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General Council 2009 profile: Mark Vega

By Deann Alford

By some estimates, Jesus’ beloved disciple John was about 15 years old when he left his old life behind to follow the Lord. Several of the other apostles may have been teenagers as well.

John’s Gospel narrates Jesus’ call to Peter to disciple the young flock.

“Before Jesus tells Peter, ‘Take care of my sheep,’ He tells him, ‘Feed my lambs,’ ” says Mark Vega, youth director of the Southeastern Spanish District of the Assemblies of God. “I think Christ was telling him to seek young people.”

Christ himself was the model for the first youth pastor. That example of the strategic nature of young people feeds Vega’s passion to mold Christians while they’re still at the optimum age — pliable and teachable and full of zeal to make a difference in the world.

Born the youngest of 10 children to a single Puerto Rican mom in New York City, Mark Vega joined the United States Navy at age 17. He served in the 1990 Gulf War on the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy. At age 22, Vega surrendered his life to Christ at an Assemblies of God church in Tampa, Fla.

For eight years Vega served as a chaplain to the New York Yankees and its farm teams. He has traveled abroad as an evangelist, including preaching at an Athletes in Action crusade in Panama where he traveled with Panamanian baseball star Mariano Rivera, also of the Yankees. Vega’s service in baseball chaplaincy allowed him to witness firsthand the life-changing power of the gospel among the rich and famous who seem to have everything.

“These guys have the same thirst as the junkie under the bridge,” Vega says of the elite players to whom he ministered. “They just have the money to medicate the thirst temporarily.”

Today Vega and his wife, Lisa, pastor Ignite Life Center in Gainesville, Fla. Vega founded IGNITE Inc., an academic internship program that equips youth who are called to full-time ministry but are unable to afford the $18,000 to $24,000 cost of one year in seminary. Students completing the two-year program may return to their home districts qualified to receive Assemblies of God ministerial credentials.

His book Don’t Wait for Me to Die (Thomas Nelson, 2008) is about restoration and healing. Vega uses the narrative in Acts 28 about the apostle Paul’s encounter with a venomous snake.

Vega compares the viper on Paul’s hand to the traumas of life that inject venom into our soul. He believes Satan used the serpent to target Paul’s hand, knowing that Paul would write two-thirds of the Epistles.

“The enemy knows exactly the area we’re called to and wants to destroy it,” Vega says.

Vega will speak Monday, Aug. 3, at the Assemblies of God National Youth Convention, Orland09. He wants to inspire his audience to see themselves as God’s army with the power to impact the world. He expects the convention to be a watershed encounter with Christ for the next generation at a crucial time in America’s history. Vega wants to challenge youth to spread the fire of God and dig deeply into God’s Word.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, young adults can make a difference now, Vega insists.

“We need to stake the ground and possess the land that God has given us and utilize the authority that God has given us,” Vega says.

Joseph, Daniel, David, Esther and Mary are biblical examples of young people whom God has used throughout history.

“Youth ministry does not equate to a junior anointing or a mini-anointing. We don’t get a greater anointing as we transition through ministry,” Vega says. “David was anointed prophet, priest and king while he was young, and the Spirit of God mightily came upon him from that day on.

“Youth need to know the Spirit of God is on them now. That’s all they need to succeed, prevail and conquer.”

TPE contributor DEANN ALFORD is a senior writer for Christianity Today. She is a member of Church of Glad Tidings, an Assemblies of God congregation in Austin, Texas. 

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