Accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior as an adult, attending Bible college and seminary, and serving within my Assemblies of God denomination have allowed me to notice a culture focused on equipping the next generation. As I stepped into becoming the director of Hispanic Church Planting for Assemblies of God and started equipping the next generation of church planters, it was evident that they wanted to be equipped, but their reality was a hindrance. Their lack of finances, lack of identity, lack of purpose, and lack of biblical education stood in the way of believing in God and themselves. They were unable to embrace the tools we equipped them with, which led them to believe they could not have the church God was calling them to plant.
After self-reflection and time with God, I realized that we cannot equip what we don’t value.
In other words, resources, trainings, and conferences do not have any significance for our church planters if we don’t start by helping them build a foundation from an advantage perspective. This is where we come in as an organization to invest in the value of their calling. From that moment, I worked with network leaders to create a system where we can demonstrate to planters that we do value them by creating scholarships for assessment costs and travel expenses for trainings. We want them to know that they have our tangible support to help them overcome the financial burden that may be associated with the process and equip them to fulfill their calling as a church planter.
I love the verse that is commonly used during sporting events and is the one you learn as you are growing in your faith journey: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). In this verse we see that God is placing a value on the world, and because he values the world, he gave us a gift so that we wouldn’t perish but have eternal life. When we started investing in the value of the church planter and their calling, we created a culture where the church planter receives a gift through scholarships and financial support. The finances did not have to come out of their personal budgets, but were given to them so that they can fulfill their calling and have the hope to take the gift God has given to us in his Son, Jesus Christ, to the world so that “none will perish but have eternal life.”
As we continue to prepare “workers for the harvest,” we must create a culture of valuing the church planter first by investing in their calling. This will then allow us the opportunity to equip the pastoral family so that ministry will not be a burden, but an honor to take the gift of God to the world in freedom. When we value the church planter, we create a culture of transparency, accountability, respect, and commitment to fulfill the mission together.
Rudy Paniagua is a credentialed minister for the Assemblies of God, the director of Hispanic Life Ministries at SoCal Network AG, and is currently pursuing his MA in Theology and Ministry at Fuller Seminary. He has a strong passion for Hispanic pastors and is committed to valuing and equipping them so they can establish sustainable and influential churches in their communities. Rudy is married to his life teammate, Tanya Paniagua, and they have four incredible children and a beautiful daughter-in-law.