MCKEES ROCKS, Pa. (BRN) — “I’ve been through it, but God saw me through it, and if He could transform my life, He can transform your life,” said Pastor James Hogan.

James Hogan
James Hogan, pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania

Hogan is the lead pastor at Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, a church he planted with two other families 16 years ago.

However, prior to planting Faithbridge and pursuing ministry, Hogan found himself living a very different lifestyle.

“I left the town that I’m doing ministry in 1986, went to the military, got out of the military in 1989, and went to the West Coast to play in hard rock bands. I grew hair down to my butt and played in a couple of pretty good bands. During the course of doing that, I became a drug addict. I was a junkie; I was a mess, and that totaled my life,” shared Hogan.

Things continued to down spiral for Hogan, as he struggled to keep a job and his wife asked him to move out.

“I got thrown out by my wife. I had been hiding drugs from her, and she didn’t know why I was losing my mind, but she knew I was losing my mind,” said Hogan.

“She finally found out that I was doing drugs and said, ‘You got to go. I don’t want to divorce, but I can’t live with you like this.’”

Hogan continued: “That was a real wake up call for me, but I didn’t know where to turn. It was like waking up at the bottom of the biggest mountain you could imagine, and knowing you had neither the energy nor the tools to climb it, but you had to get over it.”

Throughout his time in the military and college, various people had shared Jesus with Hogan, but he wasn’t interested.

“When I started taking classes at university, people were trying to share Jesus with me and I would mock them. I would tell them they were neurotic, that they needed a crutch to get through life. I was a heretic, lunatic, and a mess, but God didn’t stop chasing me,” he said.

“So, as my life just unwound, and I found myself living in the front seat of my truck, not being able to function without drugs and not being able to function with drugs, [and] not knowing where to turn, that was the moment when somebody shared Jesus with me. It was truly the beginning of the most amazing journey.”

Within that journey, Hogan and his wife reunited and started attending a church in Tierrasanta, California. It was there Hogan started to feel a call to ministry.

“I started working with the worship team, and then over time, he [the pastor] became my mentor [and] started discipling me. Then he asked me to teach a Bible study with some guys from Set Free Ministries, which is a ministry that was started in San Quentin prison, and then he asked me to teach Sunday school class,” said Hogan.

“One day, after I’d been teaching Sunday school for about a year, he [the pastor] came to me and said, ‘You know, I observed you teaching your class today…[and] I need to let you know you’re called to preach.’”

Immediately, Hogan was taken back and told the pastor, “You’re crazy.” After further conversation, Hogan agreed to allow the pastor to start educating him. He also pursued a few classes at a seminary.

Tragically, Hogan’s mentor was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving both Hogan and the church without a pastor.

“We had people come in and preach here and there, but when they weren’t available to preach, or for our Sunday evening services, it fell to me to preach,” said Hogan.

“I started getting great affirmation from a bunch of really old ladies that had been founding members of this church from the 1940’s. So, I started to believe that was what I was supposed to do.”

Eventually, that calling led Hogan and his family to the East Coast.

He, along with two other families, planted Faithbridge Community Church in 2005.

“We planted in a community center in one of the housing projects. We met in the community center for four years, and it was like the two families, 10 women, and their kids.”

After the community center became unavailable, Hogan and the church members started meeting in a local church building during the evenings.

A year into that arrangement, the church’s pastor came to Hogan and said, “You guys are supposed to have this building.” For nine years, Faithbridge Church called that building home.

Faithbridge Community Church service
Faithbridge Community Church members worship in their new worship center.

In 2020, Hogan was contacted by a Lutheran church that was located across the street from a local high school. The Lutheran church realized there were not going to survive after the pandemic, so it elected to merge with another church and offer the building to Faithbridge Community Church.

“It’s this sanctuary, an education facility that has several rooms…[and] a fellowship hall as big as the sanctuary. The sanctuary is about two and a half times the size of our old sanctuary,” Hogan described.

Hogan also shared a little bit about the demographic of their new location.

Faithbridge outreach
Faithbridge reaches out to the high school neighboring their new church location.

“Our high school is one of the lowest ranked educational high schools in the state of Pennsylvania. It has a daycare center in the school to take care of the babies of the students,” he said, explaining the vast majority of the kids who go there are from single mother households, some of which are now fifth generation.

“I totally believe that the reason God moved us right across the street from the high school is to be able to start reaching these kids”, or more specifically, “more of them,” he said.

“So, building trust is like the biggest key for us to have these relationships, and it’s been amazing because as we see God leading us to do stuff, we get more people that are like, ‘This is impacting me. I’m seeing my life change.’ It’s just pretty amazing that you know God is showing that the broken ones can be fixed.”

Listen to the podcast interview:

The “50 Stories of Transformation” series, told in honor of the Baptist Resource Network’s 50th anniversary, highlights the many ways God has moved throughout Pennsylvania, South Jersey and beyond. Your generous support of the Cooperative Program makes this ministry possible and fuels evangelism and outreach in our local churches and all over the world! Thank you!