The June 28 issue of WORLD includes an interview about the realities of marketing with megachurch pastor and author David Jeremiah. He also spoke about the growth of ethnic congregations within his larger group
Your Shadow Mountain Community Church, located just east of San Diego in El Cajon, has sponsored a variety of ethnic churches … El Cajon has 40,000 Iraqi people, about a third of the population. The only U.S. city that has more Iraqis is Dearborn, Mich. We don’t know why it happened, but we realized that God had given us an opportunity to try to minister to these people. Many times four or five families live in one home. We started a program to try to help them learn English. We have a lot of retired teachers in our congregation and they began to make available to them, in a theatre building given to us, the opportunity to learn English.
You use the Bible in teaching English? Some of them got the idea that part of learning English was to read sections of the New Testament. Then we started an Arabic church and found an Arabic pastor who’s very gifted. We pay him as a congregation and he started the Shadow Mountain Arabic Congregation. We have about 280 people in the congregation now, many of whom we reached the first time through the English language program.
You’re only about 30 minutes from the Mexican border, so do you have lots of immigrants? We have a highly concentrated Hispanic congregation. About 700 of them meet in our auditorium at 1:30 on Sunday afternoon. We have an Iranian congregation, a Filipino congregation, a Burmese congregation. On a given Sunday we’ll have 1,400 or 1,500 people in our international congregations. The adults need the languages but the children mostly all speak English, so we have the most diverse children’s ministry you’ve ever seen in your life. All these kids come together to learn about Christ and the Word of God.
How has your main congregation reacted? One of the great things is when these people are converted they all get baptized in the main church at one of our evening services. One time recently I was just in tears as about five or six Iraqi men gave testimony to their faith in Christ, having come to Christ through the Iraqi congregation at Shadow Mountain Church. It’s very rare that we have a Sunday without one of the international congregations baptizing somebody—and that just keeps the English congregation all fired up about what we’re doing.
That’s terrific … I wish I could tell you that I was the architect of it. We realized that God had put us in a place that had a lot of opportunities. Instead of going to the mission field for those people, He brought the mission field to us, and we’re trying to be faithful to do that.