In the Bible, a furlong is a unit of measurement, the equivalent of 220 yards.
In faith, men are judged by good works, and the Rev. Brent Furlong has done those by, well, the furlong.
Furlong, associate pastor at Nottingham Christian Center in Eighty Four, is the founder of Go Time Ministries (named for “Seinfeld” character Izzy Mandelbaum, played by the late Lloyd Bridges, whose catch phrase was “It’s go time!”) and for the past 27 years has dedicated his life to helping youth find Jesus Christ.
Furlong says modestly that he has “no talents, no skills, just a ‘want–to’ to see young people get to know God.”
But the energetic, 49-year-old preacher is upbeat and charismatic, with an infectious laugh, a knack for using sports and pop culture to relate to teens, and a tendency to use the word “phenomenal” in most conversations.
He also has an ability to get things done.
Furlong has established youth ministries in Charleroi, Finleyville, McKeesport, Bentleyville and Clairton (where his youth group includes many of the PIAA Class A state championship football players), and recently Go Time purchased two adjoining townhomes in a housing project in Clairton, which youth and adult volunteers are rehabilitating and turning into a permanent youth center where students can gather after school.
He’s on the board of mission organizations, including One to the Other Ministries and Joshua Unlimited and in February, he’s taking a dozen teenagers to Lima, Peru on a mission trip – one of four international mission trips he has scheduled this year to establish youth ministries.
His intention, Furlong says, is to “help kids grow in the grace and knowledge of God.
“You hope that when they leave youth ministry, they love God with all their hearts and they love their neighbor as much as they love themselves,” said Furlong, sitting in the Go Time Prayer Room in Finleyville, donated by friends Dan and Robin Mulkern.
The walls of the Prayer Room are covered with pink and yellow and green Post-it notes, on which prayer requests are jotted down (staff member Deb Kregenow is in charge of prayer requests, which come in at all hours of the day and night), scripture quotes, and a large wall map dotted with locations to where Furlong, his staff and youth have traveled for missionary work.
Furlong, a son of the late Bert and Doris Furlong, grew up in the Mon Valley and graduated from Ringgold High School, the University of Pittsburgh and Shiloh Bible Institute.
Furlong said his mother was a “great woman who loved God and taught me about the Lord.” He inherited his work ethic from his father – a devoted Pittsburgh Pirates and “M*A*S*H” fan – who worked three jobs (as a bus driver and a custodian at two places), and when he retired at the age of 65, he took a job as a custodian at Hillcrest Christian Church, where he worked until he was 88 years old.
At Pitt, Furlong (whose passion for the ministry is rivaled by his devotion to the Panther sports teams) changed his major six times in two years. He felt led to social work, landing an internship at the Washington County jail and then a job with the Salvation Army after he graduated. Later, Furlong received a master’s degree in social work, and he worked with children at Pittsburgh hospitals, where he counseled trauma patients and their families.
He has always felt called to work with children.
It was his way, he says, of paying back the people in his life who served as mentors and nurtured his spiritual growth when he was a youth.
“When I grew up in the Mon Valley, there was always someone in my life who provided me with guidance, and I always wanted to do that, to be that person,” said Furlong. “I just admired them and appreciated them because they pushed me. I wanted to be a person who was a positive influence and who pushed kids in a positive direction.”
Among those mentors were his parents; his in-laws, Anthony and Rosalie Vaccari; the Rev. Bill Lusk, the pastor at Nottingham Christian Center; Harriet Beck, his youth group leader and his mother’s best friend; and the Rev. Larry Kessler, a pastor he met in Maine, where his wife, Dr. Natalie Furlong, attended medical school.
In 2001, with encouragement from his wife, a partner at South Hills Family Medicine (the couple met in the youth group at Gastonville United Methodist Church and were high school sweethearts), he started Go Time Ministries, a nonprofit, non-denominational ministry that aims to spread the word of God locally and abroad.
“It’s been a lot of fun. I enjoy every day,” said Furlong, who shuttles kids to college visits, helps them fill out job applications and attends their extracurricular events.
The father of a 15-year-old girl, Furlong acknowledges that today’s teens are growing up in a more complex world than he did, and contends the solution to mankind’s problems is to arm them with knowledge, reverence and respect for God.
“This ministry is all about God. I’ve got a phenomenal staff and a lot of people who believe in what we do,” said Furlong.
Furlong answers his phone 24 hours a day, and he acknowledges he rarely gets a full night’s sleep.
But that’s OK, Furlong said, because there isn’t time to rest as long as there are people whom he can help find their way to God.
For Furlong, it’s always Go Time.