Located in San Diego, California, Centro Familiar Cristiano (CFC) is near some of the earliest outbreaks of COVID-19 and has ministered since March 2020 under some of the most cautious restrictions in the country.
And while the pandemic caused CFC to realign their staff and shift their way of offering spiritual formation opportunities, this Wesleyan congregation has found the pandemic to be among its greatest catalysts for discipleship.
“We’re not making believers,” said Dr. Abel Ledezma, senior pastor at CFC. “We’re making disciples.” Every person who attends CFC is encouraged to undergo a three-level, four-month course in discipleship. Preparing participants to order their lives around the way of Jesus, the discipleship class focuses on 12 foundations of disciple making, including Trinitarian theology, scriptural engagement, stewardship, community and service, vision, core values and purpose. Ledezma also offers a monthly workshop training on leadership and spiritual formation, helping those within the congregation continue developing their leadership skills within their area of ministry and secular arena in business and professional career.
CFC’s hope in their discipleship program is to build a culture in which the congregation orders their lives around Christ’s way of serving, loving and listening to the people around them. While the pandemic disrupted CFC’s ability to meet in traditional ways, God used the pandemic to deepen church members’ ability to be good neighbors in their homes, workplaces and neighborhoods.
When the church was asked to stop meeting in person, they began facilitating daily devotionals, which the congregation shared on social media. The congregation’s reach spread rapidly through social media and quickly found its way into neighboring communities, families and even hospitals.
The father of a woman from CFC was in a hospital’s COVID unit in Ensenada, Mexico, one hour south of CFC. The woman and her husband asked if Ledezma would meet with the family by Zoom. During that meeting, Ledezma invited the family to place their faith in Christ.
“Fifteen people from the family were gathered and seven of them accepted Christ” said Ledezma. Since that initial prayer, CFC has been helping them connect with a home church in Ensenada and disciple them into further knowledge of Christlikeness.
CFC began regathering in August, utilizing drive-in, outdoor and indoor worship services. Since then, a flood of new attendees — driven by their familiarity with CFC through social media — have made their way into the congregation. December 2020 saw 15 baby dedications at CFC, and in February 2021, the San Diego congregation saw 16 conversions and 10 baptisms. In April, 19 more people were baptized.
The congregation’s usual Spanish-speaking services continue to surge in attendance as regathering continues. And as English attendance continues to increase, CFC began its first all-English service on March 14, 2021, with 200 in attendance.
“We’re experiencing a local revival within our church,” said Ledezma. “We are seeing God’s faithfulness to us, as a church and as individuals. God has been there — God has always been there — God has never changed. We as human beings, and as his children, as we walk in the shadow of death, we can trust that God is there.”
Ledezma’s vision of God’s faithfulness continues to become clearer, as those in his congregation carry that faithfulness into their way of serving, listening and making disciples who multiply. The church has not stopped, and it continues to persevere in spite of the challenges.
Rev. Ethan Linder is the hospitality, college and young adult pastor at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana.