Central Florida church plant reaching Spanish speakers with the gospel
Executive pastor, Harvest Community Church
Church planting & multiplication
We planted Harvest Community Church on Sept. 23, 2018, motivated by a vision for reaching southeast Orlando and the greater region of Central Florida to our south. For those expecting a tropical landscape, this lush Florida terrain looks surprisingly similar to other areas of the South. Towns and cities carved out from the densely wooded landscape pepper this central, inland portion of the Sunshine State. The multitude of lakes and ponds quickly impressed this native of the Arizona desert.
It’s common to find a gator or two in the numerous bodies of water that saturate the region. It is also beautifully common to find a diverse blend of people. In particular, our region includes many Spanish speakers from places like Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Honduras, Colombia and Puerto Rico. Something uncommon, however, has fueled our vision for multiplication.
Uncommon are Bible-teaching, gospel-preaching, outsider-focused churches reaching this population. Don’t get me wrong; our region has great churches. And yet, we’ve discovered that we greatly need more of them.
From the beginning, we desired to be strategic about reaching Spanish speakers in our area. We were therefore thrilled when God brought an amazing church-planting couple to us in our first months. Ramon and Loida Garcia moved to Orlando to be near their college sons. They intended to take a break from years of pastoral ministry. Loida found a position in the Converge national office and then learned about the church plant that met on Sundays in the same building.
The Garcias quickly embraced the mission and vision of Harvest and began to sense that God may have brought them to Orlando for more than their family alone. “I still have that fire,” Ramon told us, realizing his passion for preaching the gospel and reaching others for Jesus did not leave with their move to Orlando. Before long, we were working together on plans to launch Harvest en Español as a congregation within a congregation.
We opened Harvest en Español’s doors on Sunday, April 7, with more than 60 people in attendance. In the months since we’ve seen guests become followers of Jesus and make their faith public through baptism. Ramon is passionate about discipleship and is preparing several Community Group leaders.
“I’ve been looking for a church for a long time that preaches Jesus and grace,” Ruth, a weekly volunteer for Harvest en Español, told Ramon. This week, a couple who is back for the second time thanked Ramon, saying, “There’s something different about this church. We feel like we’re welcomed in like family.”
The Garcias previously planted Spanish-speaking churches in Tennessee and South Florida, operating mostly autonomously from the partnering English congregations. At Harvest, we’ve integrated our ministries. We describe ourselves as one church in two languages and have taken an approach that leverages our combined strengths as a church.
On Sundays, we offer services in English and Spanish in separate rooms on the same campus. We overlap our service times so that we also share one ministry for children and students. We’re also teaching through a shared series and leading people through a shared discipleship pathway. This provides the synergy of a unified mission while allowing for contextualization to our respective congregations.
We believe that learning how to reach a combination of Spanish-speaking first-generation Americans, their kids who tend to be fluent English speakers and the diverse segment of native Latino Floridians is a key to our vision to start new congregations across Central Florida.