Language of Love: California Congregation Communicates Christ in English, Spanish
By Carl Stagner
When John Hernandez came to Whittier Church of God, he was hired as the Spanish-speaking pastor. A growing demographic in the once predominantly English-speaking congregation prompted the plan, which would make it possible for separate services distinguished by language. Over time, however, the English-speaking service fell into decline as the service in Spanish grew. Coming together as one congregation, translation between the senior pastor and the associate worked for a while. Translation devices even made the experience more pleasant and technologically sound. But when Whittier’s senior pastor ultimately retired and John was asked to accept the role, the church didn’t simply become a Spanish-only ministry. John’s vision, playing out before his eyes today, is unity.
“We all have the same spirit,” Pastor John explains. “We speak different languages, but we all have love. Love is what draws us together. Just as Jesus said, they’ll know us by our love for one another.”
Separate services continue to keep each congregation going strong, but a joint service once every month enhances the spirit of unity at Whittier Church of God. Translation devices are often used, but sometimes Pastor John simply alternates speaking in Spanish and English. Some Spanish-speaking neighbors, who once avoided the church with the misunderstanding it was all English, have come to visit because the barriers have been broken. The church—together—is growing and learning to thrive.
“They asked me to share my vision,” John recounts. “My number one was to be a church that prays. On your knees, you’ll never stumble. My second is discipleship; it’s the simplicity of the gospel that we need to get back to. As a result, I’m seeing a lot of growth physically and spiritually. Third, it’s about community. We’re in this for the kingdom.”
Presenting a united front against the forces of darkness around them, the church is committed to fully engage the community at every opportunity. For Thanksgiving, they opted to host a dinner for the disabled in their community. Earlier in the fall, a harvest party let the church interact with numerous neighbors of all ages. A summer carnival preceded that. Now that wintertime temperatures are in the forecast, a “Jackets for Jesus” drive will ensure that the community stays out of the cold. All these efforts, and more, come with a smile and words that speak the blessed name of Jesus.”
“Jesus loved their people,” Pastor John notes. “He loved them, met their needs, and taught them. That’s what we want to do. We serve a living God, so let’s arise and shine! We’re excited, and we’re seeing a congregation grow.”
Thank you for your prayers for Whittier Church of God. The Lord is doing a great work there, and the Church of God in the United States and Canada anticipates celebrating more as their story continues to unfold.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) photo: Whittier Church of God enjoying food and fellowship.