Connections: Jaren Lapasaran
Jaren Lapasaran, 56, is pastor of Heights Worship Center International Ministries, an Assemblies of God congregation in Hacienda Heights, Calif. He left a thriving church in Quezon City, Philippines, in 1997 to heed a call to become a pastor to Filipinos living in the Los Angeles area. Lapasaran, who is also president of the AG Filipino-American Ethnic Fellowship, recently sat down with Pentecostal Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy at an ethnic church planting partnership summit in Waxahachie, Texas.
evangel: Multiple church sites are a recent trend in the United States, but you had the idea in the Philippines more than 30 years ago.
LAPASARAN: We started Jesus Our Hope International Assemblies in 1980, and we grew to five services. From the parent church we multiplied into 15 smaller satellites around Manila with 3,000 people altogether. Although there was a certain degree of independence for each church, we took care of the rent and remuneration of the pastor to preserve strong ties of accountability. When they became strong enough, they managed their own finances.
evangel: Talk about your visit to New York that prepared you for your move to the United States.
LAPASARAN: A church invited me to speak at its missions convention. After the convention I conducted 10 nightly meetings. At the end we had 80 Filipinos in Staten Island who wanted to keep meeting. Out of that came Jesus the Messiah Fellowship, the first Filipino-American-affiliated church in New York.
evangel: Soon after that you left the comfort and security of your homeland to start a church in the United States. Were you scared?
LAPASARAN: Oh yes. It was a total venture into the unknown. It’s one thing to visit a country, another thing to stay. For three years, the Philippine church supported me after my move to California. By then we were able to be on our own.
evangel: This is a formula now being used in many Assemblies of God church plants.
LAPASARAN: The parent-affiliated church is an answer to prayer. There is a cultural value of reciprocation. The child passes on to the next generation what the parent has done before. Now it’s the child’s turn to minister.
evangel: Your church isn’t attended solely by those with a Filipino heritage.
LAPASARAN: We are reaching a multicultural setting and have Hispanics, African-Americans and Chinese in the church. We have a Caucasian worship pastor, Caucasian church administrator and Caucasian board member. God only uses ethnicity as a steppingstone so that we can understand diversity in our community. We can identify with what other cultures feel because we ourselves have felt it. Having experienced transition we now can move to the process of metamorphosis — reaching the diverse culture of the nation.
evangel: Will the Filipino-American Fellowship continue to be distinctly Filipino?
LAPASARAN: I could welcome any ethnicity that would want to plant a Filipino church. We are open for integration of leadership. Someone who wants to be a part of the mission field in America is welcome to be part of the church-planting efforts of the Filipino-American Christian Fellowship. We are not closed to other ethnicities that might have a passion and burden for another culture.
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