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Passion for Great Commission drives Eddie Lopez’s mesh of ministry, business

Eddie Lopez preaches at First Forney en Español. Submitted photo

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the meeting location of True Life Church in Mesquite, Texas, and to clarify the number of restaurants owned by Eduardo Lopez.

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) – Eduardo “Eddie” Lopez likens himself to the Old Testament Prophet Jonah.

Having taught Sunday School and led worship as a pastor’s son growing up in Coahulia, Mexico, he knew he was called to ministry there.

Eddie Lopez points to an ichthus symbol outside the restaurant he owns. The symbol sometimes leads to Gospel conversations, he says. Submitted photo

“That’s one thing I did not want to do, to be a pastor,” Lopez told Baptist Press days after his election as Southern Baptist Convention second vice president. “I said God, ‘You can ask me whatever You want, just please don’t ask me to be a pastor.’ And running away from my calling, that’s why I came to the United States. I’m like Jonah, running away.”

Lopez married, opened a restaurant and by 1999 at just 30 years old, considered himself a successful businessman.

“Young guy, handsome guy – at that time,” he laughed, “with my own business. And I said hey, I made it, with my beautiful wife (Zoila), my beautiful daughter (Arianna), but I had a big emptiness in my heart, huge, big emptiness in my heart. And I knew the reason for this emptiness (was) because I’m running away from my calling.”

Lopez’s experience and eventual surrender to God’s calling drive his passion for ministry today, intentionally mentoring and encouraging young pastors.

Tino’s Restaurant, Lopez’s business in Sunnyvale, is closed on Sundays, no alcoholic beverages are sold, and only Christian music flows from the speakers.

When a customer thought Tino’s was a seafood restaurant because of the neon fish on the storefront, Lopez took the opportunity to share the Gospel, telling the story of Jesus our Savior and the call to be fishers of men. Tino’s is Tex-Mex.

Lopez teaches Sunday School at Tino’s for employees before heading to his pastorate, First Baptist Church of Forney en Español, to preach the 11 a.m. Sunday sermon.

Employees pray at a monthly breakfast Eddie Lopez hosts at Martinez Restaurant in Mesquite, Texas. Submitted photo

He hosts a monthly free meal for employees and their families at Martinez Restaurant in Mesquite, owned by his brother-in-law. Lopez shares the Gospel at the meal that typically draws 50 to 70 people.

Attend the Martinez Bucking Bulls rodeo, a business Lopez helps his father-in-law operate in Sunnyvale, and you’ll receive a Gospel tract with your ticket.

Lopez has mentored six young pastors who have planted churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and assists the North American Mission Board’s Send Network by coaching new church planters.

“That’s my heart, my passion, to see the people that have a calling to do it,” he said, “because no one helped me when I (was) running from God, nobody talked to me and said, ‘Come this way because that is God’s will.’

Eddie Lopez (left) and Jeff Pereira on a mission trip to Leon, Mexico. Submitted photo

“I don’t want the young people to make the same mistake I made,” he said, and helps in any way he can, including financial assistance and counseling.

Church planter Jeff Pereira met Lopez after a friend described Lopez as a “person that likes to help new church planters,” Pereira told Baptist Press.

“And definitely this is true and it’s so vital in Pastor Lopez’s heart,” Pereira said. “Since 2018, Pastor Lopez has been a great friend to me and beyond that, we’ve done several mission trips together. God connects people for His Kingdom’s purpose, and I’m so glad and blessed that God connected us in 2018.”

Pereira is the founding pastor of True Life Church, a Southern Baptist congregation currently meeting at Friendship Baptist Church, 820 Pioneer Rd. in Mesquite, an Independent Baptist Church with the Baptist Missionary Association of America.

Lopez represents for Pereira the character of Jesus and the teachings of the Gospel.

“His open heart to do the will of God, his generosity and constant joy have inspired my own life and ministry,” Pereira said. “Through his lifestyle he is an excellent testimonial. Pastor Lopez has taught me to be humble, to serve people, and to always glorify and thank God for the results, whether positive or negative.”

Eddie Lopez baptizes a new believer. Submitted photo

Lopez had embraced humility more than a dozen years before meeting Pereira. He had come to the end of himself as his first restaurant suffered several years of decline in the early 2000s.

“One night I closed the restaurant and I just laid down on the carpet and I told God, ‘I surrender my life to you. I can’t run away. What do You want me to do?’” Lopez recalled. “’If I have to let go of my dreams and my own desire, I give it to You. But I don’t want to feel that emptiness in my heart.’ And that’s when God started working with me for three years.”

A succession of incidents paved a solid road to Lopez’s pastorate.

A man offered to buy his restaurant at a large enough profit for him to leave debt-free. Lopez sold him the business.

The late Jimmy Pritchard, at that time senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, called Lopez about starting a Hispanic ministry. Lopez, who had been preaching when needed at Familia Bethel International, a non-denominational church in Dallas, had never met Pritchard.

“I said pastor I don’t know you and you don’t know me. He said, ‘No, you are the right guy.’”

Lopez agreed, planting First Baptist Forney en Español (A ministry of First Baptist Forney) in 2005.

Five years ago, Lopez’s father -in-law transitioned ownership of Tino’s Restaurant to Lopez and his wife, Lopez told Baptist Press, because he had helped so many years with the restaurant while also serving in ministry.

Fleeing his calling has proven futile.

“God’s will will always be done,” Lopez said. He tells young church planters that sometimes God will ask you for the very thing you love the most, put it aside, prepare you for ministry, and then reconnect you with what you forfeited.

“That’s my experience,” Lopez said. “Now, God blessed me with a ministry, God blessed me with a business.”

Lopez had told God he not only wanted to work in ministry, but he wanted to own a business so he would have something more to give to the church. He had expressed to God a desire to minister not for what he could gain, but for what he could give. For Lopez, business would not be about gaining, but about giving.

Lopez’s friend Humberto Gonzalez, Hispanic pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas, sees Lopez’s heart for service. The two met in 2012 when Gonzalez moved to Dallas/ Fort Worth from Miami.

“Not only is he a good friend, but he also has the gift of service. He serves his wife and two daughters (Arianna and Selah) with love, and he serves his church members with dedication,” Gonzalez said. “When he heard about my calling to plant the Hispanic ministry at First Baptist Dallas, he was there to pray for it. Finally, he has a big heart for church planting and local and global missions.”

“He has demonstrated (himself) to be a man of integrity, humility, and a heart of service and generosity.”

Lopez and Gonzalez have worked on several ministry projects together, including evangelism and men’s conferences with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and at Send Network retreats. Gonzalez describes Lopez as a man of integrity and humility, with a heart for service and generosity.

Lopez sees no dichotomy between his business and ministry.

“You have the opportunity to share the Gospel with the people who work for you, and you’ll be responsible one day before God for that person,” Lopez said. “So we take it very seriously. If God sends someone to work for us, our responsibility is to share the Gospel, to be sure these people don’t have an excuse when they (stand) before God.

“If you say you belong to God, everything you have belongs to God. You don’t own anything. That’s the way we believe.”