Emanuel Corro walked into Calvary Church seven or eight years ago, hoping for a healthy, safe church to bring his Spanish-speaking family and friends.
He found the Converge church to be exactly that. Now, he’s a worship leader at a new church alongside Pastor José Magaña.
“We really share the gift that God gave us,” Corro said. “We find different ways to share the gospel every Sunday because that’s what people need.”
Churches and leaders in Converge’s 10 districts want people to know, follow and live for Jesus. Magaña, the Corros and other leaders at Iglesia Calvario want the same for their neighbors in Turlock, California. So, they joined Converge’s goal to start 312 churches by 2026.
“Going through the assessment was the best thing we ever did,” he said. “Now I tell my leaders, ‘If you want to go through assessment, do it.’”
Balancing passion and practicality for eternal progress
Magaña is passionate. But don’t mistake him for someone prone to rash action. He owned a home-building business for 25 years.
Before that, his dad was a general contractor who managed 300 employees on a ranch. His mom did the books for the entire ranch operation while raising Magaña and his 15 siblings.
When the pastor leading Calvary Church’s Spanish service suddenly quit, the congregation looked to Magaña to be the pastor.
But he delayed a decision so he could hear from God. He also had to navigate the realities of owning a business. He couldn’t be a pastor and business owner at the same time. So, he needed three years before ultimately saying yes to becoming a pastor.
“I remember praying and praying and praying,” he explained.
The decision ultimately came down to the Lord’s provision. Magaña couldn’t be both a worship leader and a pastor. So, he and his wife agreed to say yes to being a pastor if God sent a worship leader.
Magaña came home the same day they made that commitment, and a friend called him. His friend had stopped attending his church. But he wanted to find another church to lead worship.
“My wife and I just looked at each other and said, ‘The Lord is answering our prayers,’” Magaña added.
The very next Sunday, he started as a pastor to Spanish speakers.
Striving for unity and diversity in a multi-cultural church
Iglesia Calvario identifies as one church with worship services in Spanish and English. Calvary Church pastor Wade Robinson ministers to the English speakers. Every 90 days, the church hosts a joint worship service in Spanish and English so all the people of God can worship and grow closer together.
“We all serve one God,” Magaña said. “We’re multi-ethnic. We have Spanish, English, Korean and Indian. It’s so awesome when I’m speaking from the pulpit. I get to see a whole family. People are drawn because it’s one family, one church.”
Early in his ministry, Magaña first connected with Converge pastors and leaders. He surprised some Converge PacWest staff when he wanted to be assessed for church planting. He said the staff already knew him from years of interactions. But the assessment was part of confirming his call to lead a church.
“Converge has been helping me a lot, and because of that, I’ve been growing more and more and more,” he said.
Equipping pastors to start and strengthen churches is a significant commitment of Converge. So is biblical diversity, an effort led by Vice President of Biblical Diversity Dr. Harold Lewis, to help Converge churches become increasingly diverse and unified around the gospel.
“I don’t think it’s very easy,” Corro said of building unity out of diversity. “But when we put the Lord first, it makes it very interesting how we can get along with different cultures and different thinking. We’re not Mexicans or Americans. We’re just one in Christ."
Thomas Sherwood agrees. He is one of the few people ― possibly the only person ― at Iglesia Calvario’s Spanish service who doesn’t speak Spanish as his first language. But he senses such a warm invitation into fellowship and spiritual growth that he doesn’t desire to attend an English-language service.
“I’ve had a number of people tell me I could be in the English service, but I chose to go to church with the native Spanish speakers,” Sherwood said. “That to them is very special. This is where I feel the Lord wants me in a church service, so I continue to participate.”
Magaña didn’t want gospel unity at first
Magaña grew up Catholic, once telling his family that he was born a Catholic and would die a Catholic. His mother and brothers had started attending a Protestant church in recent years. But Magaña wouldn’t go.
Until one day, God told him to go to church. So he went to Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, where his family attended. He was saved that very week and baptized a month later.
One of his daughters opposed his obedience. She said if he went through with the baptism, she would end the relationship with him.
“Six, seven months later, she was saved,” he said.
Discipleship is about to become costly
Before being saved, Magaña had been in a band getting ready to take their performances to a more successful level. He was invited to join when the band got back together. But his wife, Martha, challenged him to serve the Lord first.
So Magaña said no to the band, and a year later, he saw the band on TV experiencing success. But he was playing for the Lord and eventually toured with Dead Now Alive ― or DNA ― based on Ephesians 2. The worship band toured Mexico and the United States.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said. “I love what I’m doing now.”
So do the members of his church and the surrounding community. The Converge church is growing, even during the pandemic. God used the pandemic’s closure of many churches to draw even more Spanish speakers to Iglesia Calvario.
Magaña is not fond of social media and live streaming worship. He’s so committed to in-person worship that police came to the church, saying he could be arrested for congregating when large gatherings were restricted.
He never closed the church during the pandemic. He said the two bars across the street from his house or the town’s marijuana dispensaries never closed.
“When you close your bars and your strip joints, then we’ll talk about closing the church,” he said to police.
Magaña was straightforward with police and the mayor, he said, when they spoke to him about restricting in-person worship.
“I’ve been praying for a prison ministry for a long time,” Magaña told one police officer when discussing government regulations on churches. He was never arrested.
“People are hungry [for God],” he said. “We got a 60-70% increase of people coming because other Spanish-speaking churches closed down.”
As the pandemic progressed, Magaña and his leaders agreed to try online worship. Because the church stayed open and offered worship online, God opened a new door to minister to Spanish speakers in Turlock.
For years, Iglesia Calvario had ministered to Spanish speakers who lived in other towns. But very few people from Turlock came to Iglesia Calvario.
“Nobody wanted anything to do with Calvary,” he said of Turlock residents coming to worship. “But people were praying for Turlock, that people would come to Iglesia Calvario.”
Once other churches stopped worship during the pandemic, Magaña said more and more Spanish speakers from Turlock started worshiping at Iglesia Calvario.
Even though Magaña still contracted COVID-19 at one point, he knows his leaders did a great job while he was quarantined. And Magaña knows God has drawn more people to Christ through the local church.
“It was a home run,” he said of offering ministry online and in-person.
They still put out a Bible study video on Wednesdays and worship on Sundays. What started as a trial run became an online worship service. They have five cameras in the worship center to create a quality live stream of worship.
Corro is glad to keep bringing family and friends to that kind of church.
“We want to make sure that if somebody comes to the church, they don’t just come and go away empty,” he said.
Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.