Posted on 5/17/2013 by Warren Bird in the Learnings Blog
After a lucrative 10-year Wall Street career in investment management, native New Yorker Joshua Rodriguez resigned in 1991 to enter ministry full-time. Today, along with his wife Paula, he leads a thriving bilingual church just outside New York City: CitylineChurch / La Iglesia de Cityline of Jersey City, NJ.
“We’ve run out of room” is Pastor Joshua’s current challenge. The converted warehouse they use, where the maximum capacity seating of 600, is full at the "prime" hour of 11:30 a.m. For holiday services, the church sadly has to turn people away. The church currently offers three Sunday morning services:
- 11:30 in English, drawing 600 including children, about 75% Hispanic/Latino
- 9:30 in Spanish, drawing 450 including children
- 8:00 in English, drawing 80 adults, mostly professionals, about 75% Hispanic/Latino
Joshua and Paula’s initial calling was to replant an indigenous Hispanic ministry of 17 members. Four years later they started an English ministry. Two years after that Cityline relocated to their current 12,000 square foot facility. They came to a drug-infested, crime-ridden neighborhood, and have been an active part (politically and otherwise) in making the neighborhood better. One of their first steps was to buy a home in the immediate area.
“Very few Hispanic churches are doing English ministry,” Joshua observes. He estimates that there are 200,000 Hispanics/Latinos in the three adjoining towns closest to the church. About half being second generation who prefer English. “There are maybe 50 Latino-led storefront churches, all in Spanish only. Our intent is not to compete but to provide a service that few others seem to be offering.”
As a result, the church has become a hub of transformation, both for individuals and for the community as a whole. “We’re trying to live what we teach – empowering the next generation,” he says. This includes creative approaches to evangelism. “People may not come to church to worship, but they will show up for a debate on the arts,” he offers as an example. At one recent non-religious concert aimed at bringing in the community, 65 people came to the Lord in response to the invitation to receive Christ offered at the conclusion.
As the church looks for a second site or other options to solve its need to make space for more people, the focus remains on seeing the entire community continue to transform as the Gospel changes individual lives. “The question I ask other pastors is how much time, money, and talent are you willing to invest in this next generation?” Joshua says, “I’m willing to give it my all.”
Are You a Second Gen Pastor Too?
Pastor Joshua will be one of the participants in Leadership Network’s upcoming Large Church Hispanic Pastors Forum on October 9 in Chicago. If you also are a Hispanic/Latino pastor leading a large church that’s reaching primarily a second generation population (or know of someone), please see http://www.leadnet.org/hispanic and let us know of your interest.