SACRAMENTO – “Our father had abandoned us. My brother Daniel was killed in an accident. My sister, Vera, attempted suicide, and I was considering it, too,” Sal says.
Sal Fernandez, church planting catalyst with the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) Church Starting Group, remembers that period as a difficult time.
“It was the darkest time of my life,” Sal recalled. “At the same time that I was going through that, First Baptist Church of Tolleson, Arizona, was starting a new Spanish church, and I was invited to attend. During those dark days when I was 18 years old, my mother, my sister and I received the Lord.”
Sal married Maria at Fulton Street Baptist Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1968. His calling to the ministry began with difficulty.
“I was struggling because my greatest desire was to be a police officer,” Sal said. “I had been applying in Arizona, and I continued to apply when we moved to Michigan. I was finally accepted by the Grand Rapids Police Department, but it was at that very time that I had to decide whether I was going to go into the ministry or follow a career in law enforcement. The Lord just made it very clear that I needed to surrender to the ministry.”
Sal's first missionary assignment was under the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) was a church start in Minturn, Colorado in l979. Sal's responsibilities were to pastor a mission church while starting another work. He served as Pastor/Missionary from 1979 to 1993 in the western states. Appointed as a career missionary in 1993, Sal and Maria served in Nevada before joining CSBC in 2004.
“As a CSBC church planting catalyst,” Sal said, “I look at the big picture presented by two Northern California associations, the Delta Valley Association and the Sacramento Association. My focus is the Hispanic community although I have had the opportunity to start a Palauan ministry in Stockton. There are 400,000 Hispanics living just in the Sacramento metro region, which includes the city of Sacramento and 27 surrounding communities.”
Sal describes the process that needs to happen to start a church as “connecting the dots.” Sometimes a new church develops quickly; sometimes it takes a whole year to connect:
Look for pockets of people in a prospective location.
Discover where CSBC churches are within that location.
Connect with one of the CSBC churches as a prospective sponsoring church. Often Sal finds that the Lord has already prepared the pastor’s heart for the new outreach.
Look for the planter God has selected for the new work.
Develop a team around the planter.
Start gathering the core group or community to which the new work will minister.
Gather the resources necessary to get the new work started.
Sal has started more than 25 churches in California during his tenure.
“My wife makes fun of me because I’m always tickled pink,” Sal said. “I come home and share with her what is happening. Just seeing the dots connected from finding a pocket of people to hearing a sponsor say, ‘We’ve been praying for this!’
“What brings the joy is to think back to when I was a kid and somebody started that church in Tolleson. They reached out to me during the most difficult time of my life, and every time somebody comes to know the Lord because of a new church start it takes me back to that.”
Sal and Maria Fernandez have three adult children and four grandchildren. Sal earned a diploma in theology from the Mexican Baptist Bible Institute in San Antonio, Texas, attended Weber State University in Ogden, Utah for four years, majoring in child and family studies and earned a bachelor’s degree in theology and master’s degree in pastoral ministries from Andersonville Baptist Seminary in Georgia.
Sal’s message to California Southern Baptists:
“Partnering with a church plant at any level, as a main sponsor or as a supporting church, is essential to the new work. That is where it all happens – with the partnerships. Thank you, Southern Baptists, for praying, giving and partnering to fulfill the Great Commission here in California.”
Pray that the Lord raise up a planter for a Second and Third Generation church for Sacramento.
Pray that God will raise up church sponsors to partner with new church plants.
Pray that God will raise up church planters to connect with sponsoring churches.
Pray for the establishment of a Bible institute in the Sacramento metropolitan area that will provide spiritual training for future church leaders.
Pray for the CSBC church planting strategists throughout California.
Pray that God will provide for the spiritual, physical and emotional needs for CSBC’s full-time and bivocational pastors.
Sal’s life Bible verse:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3, NIV).
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