By Carl Stagner
They’ve overseen the planting of more than one hundred new Spanish-language churches across the United States. In the past few months alone, they’ve planted eight new churches. Twenty years ago, the impact of the Hispanic Council of the Church of God (Concilio Hispano) only touched five states. But now, because of intentional church planting efforts, the Concilio gives God the glory for locations in thirty-eight states. Several factors have contributed to the success of the Concilio’s successful church multiplication efforts. A brief look at a few of these fruit-bearing plants offer some important insights.
Perhaps one of the most successful church plants of the Concilio has been the Spanish-speaking Church of God in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. The church that began with an attendance of zero now claims more than two hundred. Under the leadership of Pastor Jorge Palacios, a total of twelve additional Hispanic leaders have been developed. Out of these twelve leaders, fifteen more Hispanic congregations were planted over the span of twelve years. Additionally, the church has helped make it possible for ministries to begin in Ecuador, San Salvador, and Columbia. When the church started, they rented an Episcopal church building for just $200 per month—today they own the building they purchased for more than a million.
Daniel Osorio pastors a thriving, first-generation Spanish-speaking church in Morganton, North Carolina. In just one offering, this church raised all of the funds necessary to purchase their ten-acre property! Not long after, they built a twelve-thousand square-foot building. Osorio’s congregation is diverse—many who attend come from an indigenous tribe from Guatemala and also speak an Aguateca-Indian dialect. Jim Johnman, Hispanic promoter for the Concilio, reports that Osorio’s congregation now has congregations, from that same indigenous tribe, in Ohio, Colorado, Kansas, Oregon, and Florida.
In Liberal, Kansas, Pastor Rafael Bermudez now leads a bustling church with up to two hundred in attendance. The Hispanic-speaking church is the largest of all of the city’s churches—including English-speaking congregations. The church has since planted three additional churches in southwest Kansas.
Carlos Sanchez—a professional baseball player alongside the legendary Sammy Sosa—left it all to plant a church in Northwest Chicago. Today, the congregation is experiencing blessing after blessing.
While the Concilio rejoices in what God has done, they know that it didn’t all happen without purpose and hard work. “The first priority in our strategic ministry plan is to plant new churches,” Jim Johnman says of the Hispanic Council. “Our goal is to plant at least one new church in every state. The secondary goal is for every new work to plant another work. The third goal is to train and develop leaders through the Hispanic Church of God Bible Institute located in five regions of the United States.”
Multiplication. Churches planting churches planting more churches. Now that’s some math that any student of the Word can appreciate. But it takes time, as well as strategic collaboration with local churches and states or regions. One of the principal strategies is the utilization of an already existing church building. “We provide the Spanish-language church model and church planter, we ask the state or region to provide assistance for housing and utilities of the church planter, and we ask the local Church of God congregation to provide space in their building to plant a Spanish-language church.”
Beyond that and some extensive training and church planting boot camps, there’s basically plenty of hard work. “The biggest difference between Anglo church planting and Spanish-language planting is the outreach to the local community,” Jim surmises. “Hispanic pastors working within their communities still contact people one-by-one by knocking on doors of homes, visiting in community settings, and even evangelizing on parking lots of Walmarts and other local stores.”
Amid all the success God has granted, these church plants still face great hurdles about which the Church of God is encouraged to pray. “The greatest challenge is the financial constraints that every new church planter faces,” Jim explains. “Another challenge is for a Hispanic pastor to be able to identify and minister to the Hispanic cultures from many different countries of origin. The other challenge is the political attitude and climate that appears to be against many of our immigrants, both legal and undocumented. Many times what happens to our Hispanic families appears to be racially charged from seemingly ignorant people who do not care for a certain people group. Please pray that Christians will not get caught up in the politics of the moment, but will learn to love people as Christ loves us!”
The following locations are blessed by the most recent plants of the Concilio: Miamisburg, Ohio; Stuart, Florida; Reno, Nevada; Nashville, Tennessee; Gaithersburg, Maryland; Seaside, Oregon; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.