SAN FERNANDO VALLEY – “I tell people that when you baptize people, it shows how hard your church works,” Richard Cano says. “In my heart, you can’t beat that!”
Richard Cano has served as church planting catalyst with the California Southern Baptist Convention Church Starting Group since 2003. He specializes in starting new Hispanic churches in the San Fernando Valley Association, Gold Coast Baptist Association and the LAX Urban Center. Since beginning his ministry with CSBC, Richard has been instrumental in planting more than 35 churches to extend God’s kingdom.
“I became a Christian through my boss where I used to work in San Diego,” Richard said. “He would talk to me about Christ. This went on for about two years, and I really did not want to hear too much about it. One day his wife asked me, ‘If you died today, do you know where you would go?’”
That incident led Richard and his wife, Silvia, to their first Bible study.
“I did not understand very much, but something was there that I liked,” Richard remembered. “We went again. During the third Bible study, the pastor asked if anyone wanted to ask God for forgiveness. I did not understand what the words receive Christ meant, but I did understand the word forgiveness. My hand went up. My wife’s hand went up. I did not understand why I was crying, but I knew then that God had done something in my life. That was 1976.”
Richard and Silvia never looked back. He told God, “If I ever want to go back, You can go ahead and take my life. I never want to go back to what I was before You saved me.”
After five years of being a church member, Richard’s pastor invited him to lead his first Bible study. Richard and Silvia began leading home Bible studies across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. Five years later, they returned to their home church in San Diego, Primera Iglesia Bautista de San Ysidro. The church could no longer pay their pastor, and Richard agreed to act as its interim pastor. God blessed the church, and Richard served as its senior pastor for 13 years.
“We were able to hit 300 several times before I left,” Richard said. “We paid the building off three years before it was due, and I had the privilege to help start six churches for the San Diego Southern Baptist Association and a couple in Tijuana. The experience was great.”
Richard also teaches at the San Fernando Valley Ministry Training Center and the Equip Biblical Institute (EBI) of LAX Urban Center. That is where Richard identifies new church planters such as Saul Ayala and Arturo Carillo.
“The pastors of two of our largest church plants graduated from EBI,” Richard said.
Saul Ayala is pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Buen Pastor in the San Fernando Valley Baptist Association. They are presently running about 200 members and are starting a second service. The other, Arturo Carillo, is pastor of Iglesia Nuevo Aviamento in Hawthorne. That church is in the LAX Urban Center and has more than 150 members. They baptized 20 each this past year.
“I have had the privilege of working with these men before they were called to ministry, and now I can see how God has really used them to extend His kingdom.”
Richard and his wife, Silvia, have been married 40 years. They have five children and 11 grandchildren.
“When my wife and I are together in ministry, it is like taking a day off,” Richard says. “On this job, you don’t have days off like regular people. Usually, there is an activity scheduled two out of every three Saturdays at one of the churches in one of the three associations. Just the fact that my wife is with me makes it like a day off. After 38 years, our love is better than ever, more real, more profound.”
Richard is a graduate of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s Contextualized Leadership Development (CLD) program, having earned a diploma in theology.
Richard’s message to California Southern Baptists:
“We need to multiply our churches. We need to form partnerships to start new churches. There are so many lost people, it is unbelievable! I tell people that if you throw a rock up in the air here in San Fernando Valley, you will hit a Hispanic when it comes down. There were 2.5 million Hispanics in this area when I came to work here, and that number has grown. There are so few churches around.
“I think that our country’s crisis is going to help the Christian church—if it wakes up—to touch many, many lives for Christ. The greatest challenge now is finding church planters who are willing to pay the price. I know that most of them will have to continue to work while their churches grow, and that they have to spend time preparing, preaching, teaching, and just being with the people. Right now, I have three churches that are willing to host a new church, but I do not have church planters. My prayer is that God will send laborers.”
Richard recommends these Bible verses for study and meditation:
“I have been crucified with Christ; and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:19-20, HSCB).
Pray that God will soften the hearts of people in communities around new churches plants.
Pray that God will draw new church planters to the harvest.
Pray that God will touch established churches to partner with new church plants.
Pray for an outpouring of God’s wisdom on the CSBC leadership and support staff and that He will meet their every need.
I praise God and thank Him for letting me be a part of His work.
I praise God for the joy of seeing churches grow and have baptisms.
I thank Him for the good health that He has given my wife and me.
I thank God that, in spite of life’s struggles and problems, my kids are all in church.
Did you know?
Culturally-relevant educational outreach programs for the development of local church leadership are available through Shadow Mountain Ministries’ Equip Biblical Institute (EBI) in El Cajon, California (www.shadowmountain.org/ebi), and through Contextualized Leadership Development (CLD) offered by the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (www.ggbts.edu).
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