Part 4 features Pastor Israel Martinez who leads Redeemer Church - Irving in Irving, TX. He talks about feeling the call to "go to the nations" early on but didn't really know how to get there. In his process of self-discovery, he found himself in several different church leadership positions before he felt prepared enough to go out and fulfill his calling. With their church opening during the pandemic, Israel touches on both disappointments and victories they've already witnessed and gives all the honor and glory to God. Read Israel's full interview below.
1. How did you know that you were called to plant a church?
It was a slow process. I was saved at 10 and kept growing in sanctification. As I grew, I learned more about Jesus' call to make disciples [of all] nations and knew I wanted to glorify God with my life. I played and wrote music, but I didn't feel equipped to study those in college, so I became a F-16 mechanic in the U.S Air Force for four years. In my early 20s, I became a teacher, served my church and got married. Afterwards, I went to seminary part time simply to be a better Sunday school teacher, but then I got an opportunity to go to seminary full-time and got the "church planting bug”. After attending seminary, we went to Germany (where I was born) to consider being part of a small church planting movement there. We loved it, but felt the Lord say no. I served on staff as a pastor/worship pastor at several churches, but a desire continued to grow in me to go to the nations as a church planter. As a tri-racial Puertorican, I have the blood of many nations with DNA from all over the world. I would often say I look like the nations so I must go! The Lord allowed me to do two residencies - one with Redeemer Midland and our Redeemer Network and another with the Village Church! This led us to go back to and plant in Irving, TX (in Dallas County), one of the most diverse zip codes in the U.S.
2. What hesitations (if any) did you have before you planted?
We had 4 kids and our 5th came a year ago. With being a one income family, there is a fear of fundraising and financial instability that can come with planting and also hoping people can see and catch the vision of the plant.
3. How much time did it take from your initial desire to plant and your actual church launch?
2010- 2020. So eleven years.
4. Tell us a little bit about your church plant. Ex: where it is located, how old it is, etc.
We are in Irving, TX, which is in Dallas County. Irving is super ethnically, socially and economically diverse - it has around 300,000 people and is in the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area and right by DFW airport.
5. What was your biggest challenge in planting a church?
Well we had to launch online because of the pandemic, then launched in person on October 18, 2020. This has made Sunday gathering hard as people are tentative to come. The Lord has blessed us greatly, but church planting in a pandemic is all we know and our only reality, so it can seem like because numbers may be low that we are not being faithful or obedient, or that we may be planting in vain. We know this is a lie of the enemy because we have seen salvations, really deep discipleship, ministry opportunities, and countless provisions of the Lord including people who are joining the church!
6. What surprised you the most in the church planting process?
Honestly the pandemic... we had certain expectations and the pandemic changed all of it. We have been consistent in doing what we need to every week, but we have seen that no matter what we do, only the Lord can bring His harvest. We were praying confidently and diligently in Jesus, but I felt that He wanted us to pray desperately! This pandemic has brought our church to a desperation of knowing that we can't build a church and that only He can. Please pray for this to happen, pray for us to see God bring his harvest like only He can!
7. What has been your favorite part of church planting?
Meeting and building relationships with people both from our church, other churches, and in the community, and connections with other churches is my favorite part. Meeting with people energizes me and I love hearing people's stories and sharing ours!
8. Tell us something that happened during the early days of your church plant that you will never forget.
When I was on staff at the Village Church as a church planter, we visited one of the Village church plants that year called Eastside. They invited me to share at the end of the service about our church plant. After that I met a lady (who was visiting) who worked for a non-profit in Irving and offered to give us office/event space for $1 a year! What a blessing and provision of the Lord!
9. Is there anything that you wish you would have known before launching your church plant?
I felt I was prepared as I did two residencies, had been part of church plants, and served as a pastor at several churches. I had heard all the stories, both good and bad, about the pain and miracles that happen. We have experienced both but with minimal pain. God has been so gracious to us. I am not sure of what I wish I knew because I think if I would have known everything, it would make me depend less on God.
Maybe I would have liked to know how difficult it would be to gather folks for Sunday gathering during a pandemic. I think knowing how pride and insecurity in this would show how weak I am and how much I need our great God. He is teaching me this now which is humbling and gracious. I thought I was the guy that didn't care about numbers, but my heart has been tempted to care more about numbers than it should.
10. What words of encouragement would you give to a fellow pastor who is preparing to plant a church?
Take your time in preparing to plant; there is no rush. Learn, learn, learn. You are not as gifted a preacher, leader, gatherer or whatever as you think you are. Let God get the glory and not yourself. Pray desperately for God to save people and make disciples. Love your family well, meditate on the word, and allow the Lord to continue to sanctify you. Fight the good fight!
We want to extend our thanks to Pastor Israel Martinez from Redeemer Church - Irving for his willingness to participate in this blog series about honest thoughts of a church planter! His church’s website, Facebook and Instagram are all linked below so please go check them out and leave Israel and The Well Church some love!