20 January 2022
A Culture of Hospitality Opens Doors to the Gospel
By Grace Thornton
ST. CATHARINES, ON — When Steven and Cindy Martins shared the gospel with the Alcazar family, it wasn’t long before the mother — Abril — responded and wanted to be baptized.
But the father — Gonzalo — wasn’t ready yet.
NAMB church planter Steven Martins hugs a newly baptized believer at Sevilla Chapel, a CNBC church plant in St. Catharines, ON. Martins and his wife, Cindy, have been going door to door in the city sharing the gospel, giving out Bibles and sitting down for Bible studies, and they say God is moving.
The family had moved from Mexico to St. Catharines, ON, the largest city in the Niagara region, and had come from a Catholic background. They met Steven and Cindy, who are also Latino, and Steven asked if he and Cindy could visit them and tell them about the hope offered in Jesus.
True to their cultural hospitality, Gonzalo and Abril said yes and cooked a feast for Steven and Cindy. Over the meal, they began to walk through the gospel of Luke together. They kept doing it every Friday night.
Abril “was the first one to respond in faith and want to be baptized,” Steven said. Gonzalo “took a little bit more time, and I remember him telling me, ‘Oh, even if I were to believe, I don't think I would ever see myself serving in the church. I would just be attending.’”
He did eventually believe, and over time more members of the family have come to faith.
And despite Gonzalo’s original claims that he wouldn’t want to serve, he’s now the simultaneous translator for services at Sevilla Chapel and “wants to help in any way he can with his wife,” Steven said.
The gospel has been at work in the Alcazar family and in other families in the St. Catharines area. Since planting Sevilla Chapel with the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) in 2019, Steven and Cindy have been strategically and intentionally going door to door in the community. A longtime interest in apologetics and lots of practice prepared him well for that ministry.
And there’s a great need. When he and Cindy moved to the Niagara region, they learned that 89-90% of the population of 400,000 were unbelievers. It was in need of more churches, specifically ones that could reach out to the ethnic groups scattered across the area.
NAMB church planter Steven Martins (right) preaches with a simultaneous translator at Sevilla Chapel, a CNBC church plant in St. Catharines, ON. The church has a large number of Spanish speakers but also draws people from other countries and languages, including Armenia, China and Vietnam.
The Latino population, for one, is growing quickly as people move out of overpopulated Toronto into St. Catharines looking for more space to live and employment at nearby farms.
The region of Niagara collectively is home to 14,105 Latinos and is an employment destination for more than 7,000 Latino migrant workers. Steven and Cindy connect well with that community—he is half Ecuadorian and half Portuguese, and she is Colombian.
Cindy says the chance to be exposed to English in church is a draw for the women, who work hard to supplement their family’s income but need to know English to get better jobs.
It’s a challenge for them to have time for Bible study, though.
“In our church, we are doing this Bible study once a month because a lot of the ladies are busy,” she said of their neighbours who often work several jobs to stay afloat.
But when they can get there, they connect through the chance to learn language.
“It’s been very good for them,” Cindy said.
Sevilla Chapel has attracted Spanish speakers from a variety of countries but also people from other countries and languages, including Armenia, China and Vietnam.
“We’ve been able to have English speakers that don’t speak a word of Spanish feel totally at home and be able to have easy access to everything, and they really appreciate and enjoy the warmth of the Latino community,” Steven said.
NAMB missionaries Steven and Cindy Martins and their sons, Matthias Jeremiah and Timothy Apollos, live in St. Catharines, ON, and invest their lives in reaching the city, which is the largest in the Niagara region. Their CNBC church plant, Sevilla Chapel, seeks to reach the various ethnic groups scattered across the area, especially those who are Spanish speakers.
The gospel is moving forward as they knock on doors and invite people in to experience that hospitality and explore a relationship with God.
“God called my wife and I to church planting because of the need for our community to know the gospel and to be trained in the truth of God’s word,” Steven said. “Sometimes when we go out, we meet some Spanish speakers. Sometimes, we don't. It’s hit or miss at times, but at the end of the day, as long as we’re speaking to people and sharing the gospel, that's what matters to us.”
“We’re going to the streets. We’re giving people Bibles. We’re sitting down with people and having Bible studies with them,” Steven said, noting that gifts through the offering allow them to “spend more time doing that so that we can reach the whole city and eventually reach the whole region.”
For them, it’s not just about planting a church with a big membership.
“It’s, ‘Let’s see how many people we can reach with Jesus and see how many people are being transformed by the gospel with discipleship,’” Steven said.
The CNBC's Great Commission Offering (GCO) contributes to NAMB which serves our missionaries in the field. The GCO offering is used in part, for training, support and care for missionaries like the Martins and for evangelism resources.
Grace Thornton writes for the North American Mission Board. All photos for this article are NAMB photos by Ben Rollins
New Skillet Album a "Positive Rebellion" Against Fear
By Timothy Cockes
NASHVILLE (BP) – Christian band Skillet released a new album on January 14, that lead singer John Cooper said represents a “positive rebellion,” against forces influencing Christians to live in fear.
The album, titled “Dominion,” is the 11th studio release for the highly successful rock band. It was written during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cooper said he wasn’t sure if the band was even going to write a new album because they did not get to perform the songs from their previous album (released in 2019) for very long.
Yet as the pandemic raged on, Cooper said the songs “just started coming out of me.”
“There are times when you just get inspiration,” he said. “Something hits you and you know you need to say something. That’s really what this record was like.
“I would say the main theme of the record is not being a slave to fear. It’s a rebellion against forces trying to get you to live in fear. The record is kind of telling you ‘do not give into that.”’
Cooper described the process of recording the album as “unique” and “bizarre,” considering the band members were never in the same room as the producers they were working with.
The band and their producers would start with writing sessions together over Zoom. The band would then record music in their own studio and send the tracks to the producers in another state. Everyone would then come back on Zoom to talk over needed changes.
Cooper said the unusual process allowed the group to create the familiar sound the band is known for, but also to experiment with new things they might not have been willing to try before.
“It’s a really energetic record. It’s a very hopeful positive record, but it’s also got this sort of Christian defiance to it,” he said.
“I mean that sort of spirit of ‘We need to stand up for what’s right because of the times that we’re living in.’ It might cost you something …, but it’s time for Christians to really stand on the Word of God and not back down.”
Skillet has been making music together since 1996, and currently comprises Cooper and his wife Korey, lead guitarist Seth Morrison and drummer Jen Ledger.
Over the last 25 years, the group has achieved significant success both in the contemporary Christian music genre as well as the mainstream heavy rock genre.
They have sold over 11 million units worldwide, have multiple music videos with hundreds of millions of views on YouTube and have toured all over the world.
The band has won multiple Dove Awards, a Billboard Music Award and been nominated for two Grammy Awards.
When looking back on the success of the band, Cooper said he never imagined “in a million years,” that he would still be making music full-time all these years later.
In addition to music, another of Cooper’s passions has come to the forefront the past few years – standing up and speaking out about the truth of the Bible and the Gospel. For a variety of reasons, Cooper has become more vocal about Jesus and Christian values.
He published a book in late 2020 compiling his thoughts about the Bible and current culture titled “Awake & Alive To Truth: Finding Truth In The Chaos Of A Relativistic World.” In it, Cooper describes the different reasons he’s chosen to become more vocal about Christianity.
The opening story of the book describes a conversation Cooper had with a successful music agent a little over 10 years ago. The agent told him Skillet had everything necessary to become a superstar rock band, if they would just stop talking about Jesus.
They could talk about love, helping people or even spirituality, but he advised Cooper to stop talking especially about Jesus and to disassociate from the Christian music genre altogether.
“That conversation was a milestone in my understanding of what the world was willing to accept and what the world was not willing to accept,” Cooper said.
In addition to realizing the music world would not accept talk about Jesus, Cooper said the recent movement among some Christian artists and celebrities against trusting the Bible also prompted him to become more vocal.
“I had a naivety that everybody knows what it means to be Christian,” he said. “I didn’t know there would ever be people who would claim to be Christians, but would disbelieve that the Bible is real and is the Word of God.
“If Christianity has sort of a line of defense or offense, there is a gap in the line of Christian ‘celebrities’ that are willing to put their necks on the line for the Gospel. There is a need that is not being filled for someone to really hold the line on Christian values and that Jesus Christ is Lord.
“We have a lot of great preachers and a lot of great theologians saying such good stuff, but in the ‘celebrity,’ or Christian entertainment world there aren’t a lot of people standing up. I’m not going to try to teach crazy Bible theology; I’m just trying to say why we need Jesus in a simple way.”
Despite everything going on in the world and in American culture, Cooper said he encourages all Christians to build the foundation of their life on God’s Word.
“In the end, your belief in the Word of God is going to have an incredible effect on the stability of your life with God,” Cooper said. “We don’t know what is going to happen, but what I’m sure of is this – if you radically build your life on the unchanging Word of God then you will be unshaken and unstoppable for the kingdom of God no matter what happens.”
“Dominion,” is available now wherever music is sold, and Skillet can be seen headlining the Winter Jam tour across the country.
Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer. This article was republished with permission from Jonathan Howe and was originally published in the Baptist Press on January 14, 2022.
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