Hispanic New Church Start Celebrates Official Chartering
ChristWay UMC is one of a select few Hispanic churches to be officially chartered in the Texas Annual Conference. In this Q&A, Rev. Artie Cadar shares about this process and how God is at work building a growing bilingual congregation that has moved beyond being a new church start and is focused on working missionally in the Gulf Coast area surrounding Friendswood.
Lay leader Chris Alvarado has been one of the pivotal people in the ChristWay story. He says, “The process to getting ChristWay to charter has been God driven. For me it signifies what direction God wants us to go now that ChristWay is in a position to take the gospel of the kingdom to a community that previously may not have been consistently accessed by the United Methodist Church. Bilingual, English-only and Spanish-only speaking Christians have all been used by the Lord to reach a new community.” Adds Chris, “The laity is excited about going out to spread the exciting message of what Jesus can do for their lives. They are asking, even pleading for an opportunity to go out into the community and serve, to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. We understand that there are logistics to manage, but God has that in hand. Manos a la obra de Dios!”
ChristWay’s Rev. Artie Cadar shares his perspective about the exciting growth process of ChristWay from start up to chartering.
Q. What has ChristWay’s process toward official chartering been like?
A. The process has been long and at times hard, yet, getting here has been a blessing as we have seen God’s hand at work in the mission and in the people of ChristWay. Ironically, we did not have ChristWay in mind when we started meeting as the Hispanic community of Friendswood UMC, our mother church. Neither Rev. Jim Bass, nor I, knew where we were going to end up, but we did know that God was going with us. We did not have a plan or a strategy in place, we just wanted to serve a very small, yet underserved, ethnic segment in our community. Back then, in May of 2006, Friendswood only had about 1,200 Hispanics, so Friendswood was probably not the ideal place to start a Hispanic ministry. God had other plans and we went from a gathering of eight to a service of 22, then to 47 and soon after that to 60+ when we moved to our current location, Wesley Hall, Friendswood’s old sanctuary.
At Wesley Hall, we grew to 80+ and it was then that Congregational Excellence Directior Dr. Don Waddleton approached Reggie Clemmons and Jim Bass with the vision of making Friendswood UMC’s Hispanic community a new church start. Once again, that was not something we were looking for, but God apparently was, so on January 1, 2012 we became a new church start known as ChristWay Community Church. In the years following, we added an English service for 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics who prefer to communicate and worship in English, and that has driven our growth to an average attendance of about 140 between both services. So today, ChristWay has about 212 people, from 18 different nationalities, who are connected to the ministry in that they worship at ChristWay at least once a month.
Q. What does this signify?
A. We have a lot to celebrate in our chartering. We celebrate most of all, God’s faithfulness to ChristWay and the transformation of the lives that we have reached so far. However, becoming a chartered church on May 4th of this year also signifies that we are no longer the same church. We’re still the church who wants to love and lead people of all nations into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, but how we do that will continue to evolve as we continue to grow. Our priorities moving forward will change. For example, we have always had a strong focus on discipleship, but now, we will need to shift ChristWay’s focus to Witnessing and Outreach. In 2015, we will be moving into a different location in a more diverse, multi-ethnic mission field and we’re going to be busy meeting new neighbors and inviting them to fall in love with Jesus. Yet at the same time, we have to continue to disciple and to care for those who are already part of our family.
Q. What are your new challenges?
A. Becoming a chartered church brings new financial challenges to us. Our people have been very faithful in their giving, and we continue to grow financially, but we will have to do more, and give more. We’re trusting God with our finances and it is really important for us to go into this new place that God has already chosen for us, without the burden of a big debt. We want to be financially responsible in all areas of our ministry and we’re all working together on this. We recently completed our first capital campaign and actually exceeded the goal that we had set for ourselves, and for us, that’s a big sign that God is in the midst of what we have been doing from day one.
Q. Who was involved thus far in making this happen?
A. God has used many saints to help us with the vision that He had for us to become a chartered church. Dr. Don Waddleton, and more recently Jeff Olive, has been very supportive of our mission and the conference has designated funds to continue to assist ChristWay through the end of 2014. Our District Superintendent, Kip Gilts, is a phenomenal leader and great man of God who believes in, and supports, the mission of ChristWay. Dianne McGehee and the Center of Missional Excellence has supported us in many ways to ensure that our model of Hispanic/Multicultural ministry is successful and serves as a model to plant similar churches in the future. The leadership and the people of Friendswood United Methodist Church have gone above and beyond in providing us a home all this time and supporting us with prayer and coaching. God has also blessed us with a strong leadership team in the people of ChristWay that continues to listen to God’s voice and work hard to take us to the next place where God is already waiting for us.
Moving forward, God is also ensuring that others get involved, The churches of the South District are already doing their respective parts by becoming prayer partners and making 5-year pledges to assist ChristWay in the future purchase of this next home. Foundations and individual donors are also listening to the ChristWay story and making decisions to financially support ChristWay’s growth. God will also be touching the hearts of our friends and family as we prepare to launch a campaign that will ask those who are closest to us to support us with prayer and pledges to support our mission.
Q. How would you describe the Chartering Service?
A. The service was just glorious! On that Sunday, 172 people filled with the Holy Spirit got together to celebrate God’s work at ChristWay! The Spirit of God brought people together in a bilingual service that allowed people to worship and pray and preach in both English and Spanish. There was a strong sense of spirit-filled celebration during the service that carried unto our Constituting Conference and Charge Conference. The moment I’ll never forget was the moment that our DS invited those who were present to become charter members of ChristWay at the end of the service, and I saw these two long lines of people with big proud smiles on their faces who came up to the chancel area to claim membership in their newly chartered church. In the end, only those who were visiting that day stayed in their chairs looking with joy to the other 156 people who became chartered members of ChristWay Community Church.
Q. Where do you see God at work?
A. I see God’s work in people’s lives -- in how they are living what they learn about at ChristWay. I see God’s work in a leadership team that gets it and continues to grow in allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and make us of one mind and one Spirit. I see God’s work in His provision -- in giving us what we need to keep the mission of ChristWay alive and to make us hopeful for the future.
Q. What are you most excited about?
A. We are obviously very excited about where God is going to place us in a new home. We are excited about what God will do in the lives of those who live in the mission field that He will be sending us to very soon. We are excited about replicating what God is doing at ChristWay in new church plants, Hispanic and otherwise, in the future.
Q. What's next?
A. We keep listening to God’s voice and submitting to His will. We need to organize the work of our six ministry areas (worship, pray, witness, connect, disciple, serve) by reflecting on the work that we have planned in our Ministry Action Plans (MAPs), adapting what needs to be adapted to our current reality, and doing whatever it takes to achieve our vision and mission. Our vision says that “by the end of the year 2016, ChristWay Community Church will be the fully-funded, self-sustained, vibrant home church of 500 people from many different cultures who will worship and work together as devoted disciples of Jesus Christ who love and lead people of any culture to a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s what’s next, one step at a time, with God at our side all the time.”
Chris Alvarado echoes the excitement saying, ”The chartering service was exhilarating, in that it reinforced God’s purpose for ChristWay. When every single person and family who has been attending ChristWay chose to become members, it became clear to everyone that we are moving in the right direction. What’s next? There really is no question in our minds, we are meant to go out with the Gospel to new communities.”