Exalt Church in West Mifflin uses up-tempo atmosphere, technology
About 70 people seated in folding chairs in a gym in West Mifflin listened intently to a casually dressed man speak about the impact of making mistakes.
“God is a victim of our war against responsibility,” said the Rev. Thomas Ondrea, 39, who wore jeans and tennis shoes at Exalt Church while delivering a sermon, one in a series he gives on “Five Easy Ways to Wreck Your Life.”
Ondrea spoke to members of the nondenominational church on Sunday, after a concert-like, musical portion of worship.
Exalt Church's modern approach to delivering an age-old biblical message is rooted in an equally modern method: social networking.
A West Mifflin couple, Joshua and Nicole Bilsky, found Exalt's congregants and leadership via the Internet after not being able to find a church that fulfilled their spiritual needs, they said.
“We really felt like we were being called to put this vision out there and see where it went,” said Joshua Bilsky, 32, marketing director for Exalt and an information-technology manager who is a contractor for the Department of Energy.
Beginning in January, the couple found band members, a youth pastor and a community group director via craigslist. To publicize the church, videos of services were posted on YouTube and links to videos were included in e-mailed newsletters.
Exalt used Facebook and Twitter to spread the word.
On Sept. 9, about 150 people, including youngsters in the children's ministry, attended the inaugural service of Exalt. It meets in Wilson Christian Academy on Clairton Road. While the school has no ecumenical ties to Exalt, its director, Chadd Schafer, is Joshua Bilsky's brother-in-law. The academy rents its gym for Exalt's sanctuary and some of its classrooms for the church's children's groups.
“I really feel like in the area that we're in, there's just not a lot of churches that do what we do,” said Nicole Bilsky, 30, volunteer coordinator at Exalt and a professional development coordinator for a Downtown-based consulting firm.
Joshua Bilsky explained that the church offers a format that its members find exhilarating and welcoming. It relies on technology — such as its concert-style worship service that incorporates light and sound boards and screens — to create an up-tempo atmosphere. Exalt keeps members connected and its mission advanced via social networking.
Combined with sermons that are applicable to real life, Exalt has attracted attract younger members, Bilsky said. About 50 percent are younger than 40 years old.
West Homestead resident Angellia Logsdon, 20, said she and her family, which includes her mother Lisa and father Ken, attend Exalt because of its charged format.
“We were attracted to something that was new and exciting, people who were excited for Christ,” she said.
Ondrea, 39, was one of about 50 pastoral applicants the Bilskys screened from a website that advertises church jobs.
A Wilkes-Barre native, Ondrea, who had been a teaching pastor at Upward Church in Norfolk, Va., moved from Virginia Beach with his wife, Christine, 35, and sons, Seth, 10, and Tyler, 9, to West Mifflin in August to become Exalt's lead pastor, he said.
Ondrea's brother David Ondrea, 26, and his wife, Amy, 23, moved from California's Sacramento area so that David Ondrea could become Exalt's director of worship and media, Thomas Ondrea said.
He said he and his brother, who are volunteers at Exalt, planned on moving here whether they had jobs or not.
“The main reason why we came to Pittsburgh was to plant the church,” he said.
He had savings from Upward and an offering that the congregation collected for his and his family's relocation, he said.
He had savings from a part-time job as a financial adviser for military members through a Department of Defense program.
The Ondreas found jobs at Wilson Christian Academy. Thomas Ondrea is a Bible teacher and David Ondrea is a music teacher.
“God's been good, and he's been providing for us since we've been here,” Thomas Ondrea said.
Munhall resident Paula Paterlini, 43, who is an accountant at Wilson, said she and her daughter Alyssa, 13, began attending Exalt because of its contemporary music, informal dress code, and its sermons.
“I think the messages (Thomas Ondrea has) been delivering since he started have all been relevant to everyone's life,” she said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Cabbage contest engages Western Pa. 3rd-graders in gardening
- Wal-Mart plan ignites election in McCandless
- Mt. Lebanon wants to update master plan for Uptown district
- Dormont Council points to ex-manager for deficit
- Bethel Park voters get chance to change charter
- Moon Area aims to ease parents’ transportation worries
- Young Achiever: Kelli Lucas
- Combative Krav Maga classes gaining in popularity in Western Pa.