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New church: Charismatic touch, youthful outreach

While he may be familiar as the former owner of Pug's Pizza (and Pizza Man), Jesse Bystrom is poised to begin his "passionate work" out of the Best Western Motel complex in downtown River Falls. Bystrom, 31, a 1996 River Falls High School graduate, holds his two-year-old son Ezra. Phil Pfuehler photo

Jesse Bystrom wanted to become a youth minister since earning his degree in that field in 2001.

That was his passion, but life took a different turn before recently turning back again.

For years he worked at Pizza Man on South Main Street. Then he became manager and finally seized the opportunity to buy the business.

Bystrom put in long hours making Pizza Man profitable. In 2006 he changed the name to Pug's Pizza -- named for the family's favorite kind of dog.

Last spring he was approached about selling Pug's and did so in August. The name was changed to Carbone's.

"This all came up out of the blue," Bystrom said. "The business was never listed with a broker. During the sale they paid all the money up front. We put our house in Clifton on the market, and in just three weeks we had two offers.

"Coincidence? Maybe, but I've never heard of such a thing where a house and business sell together almost at the same time, especially in this kind of economy. I felt God had orchestrated it, that it was his timing for me."

Before starting anything new, Bystrom wanted to lessen financial pressures. That meant giving up home ownership.

He and wife Erin (Sikorski), a 1999 Hudson graduate who has a master's from UW-River Falls and teaches second grade at Trinity Academy in Hudson, now rent a twin home in Roberts with their two-year-old son.

With house and business sold, Bystrom is preparing to open the newest place of worship in River Falls: New Song Celebration Church.

"The name is based on a lot of scriptural verses and references," Bystrom said. "And it really ties in with the worship emphasis for this church."

Bystrom said that is some ways, the church's direction will develop over time as parishioners join and take part.

New Song Celebration Church is nondenominational.

"The focus is on advancing the kingdom of God, rather than man-created denominations."

This broad approach, Bystrom said, should appeal to those not committed to church attendance.

"I want to give people a clean, fresh start to attending church, especially for those who are floating in between," he said.

Bystrom hopes to attract significant numbers of high school- and college-age members.

"I want to establish a relevance for younger church goers," he said. "Those that are often missed by churches or have drifted away but are still searching, still forming their identities."

Bystrom described other charismatic aspects of New Song Celebration Church:

  • "The intent is to create an atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to be present for physical healings, miracles and prophetic words. Worship will be a major part of the foundation."
  • "My desire is to see the tangible presence of God manifested in the church in both love and power."
  • "The setting here will have a greater emphasis on presence versus programs -- like for single moms, the elderly, young adults and so forth. There's nothing wrong with such programs, but it's just not our focus."
  • "I really have a heart to see people trained, equipped, empowered and released in the gifting and callings God has in their lives."
  • "I want to create a balance of spirit and word that's comprised of preaching, teaching and application."

    Bystrom said being a longtime pizza place owner/operator should help him launch and sustain his church.

    "What I've learned that should be helpful is how to build relationships with people, networking, marketing and delegating authority," he said.

    To begin with, New Song Celebration Church will hold Sunday service in a 200-person capacity Banquet Room #1 at the Best Western Motel on Main Street.

    There is direct access through the main lobby off Spring Street. Look for signage for the new church.

    "This is a perfect central location with plenty of parking, and I felt it was the best spot for visibility and accessibility," Bystrom said. "It also offers a very non-threatening way for people to check us out. It doesn't have the look or feel of a church."

    The inaugural service for New Song Celebration is 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 18.

    "We'll try this location at Best Western for 12 weeks, then re-evaluate it and go from there," Bystrom said.

    Rick and Kris Swanson of River Falls will provide music leadership during worship services. A church website is coming soon.

    For questions, Bystrom can be reached by cell phone at 715-222-2077.

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