Photo includes Jim Claypool and Tyler Carlson
During his four years on the maintenance staff at Arizona Christian University, Jim Claypool has been a staple in the small college community. It’s common to find Claypool around campus replacing sprinkler heads and lights, fixing thermostats, doors, bed frames and windows. And if you happen to catch his eye, he’ll never miss the opportunity to say hello. But Claypool’s life work extends far beyond the confines of ACU into the world intercity ministry.
Here Claypool trades in his wrench and socket for a pulpit and a Bible. He trades in his time and his money for the chance to reach a marginalized people. And he trades in everything he has, for everything God wants from him.
Claypool has been the head pastor at Bible Baptist Church in downtown Phoenix for the last 12 years. During his time, he has led the small church to make a large impact. The church feeds between 75 to 100 people every week in the surrounding intercity neighborhood and provides both drug and rehab services to those in need. This is just Claypool’s way of recognizing the large and needy intercity population whom he calls the “forgotten people”.
But perhaps the most amazing piece of Claypool’s ministry, is the work that he does with the intercity youth. When much of the world looks on the troubled youth of the intercity with a wary eye and would prefer to forget them all together, Claypool has embraced them.
Every Wednesday night for the last 12 years, Claypool has opened up his church to the youth of the surrounding area to gather around and play some basketball. “I just opened up the gym because it’s an old church and wasn’t being used and started reaching out to the kids in the community and in the parks,” said Claypool. And the kids responded.
On any given night, there are between 10 and 30 young men and women of the intercity neighborhoods who gather at Bible Baptist to play a little pick-up basketball, eat some pizza and hear about Christ along the way.
For Claypool, youth and youth ministry have had a special place in his heart for a long time. He began working with youth during his freshman year of college when he attended Northern Arizona University. Throughout his time during and after college, he took many trips to Mexico and ministered to youth there. “That kind of ignited the spark,” said Claypool, referencing the passion he gained for the intercity kids in Mexico. “The kids of Mexico are intercity kids as well. They come from pretty poor, poverty situations too, so that got me going.”
Following college, Claypool worked several intern associate pastor jobs before becoming the lead pastor at Bible Baptist.
Even with his extensive experience, Claypool knows that leading an intercity church and attempting to bring hardened youth to Christ isn’t easy. “You look into their eyes and you can see that many of them have this dead look, this anger look, this hurt look and they don’t trust anybody,” he said. “Most of these kids don’t even have parents who are active in their lives,” he added.
It’s exactly these circumstances that surround these kids that keeps Claypool motivated and pushing to pour into them. One way Claypool keeps them away from the streets is by opening their eyes to a completely different side of life, the great outdoors. “I take them camping a lot, it’s something they’ve never experienced before because they’ve always been in the intercity. They get real excited about that.”
But the thing that really excites Claypool is when he sees the hand of the Holy Spirit at work in his ministry. “To see one or two of them come to Christ and change their ways is a huge blessing and the fuel that keeps you going,” he says.
As his ministry continues to move forward through the various up’s and down’s that come with such a unique path, Claypool sinks his trust deeply into God’s word and the power of prayer. “We have to keep pushing forward and being a people of prayer,” he said. “If you’re a person of prayer, God will carry you through.”
Pulling out a sheet of paper, Claypool then began to quote scripture, reading Acts 20:24 which says ‘However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.’ “I think this sums up everything you do and I do in life,” he said.
Claypool understands that this task he has taken on is so much bigger and more important than replacing a sprinkler or fixing a thermostat. This task was God-given and he knows that he is therefore to carry it out with grace, honor and humility. Never doing it for recognition or praise for what he’s done, but for what God’s done.
Written by ACU Student Tyler Carlson