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Posted: 8/8/03

Leo Samaniego (left), River Ministry coordinator for El Paso Baptist Association, discusses church starting with Juan Perez, pastor of Montaña Vista Community Church.

Montaña Vista stands
as mountain of witness in El Paso

By John Hall

Texas Baptist Communications

EL PASO–Texas can't claim many scenic mountains, but this Montaña Vista on the edge of town is a beautiful sight to Baptist association leaders.

Juan Perez, pastor of Montaña Vista Community Church, has been working the outskirts of east El Paso for three years, visiting people and starting Bible studies that would come together to form a church.

He builds friendships within a several-mile radius of his home and encourages families to start home Bible studies. He continually nurtures the network of groups and is available to help if needed.

This Bible study method is a new strategy leaders of El Paso Baptist Association are employing as part of Focus El Paso, an effort to dramatically increase the number of Baptist churches in the border town.

Leo Samaniego, River Ministry coordinator for the association, said the technique is a wise use of a tight budget. The Bible studies require few funds to launch because they demand no building, and if they fail, the association has not lost much financially.

“Right now, we need to build the people,” Samaniego said. “We can meet anywhere.”

The Bible studies also have proved to be effective evangelism tools, because people in the region are more comfortable inviting others to their homes than to a church building, said Samaniego, whose position is partially funded by the Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas missions.

“We can multiply faster and reach the lost for the Lord,” Perez explained.

With the help of missionaries from Hispanic Baptist Theological School in San Antonio, Perez reached unchurched people around his home. He continued nurturing the studies until he had enough people to bring them together to form a self-supporting church.

In a little less than three years, Perez was ready, and Texas Baptist churches joined hands to construct facilities for the emerging congregation. Although the facilities lack some finishing touches, the congregation worships there faithfully.

However, the church does not end with worship, Perez noted. The vision of the congregation is to start churches. To date, members have begun seven places of worship.

“It's work for God,” Perez said. “First we saw the potential of the people and then shared the potential. Afterward, they prayed and decided to be church starters.”

Perez said he was sad to see members leave to start churches because he is close to them, but he takes joy from knowing they are reaching others.

New members are filing into the church, and Perez said he is excited to see how God works through them. The congregation wants to start 14 churches in the near future, he said. “We're praying to see where the Lord leads these new members.”

Samaniego called Montaña Vista Community Church a “model church” that association leaders would like to see replicated across the El Paso/Juarez borderplex. Such churches hold the key to reaching the area through multiplication, he said.

“These churches are 90 percent new Christians. This is not a traditional church. We don't want it to be a traditional church.”

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