Home of Wheaton Bible Church's Quarterly Magazine
by Juan Marcos Gomez, Pastor of Community Life, Iglesia del Pueblo
Community Groups are an ideal environment to worship God according to the model of the early church in Acts 2:43—47: teaching of the Word, worship and prayer, fellowship among the believers, and passion to reach the community.
—Sergio Villanueva, Iglesia’s Worship Pastor
It has been a source of praise and wonder for years to see worshipers come to Iglesia del Pueblo each Sunday from places as far away as Joliet, Melrose Park, Chicago, and even Indiana.
But Wednesday-night service, long an Iglesia del Pueblo tradition, was another story. Attendance has always been very small, as work schedules and family obligations made it practically impossible to come to the church.
About seven months ago, when our new pastoral team—Hanibal Rodriguez, Sergio Villanueva,and I—transitioned into leadership, we felt strongly about mobilizing people where they live, in their own particular context, to go and make disciples (see Mark 16:15), love their neighbors (see Matthew 22:37–39), and seek the welfare of the city (see Jeremiah 29:7).
To put it most simply, we felt the Gospel working in our hearts to see ourselves, and our congregation, become engaged in our communities. We felt God had given us a practical and compelling vision of welcoming and discipling people through small gatherings in the neighborhoods and communities where they lived.
That vision included following the example—the disciplines—of the early Church in Acts 2:42:
We also wanted the work of these groups to flow out of the good news of the Gospel, the mission of God, and reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1—2).
We then began to talk about the possibility of starting a community group in the Timber Lake Apartments in West Chicago. We had been working there through Puente del Pueblo programs and knew people from our congregation who lived there and who would probably be interested in participating in this new ministry.
We have been surprised by the overwhelming response to the group and have had a great time connecting the new people to the overall ministry of Iglesia.
As we continued to work in Timber Lake, the interest in this ministry among those in our congregation grew.
Then we saw the Lord move in the hearts of the people in the Franklin Park area. We started to meet with a core group and came up with a list of more than thirty people—already connected in one way or another to our congregation—who potentially could be part of this group. We were overwhelmed by the realization that we were going to need a large space for our meetings.
We saw evidences of God’s grace as we looked for the perfect place. After visiting four sites, the Community Center in Franklin Park seemed to be that perfect place because of its centrality and visibility in the community. We were surprised and happy to learn that it was the least expensive of the places available to rent!
We continue to be excited about the new possibilities of engaging in more community projects, and are in talks with a middle school in another town and are considering how we could be a blessing to that community as well.
Community groups are the best way to keep us internally strong and, at the same time, externally focused. They are the best way to take care of one another and be light and salt. Community Groups are the places where we start as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission call to reach our ‘Jerusalem, Judea,Samaria and the ends of the world’ (Acts 1:8).
—Hanibal Rodriguez, Iglesia’s Teaching Pastor
Each Wednesday night between 80 and 100 people—more than 20 percent of our congregation—are meeting in one of three different groups. We have seen evidences of God’s grace in this ministry in Timber Lake apartments in West Chicago, in the group that meets at the church, and in the one that meets in the Franklin Park Community Center—a group that is nearly as big as, or even bigger than, the number of people who typically met at Iglesia on Wednesday nights before the other groups were started. We are praising God that as many as 100 people are now meeting for worship, Bible study, mission, and fellowship in three different locations!
We are thankful for the work God has allowed us to have, and we continue to be committed to being a family of missionaries serving their own communities, called to re-orient our lives around the Gospel.
We want to see every person who attends Iglesia del Pueblo eventually be part of a Community Group, and we hope to start at least two new groups this year. We want to be united for the mission of God, by God’s power, and for God’s glory.