Fresno Westside Church Does Not Allow Barriers to Become Walls

Many barriers exist that can prevent churches from working together to spread God’s message—language and culture barriers are some of the most common. But these barriers can be crossed when planning and support come together from both sides. The Fresno Westside church, located in a multi-ethnic neighborhood of Fresno, Calif., started an evangelistic initiative alongside nearby Hispanic churches. They created an opportunity for Spanish and English speakers to worship together and spread the word of God.

“With God, all things are possible. Seemingly impossible obstacles can be overcome with God's help,” said Elder Banks of Fresno Westside church. “Our church was willing to address the fact that in our neighborhood there were those who spoke another language, and we took the challenge to learn the basics of the language so we could communicate with our community.”

Pastor Alonzo S. Wagner III, of Fresno Westside church, explained that they had had an English-speaking meeting and a Spanish-speaking meeting going on at the same time, and then at the end of the event they fellowshipped together, baptized together, had a fellowship meal, and held a social afterward. “Even though we're going to two separate churches, we have become much closer,” explained Wagner. These events have been so impactful, they are planning to continue them in 2023.

The church members and pastors that worked hard planning this initiative, including Pastor Edgar Sanchez and Pastor Eddy Perez, were inspired by the possibilities. They started offering Spanish classes, evangelism classes, plant-based cooking classes, and other initiatives to bring the community together. They passed out bilingual flyers, encouraging more people from the community to join.

This strategy had not been a part of their church in the past, but those who have experienced the addition have felt the impact. Through determination and focused teamwork, they made this dream a reality. They credit this heightened level of unity between congregations to God.

This method has allowed them to reach more people through joint evangelistic meetings, and it’s a tool that can be used in other churches. “The impact was astounding as the congregation participated in learning basic Spanish phrases and terms,” explained Elder Banks.

When a church of one ethnicity attempts to reach those in a church of another ethnicity, things can be complicated. While they may share their love of God, other barriers hold them back. Where they do connect, things could always be stronger. That’s why this partnership that started at the hands of a few pastors has quickly inspired the community.

Beyond language courses, the plant-based cooking classes were also enjoyed by many. These bilingual classes were met with high attendance. The community came together to learn how to cook in healthy ways, which brought new habits and a lasting impact.

The team behind this outreach approach was able to create traction in their area and bring more people together than they otherwise could have. This also encouraged assistance from those who had not been involved in previous church activities or had been absent. Many came together to help with language and cooking classes.

“When they came together during the evangelistic event and saw the different communities worshiping and working together, they seemed to sense a spirit that was very unifying, impactful, and drawing,” said Wagner. There was a sense of oneness in the room.

When they came together during the evangelistic event and saw the different communities worshiping and working together, they seemed to sense a spirit that was very unifying, impactful, and drawing.

The church has continued to be blessed. The Spanish classes are still a part of what they do. Having church members learn Spanish and encouraging them to become bilingual has allowed the pastors to minister to their community more effectively.

Pastor Wagner explained that this was not always his vision, but as the demographics in the community began to shift, it was clear there was work to be done. “The church began to pray about it, and we came up with the prayerful vision to minister where we’re planted,” he said. “So if God has given us a diverse community, then He will give us the ability to minister to our diverse community with the diverse cultures.”

Through this outreach approach, Fresno Westside has had the opportunity to perform nine baptisms, and seven more were planned to take place by the end of December. And this doesn’t include the additional baptisms by Pastor Sanchez.

“If you allow what you perceive as barriers to not to be walls that prevent you from getting to know your community and ministering to them, the power of God is able to do a powerful thing,” concluded Wagner. 
By Brennan Hallock