By James C. Book
The church I serve is located near Walt Disney World in Florida. We encounter people from all walks of life—it’s almost like having the United Nations in our backyard! Because of this, we realized we had a golden opportunity to reach people of many different cultures with the love of Jesus.
As David Hesselgrave notes in his book Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) contains a “single imperative” . . . to “make disciples of all nations.” It’s awesome to be able to do that in our own community and to have those folks come to us. Acts 14:1 says, “At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.” This pattern occurs throughout the book of Acts. We don’t have to look far to find people of all walks of life within just a few miles of our congregation.
So how did we put into practice the Acts model of evangelism?
In 2014, the population of Kissimmee, Florida, where I serve, was 66,772. Here’s how that breaks down: Hispanic, 64.2 percent; Caucasian/white, 22.5 percent; African-American/black, 9.3 percent; Asian, 3.2 percent; racially mixed, 1.1 percent. In the city, 33.5 percent of the people live in poverty, higher than the state average of 22.5 percent.
Second, we had to figure out what to do with these statistics. We determined how to develop programs and ministries to serve these people groups.
We decided to operate on the premise that “All Lives Matter” and to love one another and respect differences even though we worship in different languages. Ephesians 4:5 says, “One Lord, one faith, and one baptism,” after all. Still, we had to accept that when you mix people groups together, some issues will be inevitable.
We identified the language groups and needs of our community, while also respecting the heritage and folks already in our congregation. Change can be difficult, especially when you blend several people groups, languages, and customs within one facility.
Since the local Hispanic population is so large, we knew it was essential to reach them. We started a Hispanic worship service at 11:00 a.m. each Sunday. We were blessed to find and groom a strong Hispanic evangelist who received great training at Johnson University Florida, Tom Martinez, to help lead this ministry. Martinez even leads English-speaking Bible lessons. It is rewarding to see how God is blessing this outreach. This service averages more than 70 each Lord’s Day.
We have also added a Haitian congregation within our body. A minister who came to us from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, leads it, while two young Haitian men, both graduates of Johnson University Florida, also serve. That group now averages more than 80 each Sunday.
The final group of folks we now minister to are those we had overlooked for too long: people in transition, meaning folks who either are homeless or barely able to survive financially. Our Community Outreach Service includes a sermon, singing, and a hot meal for the many homeless people who attend on Sunday. We supplement other ministries within this program, including a Celebrate Recovery program on Friday evenings, an inner-city meal and ministry program on Tuesdays, and partnering with IDignity to help these folks with paperwork to become eligible for jobs.
And we do all of these things without needing to get on a plane. God has allowed Kissimmee Christian Church to grow in many ways. We love our partnership with the evangelists and congregations who meet with us. Our slogan is “One church, under one eldership, multiple languages, serving one Lord.” Revelation 7:9 records this vision, “I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
James C. Book serves as lead minister with Kissimmee (Florida) Christian Church.