended Biblical Seminary in Hatsfield, Pa. for a Masters of Divinity program for urban ministries. Mark’s last class at the seminary was on church planting with Dr. Manny Ortiz. “I had never heard of anyone doing church planting the way that he did. He planted a church two blocks away from his own church!”

“I had this urge to plant a church. Everyone thought I was crazy. We were comfortable. We’d attained the American dream—two cars and a brand new house. But, I was empty,” Mark says. “I had a lot of fear, but I felt God say ‘If you step out for me, I’ll step our for you!’”

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