There are lots of reasons why hosting a church plant was a good idea for Broadway. When the Central Conference began talking seriously about planting an Hispanic church in the Rockford area, our Leadership Team quickly saw how Broadway could be an ideal host for the new church and how this partnership could also benefit Broadway’s ministry. Five months into our relationship with Vida Eterna and Pastors Mario and Patty Torres, we have not only gained new friends and witnessed God at work in new ways, but we have also begun to learn some important lessons about the church that I believe will bear fruit at Broadway for years to come.
One lesson: It’s okay to start small. Mario and Patty arrived in Rockford in September without a congregation. Vida Eterna was just their family of four and a dream of something bigger. It took several weeks before anyone started attending their ministries, first a prayer meeting and then a finance class. But even with just a few people, they pressed on, knowing that great things always start small, and that each person matters, even if only one shows up.
Broadway is not a large church either. None of our ministries have lots of people, but what we do still matters. Each person who attends worship or participates in a Bible study comes to Broadway seeking a closer relationship with God. We don’t lock the doors until a large crowd shows up, because we believe that God’s life-changing work in even one heart is worth the effort.
At the same time: It’s okay to dream big. The vision for Vida Eterna is to grow into a self-sustaining Covenant congregation that may one day own its own building and might even help plant another new church. We don’t know how long it will take for that vision to become a reality, but we trust, just as Mario and Patty do, that God wants Vida Eterna to grow into a fruitful church serving the Rockford area for years to come.
Broadway has touched hundreds of lives since it was a church plant in the 1940s and 50s. We have a lot of history behind us, and I believe we also have much more to do in the coming years. Our ministry in the 2020s will look different than it did 70 years ago, but we will keep serving Jesus and looking ahead to where the Spirit leads us.
A third lesson: God’s people recognize God’s work. I have been impressed time after time by the generosity and kindness of our church family as we have opened our building to Vida Eterna and embraced the Torres family. Despite language and cultural differences, despite needing to share our space and accommodate new ideas, the people of Broadway have opened our hearts because we can see God at work in Mario and Patty.
Also: Humility and kindness communicate the Gospel. Mario and Patty have hearts that love Jesus. They serve humbly and with compassion. Their generous and gracious attitudes have made it easy for us to embrace them and will lead the people they are reaching to trust them with their spiritual care. People are drawn to Jesus through the faithful witness and loving service of Jesus’ followers. Like the foundation being built for Vida Eterna, I believe Broadway is a healthy congregation because we treat one another with kindness and our leaders faithfully seek the good of God’s Kingdom.
Finally: All ministry is cross-cultural. Everything we do in the church touches individual people, and each of us is unique. It may feel hard to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language or who has experienced life in ways you haven’t, but all good ministry begins with getting to know people as they are. Then we can share Jesus’ love and message in ways that will change lives.