Paraguayan Pastor’s Leadership Providential in Oklahoma City
By Carl Stagner
Donald Franz’s attention was arrested upon first glance at the sign. It was a sign he’d later see many times, as the lawyer who had the advertisements duplicated apparently chose not to cut any corners. In fact, on many street corners in the Oklahoma City neighborhood of Iglesia de Dios United, such signs could be spotted easily. In Spanish, the signs, loosely translated into English, communicate, “Discount Divorce! $250 with children, $150 without.” Without hesitation, Donald set out to print and plant his own signs: “Divorce is not the solution. Free marriage counseling!” The resulting impact was far-reaching, but none of it would have been possible apart from the providential plan God put into place when he brought Pastor Donald Franz from his thriving church in Paraguay to Oklahoma City.
Capitol Hill Church of God enjoyed an incredible history of kingdom impact—seeing souls saved, launching leaders, and planting new ministries. After several years of decline and various unsuccessful attempts to revive the work as a neighborhood outreach to the fast-growing Spanish-speaking population, though, something had to change. Of course, God wasn’t surprised, and he certainly knew what he was doing. Jeff Stewart, senior associate pastor for Crossings Community Church, remembers how the changing situation developed. Though he hadn’t yet met Donald Franz, he had heard of him through his son Sebastian, who was in the United States, attending Mid-America University. Jeff asked Sebastian if his father might know of a good candidate to launch a Spanish-language ministry on the south-central side of the city.
“I soon discovered Donald’s ministry style was very similar to ours at Crossings,” Jeff explains. “You disciple, you give yourself away, you disciple again, and repeat.” Ultimately, Jeff would describe Donald’s ministry in Oklahoma City as that of a “missionary to America.”
Donald Franz was busy celebrating fourteen years of ministry for his Church of God congregation in Encarnación, Paraguay, when he picked up his phone. Jeff Stewart had sent Donald a text message, which led to a phone call, which led to a couple weeks of prayer and careful consideration about the future possibilities. With his own church to lead in Paraguay, Donald didn’t have the available resources to plant a church in the United States, and knowing the funding was practically zero for such an effort, he knew that God would have to make the arrangements. Amazingly, God followed through on the prayers of these men.
By faith, Donald prayed for an answer by November 18, 2016. On November 18, the answer came, and in dramatic fashion! “Jeff called me back,” Donald remembers, “and said you have a salary, someone turned in a car, and there’s a house for you! The night before, someone agreed to fund the church for six months and, if it proved viable, would fund for another six months.” As the story would unfold, Iglesia de Dios United would prove to be more than viable.
Jeff reports that the Spanish-speaking church has taken off with a bang. While Donald had perhaps ten people to work with at the start, some 150 to 180 now consider Iglesia de Dios United in Oklahoma City their home. The youth group alone has claimed up to 60 students. Much of the interest in the church stemmed back from that original “advertising war” that took place when Donald Franz countered the message of culture with the hope of the gospel. Since then, the church’s ministry to families through marriage counseling, retreats, parenting courses, and much more has exploded in popularity. Sebastian, Donald’s son, has proven especially integral to the discipleship of students and families through his associate leadership role.
But what about that church in Paraguay? Did Donald Franz abandon them? Certainly not. He never meant to stay in Oklahoma so long except for the pandemic, which has kept them stateside. Much of Donald’s ministry has taken advantage of video technology both in Oklahoma and Paraguay; thanks to the internet and a team of exceptionally gifted associate pastors, the congregation in Paraguay continues to flourish. Still, Donald Franz has no interest in establishing his own kingdom anywhere—he remains committed to raising up leaders who raise up leaders, giving the ministry away even as he moves on to do it all again. In fact, he’s already got his eyes on another North American city known for a high concentration of residents who speak Spanish.
Thank you for your prayers for Donald Franz and the ministry of Igelsia de Dios United. Even as the Oklahoma City congregation is already experiencing the incredible blessing of God, Pastor Donald Franz remembers the tremendous impact radio and TV has had in starting many new churches in South America. Please join him in prayer for the doors to open financially and logistically so Iglesia de Dios United may pursue radio and TV ministry in the United States, too.
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) photo: Donald and Silvia Franz teach biblical principles for healthy marriages and families.