McAllen: One church worshipping in two languages

Rolando Aguirre, pastor for Hispanic language ministries and discipleship team leader at Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, preaches at Calvary en Español. (Photo courtesy of Rolando Aguirre)

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McALLEN—A few years after ESPN and Fox Sports launched channels for Spanish-speaking audiences, Rolando Aguirre thought a similar approach could be adapted for use in the church, as well.

Aguirre saw a problem in the method many predominantly Anglo churches used for outreach to Hispanics. Anglo congregations established missions in Hispanic communities, but the missions relied on the sponsor church for leadership, budget funds and administrative decisions. Often, the Hispanic congregations did not grow, and they remained dependent missions for decades.

In 2007, Aguirre, now pastor for Hispanic language ministries and discipleship team leader at Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen and president of the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas, thought the system could change for the better.

“It all started with a Bible study” in McAllen, Aguirre said. “But the group wanted to do more.”

Bible study turned into a church service

The group grew in number quickly. Participants began including worship songs during their times together, and soon group members felt they outgrew the “Bible study” designation.

Rolando Aguirre

“The group grew really fast,” Aguirre said. “We turned that Bible study into a church service.”

At the time, Ellis Orozco was pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. Aguirre noted Orozco—now senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Richardson—not only mentored him, but also partnered with him to evaluate next steps for the Bible study Aguirre led.

Aguirre suggested a Spanish-speaking congregation that would relate to Calvary Baptist in the way ESPN Deportes and Fox Deportes relate to their senior broadcast partners—part of the same network, but with content provided in Spanish.

Aguirre and Orozco envisioned a Hispanic congregation that would be part of Calvary Baptist Church and use the same facilities and resources. Orozco made it clear from the beginning Aguirre was part of the ministry team, and, like Orozco, a pastor of Calvary Baptist.

“When we thought of what name we would have, I just suggested Calvary en Español,” Aguirre said.

The church grew from 40 members to 100 in a year. Aguirre initially had served without an official position or salary, but in 2008, he officially became part of the Calvary Baptist ministry staff.

The following year, Calvary en Español moved its services to the sanctuary, because it was the only place that could accommodate 500-plus people who gather for worship services.

‘A fully integrated church’

“We are a fully integrated church,” Aguirre said. “But many have had to pay a cost, they have had to learn how to associate themselves with Latinos.”

Aguirre understood. As a native of Colombia, he had to learn the Mexican-American culture of the Rio Grande Valley.

Whether members worship in English or Spanish, they share a common goal.

“Calvary exists to make disciples of all nations,” Aguirre said. For that to happen, “the church has to be the church of the community,” he added.

When a church wants to be part of the community, it has to learn from it, he noted. So, in the predominantly Hispanic Rio Grande Valley, all of the ministers at Calvary needed to learn how to relate to and interact with Hispanics.

Transformational leadership

Calvary seeks to develop transformational leaders through discipleship, both among English- and Spanish-speaking members, Aguirre stressed.

“Transformational leadership comes from within,” Aguirre said. “The only one that can bring that out is Christ.”

Calvary contextualizes its message by age and language, but its focus remains on helping believers grow into the image of Christ.

“We do this one life at a time, one discipleship at the time,” Aguirre remarked. “And all of it has to be intentional.”

Calvary currently offers two worship services in English and one in Spanish, and the Spanish-language service is the largest that meets on Sundays.

Although worship occurs in separate services according to language, Calvary aims for future generations, regardless of their culture, to grow together, Aguirre noted. Hispanic and Anglo children and youth attend Bible studies and participate in various activities together. But Calvary also recognizes the need to promote unity among its members today—not just look to the next generation.

“We do joint services, where everything is translated, and where you get some things in Spanish,” said Aguirre. Combined worship services allow members to identify as one congregation.

The church’s leadership includes both English and Spanish speakers.

“Our business meetings are done in both language, so all of our leaders will understand what is happening,” Aguirre said. Although conducting committees and meetings in both English and Spanish can be demanding, Aguirre acknowledged, he firmly believes it is worth the effort.

“Many times, we think it would be easier to do this by ourselves,” Aguirre said. “But see, what Jesus sought was for us to do this with one another.”

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