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October-November 2013


November 2013

Journey of a Lifetime


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Is God Doing a New Thing?

by David Potete


A New Direction for a Local Church

Expect the unexpected. Someone gave me that advice before we moved to Chicago to start a new Free Will Baptist church. If I had only known how relevant the statement would be. It would surprise some to know that when we prepared to move to the Chicago area in 1991, we rented a house in the southwest suburbs. That suburb is located in DuPage County, one of the most evangelized counties in the state of Illinois. Before we moved in, my wife and I could not sleep.

We knew something was wrong. God had another direction for us. Fortunately, our entire security deposit was refunded, and we ended up renting a house in the city of Chicago. We have since bought a house because we are here to stay. We even have burial plots a few blocks from my favorite Chicago hotdog joint. I am glad we followed God’s new direction for us rather than going where others told us we should go.

After we rented a house, we began looking for a place to meet. We went from the living room to a second-floor office, to a storefront union hall. Some of these moves were typical of what church planters face. I originally thought our ministry would be more of a middle class, white church with a fairly good representation of Polish people. I even tried an adult education class in the Polish language. But every move we made took us more into a Latino area, and changing demographics made this even more so.

In 2006, our church took part in surveying our neighborhood in a demographic study. When we began our church in 1991, the percentage of Hispanics in our area was 26%. In 2000, it was 63%. The more recent 2010 census indicated 87%. This survey gave us the kick in the pants we needed to become a bilingual church.

You would think we could figure this out on our own. And, to be honest, we had figured it out, but we were not being deliberate enough for it to happen. God used the survey as a catalyst to take us in a new direction.

We believe all people are truly equal before God, that God desires for all people to worship together. This is based on passages such as Acts 2; Ephesians 2:11-22; 3:6; 4:1-6; Deuteronomy 16:9-14; and many others. Paul did not take the approach of saying, “They must become like us for us to reach them.” He said, “I will become like them to reach them” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

What is the first thing we do when we send a missionary to a foreign country? We send them to language school. Should we do any less to reach those across the street? I am not saying we partake in sin to reach sinners. I am saying we must understand, embrace, and partake in other cultures to reach other cultures. We must overcome our fear of diversity!

Before we came to these conclusions, we sang an occasional song or two in Spanish. It was, admittedly, a token effort. A token effort will not reach people cross-culturally for Christ. It takes intentional, deliberate, biblically-based, well-planned, all-out effort from the heart.

Now, we are a bilingual church. Everything from flyers to signs—even our worship bulletin is in English and Spanish. Our English sermons are translated into Spanish, and before long, our Spanish sermons will be translated into English, all in a single worship service. We worship in both languages, rotating back and forth between the two, always providing translation. Our church is intentionally bilingual, rather than holding separate English and Spanish services. We have room to improve, and we’re still learning, but once we realized God wanted to lead us in a new direction, how could we refuse to follow?


A New Direction for the Denomination?

Changes in demographics around the country call for Free Will Baptists to move in directions we previously may not have considered. The largest minority in the nation is now Hispanic. Sadly, Free Will Baptists did not make much progress in reaching African-Americans when they were the largest minority. In addition, literally hundreds of people groups in the United States need to be reached with the gospel.

To reach them, we used to go there. But, God has brought them here! It is not just the responsibility of our mission departments to reach our neighbors. It is your responsibility and my responsibility. It is the responsibility of every church across the country and around the world. I long for the day when it is no longer us and them…only us.

Do not let your financial support for Home and International Missions be your total missionary effort. Sometimes, we may be giving to reach those around the world who are different, but doing nothing to reach our neighbor who is different. Missions should start at your home and your neighborhood. If you are not living missions at home, God can see through the dollars you send to missions.


Not Really New

God has always wanted His Church to be a Church of the nations (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). I believe God is calling us to a new direction in the United States. It is an urban direction, and it is a cross-cultural direction. Are we willing to move in a new direction for God? For the sake of millions, I pray to God we are. Is being a multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual church for all churches? Maybe not. Maybe so. We have a few churches around the country engaged in cross-cultural ministry, but I know we can do more.

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” This vivid picture comes from Revelation 7:9-10, and we are privileged to be part of it through the grace of Christ. I hope and pray we do not run from being a church of the nations, but run toward it!


About the Writer: David Potete is pastor of Northwest Free Will Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois. Learn more about Northwest at





©2013 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists