After becoming a Christian and planting a church with his brother at home in the Dominican Republic, Martín Vargas moved to Hollywood, Fla., in Broward County, a growing and diverse community between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. His entrepreneurial spirit helped him quickly find success in the food services industry, and before long he prospered as the owner of a Tony Roma’s Steakhouse franchise. But he could not shake the passion God gave him for reaching the lost through church planting.
In 2004, Vargas was challenged to see Broward with new eyes. For the first time, he saw that the county he called home was full of Spanish-speaking people without a solid Spanish-speaking church working to reach them. God began to burden him with a vision to plant a church in all 31 of Broward’s municipalities.
So, he gave up his business to fully commit to starting a church—Iglesia Real—that he prayed would eventually reach the county’s nearly 2 million residents through multiplication. Since 2012, Iglesia Real has planted nine congregations across the 1,300-square-mile county—three of which have multiplied and planted other churches. More significantly, the mother church’s disciple-making and leadership development pipelines are beginning to produce planters from within the original congregation. In 2016, Vargas sent his own son, Omar, to plant a church, and in 2018, Iglesia Real sent out two more planters.
Vargas and Iglesia Real clearly demonstrate three things all church planters must do to start a church that multiplies.
See a community’s challenges and potential
Multiplication begins with clearly seeing what God can do in and through a community. If a planter wants to start a church that’s welcoming to the people he’s trying to reach, then he must work to understand them. He should research the demographics, survey the geographic barriers, understand the community history and more. He must search and read and listen. As he does so, God works into the planter’s heart a deep love for the people and the place he’s being sent to plant.
Church planters come to see the uniqueness of the community to which God has called them, and they grow in their longing to see God make an incredible kingdom impact in and through that place. They often see the kingdom possibility of more than just one new church in the community and long for God to use this new plant to launch a movement of new churches reaching people throughout the community.
Start a relevant church
This burden moves the planter to action, and he works to start something new there. Where there was no church, planters engage people with the gospel, lead them to follow Jesus, gather them into a new faith community and disciple them to become disciple-makers. He plants a new church with a new vision for the community and the city. This new church and vision is too much for the planter to healthfully pursue on their own — no planter should plant alone.
Sending Churches should help guide a planter’s call and preparation, then care for him with ongoing contact and accountability until his church can stand healthy on its own. Supporting Churches partner with the Sending Church and the church plant to provide additional resources and personnel. Send Network helps connect the planter to this family of churches and strives to help everyone work together toward a healthy, multiplying church.
Set the culture and process for multiplication
Planting a singular church is rarely the end goal of a kingdom-minded church planter. Most long to see gospel transformation in the community they have come to care about. So, they start a church with a culture, processes and systems necessary to multiply disciples, groups and churches—from within their congregations—into the community and beyond. The burden that drove them to plant also drives them to multiply.
Churches that plant churches have a structure for multiplication through clearly defined pathways for disciples to grow as spiritual and missional leaders. Multiplying planters see the people in their congregation as potential planters and church planting team members, and he works to challenge them to take their next step in that direction. Furthermore, he structures his church with reproducibility in mind. He is aware of the leaders in the congregation watching him, and he wants them to think, “with God’s help, and that of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I can do that too.”
A culture that multiplies begins with prayer and a submitted and selfless heart. The vision the planter is called to is bigger than he can accomplish on his own. God must move, as only He can truly transform lives and plant a church. Building on this culture of prayer, planters must sacrifice by giving up people and resources their own church may need to see a church started in another community.
Vargas has seen his community’s challenges and potential and has started multiple church plants through prayer, a humble spirit and a culture and process of multiplication. After multiple church plants, he has not lost his passion for planting. He still sees the challenges and potential in Hollywood, and he and Iglesia Real are working to start new churches that can make a difference. Their hope is that the culture they set will multiply disciples and leaders that plant churches across Broward County and the world.
To learn more about Martín Vargas’ story, watch it here on We Are Send Network.
Published January 30, 2020