The Brook is Birthing a New Church
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Pastor Jeremy Barahona wrote this post in the summer of 2021 shortly before he and Angelica were sent by The Brook to West Palm Beach, FL to begin the work of planting a church. They moved from Chicago in August 2021.
The Brook is Birthing a New Church
The Brook has always said that our vision is to be a church planting church. Our efforts have been oriented by the goal to multiply disciples, Real Communities, and church plants. Throughout the past 7 years, it has been a joy to see our leadership and covenant family work toward that end.
The time has come for The Brook to birth a new work in a different city. This past Sunday Angelica and I made the bittersweet announcement: the Barahonas are moving to plant a church in West Palm Beach, FL. In particular, the Lord is leading us to plant a church in southwest WPB. We know that Gospel-tunities await us there as Scripture reminds us that “the harvest is plentiful'' (Matthew 9:38).
But if I’m honest, the joy of church planting can be easily overcome by the grief of leaving Chicago and starting new relationships. As we’ve processed this assignment, there have been moments where I’ve asked, “What are we doing?” Yet, it is in moments of fear, doubt, and disappointment that I’ve needed to remind myself of why we are church planting...in West Palm (WPB).
- First and foremost, God is a missionary.
God the Father sent the Lord Jesus to conquer sin, Satan, and death (Genesis 3:15; John 20:21) and to save a multiethnic people for the glory of His name (Isaiah 19:21-25; Ephesians 1:5, Revelation 7:9). Historically, this truth has been taken seriously by first generation Latino churches who were mobilized by God to make disciples in the WPB area in the 80/90s. For example, it was common for many 1st gen Latino churches to plant churches, to do street revivals, and practice mercy ministry in some of the most vulnerable parts of the city/county back then. In this, I grew up seeing my parents help establish churches aimed at reaching Latino/as with their gifts and resources. Furthermore, it was because of God's activity in southwest WPB that I came to faith in Jesus at a small spanish-speaking church on Congress Avenue and Forest Hill Blvd. In light of God’s historic work, Angelica and I believe God is sending us to continue His mission to transform new generations of Latino/as in southwest WPB with the Gospel.
- The planting of local churches is a biblical pattern that has proven to reach unbelievers.
Jesus promised that He would expand his Church (Matthew 16:18) so the Apostles planted them and unbelievers trusted in Jesus as Lord (Acts 1:8; 13:3; Acts 16:10, 18:23). Southwest WPB (zip codes 33405/33415) is a diverse Latino community with a population of approximately 73,000 combined. In addition to this, West Palm Beach ranked as the “#1 Never-Churched City in the United States” in 2015 (Barna Group). This means that it would take hundreds of churches to reach the thousands of diverse people groups in this area alone. Therefore, we are following the biblical pattern to plant more churches (alongside existing churches) in order to witness Jesus fulfill his promise to save the lost in WPB.
- The Gospel brings holistic reconciliation to Latino/as.
On one trip back to West Palm Beach about a year ago, I found myself talking about spirituality and church at a barbershop my friend owns. My friend and I began to engage a 2nd generation Colombian man as he was getting his fade (a type of haircut). It seemed as though he had a bad church experience growing up and had since walked away from the faith. From what I could gather, his lived experience had discontinuity with that of his family and faith upbringing. This instance reminded me that the Gospel must engage stories like his.
Why? Jesus Christ is in the business of reconciling the entire cosmos back to God’s original design (Colossians 1:20), including the broken parts of our stories. For many 2nd and 3rd generation Latino/as in the United States, there is a sense that we are not fully “at home” in majority culture or in the 1st gen culture of our parents and abuelitas (Rodriguez, 49-53). Through our personal experiences and conversations with Latino/as in WPB, we’ve noticed that this “homelessness” has invited shame, family divisions, identity crises, and/or a complete distancing from anything to do with the church. These are facets of life that the Gospel can reconcile, but we need to plant more churches that know how to apply the Gospel to them. Part of our calling to plant a church assumes this responsibility among Latino/as in southwest WPB.
- The Latino/a community needs more Latino/a church leaders that contribute to the multiethnic global church.
Biblically-speaking, there was great opportunity for a missionary that shared cultural and spiritual commonality with their target group (i.e. Acts 16:3). The Apostle Paul often went to the synagogue first, the center of Jewish life, when he planted churches throughout the ancient Roman world (i.e. Acts 18:4). Also, he was skilled in Greek thought and had the privilege of having Roman citizenship (i.e. Acts 17:28; Acts 22:28). Thus, the Scriptures demonstrate that Paul’s identity provided him a unique platform to share the Gospel to both Jews and Greeks. In turn, the Gospel challenged and affirmed Greekness (i.e. Acts 17:30-34) and Jewishness (i.e. Romans 9:3, Philippians 3:2-6). This Gospel work led to churches composed of Jews and Gentiles- a multiethnic church.
In the same way, Angelica and I see our cultural hybridity, our lived experience in the U.S./Florida, our bilingual ability, and our spiritual heritage as an unique platform to reach Latino/as- a population that is projected to be the majority by 2050 in the U.S (Passel & D’Vera). For many of our family members and friends in Palm Beach County, our commonality is an even greater advantage when used in the context of church leadership than say... education. For this reason, our God-given identity gives us the space to lead and catalyze Latino/as to make disciples of the nations.
In summary, after almost 2 years of praying about this, we are uprooting from a city we love (Chicago) to West Palm Beach, FL in August 2021, Lord willing. Our “why” moves us to continue to pray to the God of Heaven to guide us and to provide for us. The mission of God surely invites oceans of opposition that we cannot combat by our own strength, but Jesus Christ our Lord conquered the world after all. This gives us joy, strength, and resolve to pray for wisdom. Would you pray for us as we prepare for our assignment?
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Barna Group. “Churchless Cities: Where Does Your City Rank?,” Barna, https://www.barna.com/research/churchless-cities-where-does-your-city-rank/.
Passel, Jeffrey S., and D’Vera Cohn. “U.S. Population Projections: 2005-2050.” Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project, Pew Research Center, 30 May 2020, www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2008/02/11/us-population-projections-2005-2050/.
Rodriguez, Daniel A. Future for the Latino Church: Models for Multilingual, Multigenerational Hispanic Congregations. InterVarsity Press, 2014.