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Break molds to grow, Hispanic pastor says

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Jorge Comesanas placed pieces of clay pottery on the steps leading to his conference room at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center, June 29-July 23, during the National Urban and Multicultural Leadership Conference.
A hammer lay on one step beside a piece of broken pottery, symbolizing something Comesanas has been modeling for 16 years at Primera Iglesia Bautista de Coral Park, Fla. — growing a church requires breaking out of stereotypical molds. Comesanas led daily sessions in Spanish for pastors.
Primera Iglesia Bautista has grown from 150 to more than 2,000 members while Comesanas has been pastor, something he attributes to an optimistic spirit and thinking big.
“You have to have a vision for each aspect of church life,” Comesanas said. “If you think small, you’re going to stay small.”
To illustrate, Comesanas said at first his role as pastor included directing the choir of 18 members. When he asked why the choir was not larger, he was told the church only had 18 choir robes. Within one week, Comesanas had made arrangements for the church to obtain 80 choir robes. The choir grew to 40 members in the next two weeks and 67 members over the next year.
“You have to have goals and the Lord will provide,” Comesanas said. “If you’re happy with the number you have, you won’t do much.”
While Primera Iglesia Bautista is one of the largest Hispanic churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, Comesanas said the church is small in contrast “to the thousands and thousands of lost people” in the greater Miami area.
Comesanas and the five other ministers on the staff lead several hundred trained church members out to witness and visit each week.
“We go out for visitation even if there is a hurricane or tornado. The pastor and staff must be a testimony to the members. We can’t tell the people to go if we don’t go,” he said.
The church also has an active discipleship ministry and conducts more than 40 cell groups away from the church each week to reach non-Christians. The one-hour sessions include prayer, Bible study, fellowship and an offering to meet the needs of people in the community.
While the church began as a Spanish-language congregation and worship still is conducted in Spanish, many other activities are held in English and Spanish, depending on the needs of the people in the groups.
“It is better to teach people in their own language,” Comesanas believes. Bible study and discipleship classes for young people are most often held in English.
With 21 Spanish-speaking nationalities represented in the membership, Comesanas said the church has been effective in providing a family atmosphere for new immigrants.
“We can meet their needs through love, care and lifestyle,” Comesanas, a native of Cuba, said. “The key is love.”
He listed 12 molds that must be broken for a church to reach people and grow.
— A church has a small vision.
— Church meets only on Sunday.
— A church should have only one Sunday morning worship service.
— To reach the unbeliever, continue with the same methods you’ve always used.
— All small groups meet at the same time.
— The pastor supervises all activities.
— The church council or key leaders make all the decisions.
— The pastor is Superman.
— The pastor should have assistants to do what he can’t do or doesn’t want to do. Associate pastors would have too much authority.
— A church should stay in its comfort zone.
— Enforce the seven last words of the church, “We never did it that way before.”
The National Urban and Multicultural Leadership Conference was sponsored by the multicultural leadership department of LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly Sunday School Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Linda Lawson