Two Cultures, Two Churches—One in Christ
By Kevin Spear
In the midst of a growing ministry, Centro Cristiano Church had a dilemma. What began as a house church for the Oklahoma City Hispanic community had flourished. When it had outgrown the pastor’s house, a Presbyterian church welcomed them. For a few years, the partnership worked well. The price was right and the congregation was welcoming. However, in 2019, the situation changed.
Pastor Salvador Hernandez said, “The Presbyterian church where we were renting had to close its doors. We had to look for a [new] place, but rent in the area runs high.” Pastor Hernandez reached out to Pastor Steve Chiles at Shartel Church of God. Chiles said, “He asked me to pray with him. I agreed and offered our church as a transitional facility.”
As Chiles showed Hernandez the Shartel Church of God facility, Pastor Hernandez became excited. He said, “The idea was to have a place for a month or so while we had more time to find the perfect place to go. Little did we know God was already taking us to Shartel.”
Pastor Chiles realized this could be a great fit for both churches. Centro Cristiano did not meet until noon. With some adjustment, Shartel Church of God could have their two services earlier and Centro Cristiano could meet in the early afternoon. Chiles presented the proposal to the church and missions boards. They all loved the idea. Both churches agreed to a three-month trial.
A New Home
The trial period was a success. Shartel Church of God was excited to welcome the new church and embraced them. Centro Cristiano Church eventually became Centro Cristiano en Shartel. Pastors Chiles and Hernandez both see it as a win.
Chiles commented, “We made it clear to everyone we are two separate churches working in partnership. It’s a matter of stewardship. The more the facilities are used, the better stewards we are for the kingdom of God. Plus, we knew they could reach a group we never could.”
Hernandez agrees. As a new church, overhead was challenging before. He says, “Being at Shartel Church of God allows us to focus on reaching unchurched people, nurturing the congregation spiritually, and disciple-making.”
One example of partnership is found in Shartel Church of God’s children’s ministry. Instead of having two separate programs, Centro Cristiano’s children attend Shartel’s program. Hernandez says, “All of our kids speak English fluently. As a result, our children participate in the different programs Shartel has through the year, such as Easter and Christmas holidays.”
Both churches invite the other to their events and fundraisers. In addition, Pastor Hernandez has full access to the building’s facilities.
When the pandemic occurred last spring, both churches worked to keep their congregants safe. Chiles said, “Pastor Hernandez followed our lead as far as policies go.” Both churches went online until it was deemed safe to meet again.
Hernandez commented, “It affected us financially and in numbers. As people stopped coming to church, offerings and tithes stopped, as well. Many of our Hispanic members are not able to use technology [and] use an online giving portal. We are grateful for Shartel. They offered us the use of their online giving portal.”
Pastor Hernandez sees the hand of God working through the pandemic. “God has proven faithful. Had we not been at Shartel right before the pandemic, we probably would have closed our doors.”
In conclusion, both pastors encourage other churches to look into a similar partnership. Pastor Hernandez says, “Having a partnership has more advantages than disadvantages. I would encourage any pastor who does not have the resources to do ministry on their own, to find a partnership with a bigger church.”
Pastor Chiles agrees. “My only regret is that it took this long to consider the option. We are offering our sanctuary when they are ready for it. Every win for them is a win for us.”
Kevin Spear has worked for Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press) and has regularly contributed time and talent to the work of Church of God Ministries. He is a ministry partner with his wife Paula, an ordained minister in the Church of God.
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) photo: Centro Cristiano in worship at Shartel, pre-COVID-19.