Juan Pena: A Heart for Diversity

Juan Pena: A Heart for Diversity

Pastoring a church in one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in all of Colorado was an opportunity Juan Pena couldn't turn down.

Now a pastor at Providence Bible Church in Denver, CO, Juan is heavily engaged in serving the downtown community. The opportunity brought together his love for people and his passion for planting new churches.Juan Pena

A 2008 graduate of Baptist Bible Seminary, Juan became involved in church planting as a student in the Master of Divinity program. He was blessed to work with Living Hope Baptist Church, a multi-ethnic, socioeconomically diverse church in the Mount Pocono, PA, area.

Juan and his wife, Courtney, have four boys: Caleb, Micah, Ezra, and a very new addition to their family, Joel, who was born in June 2011.

Read more In the Spotlights here.

Insight Questions

How did you become involved in ministry?
I was born in Colombia, South America. My dad was a national pastor with the Presbyterian Church. When I was 14, my family immigrated to the U.S. I was the first Hispanic to graduate from my high school in Hamilton, MA. I went on to earn a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Massachusetts. After spending 6 years with an engineering firm, I entered Baptist Bible Seminary. While attending seminary I worked as an engineer and with Living Hope Baptist Church.

Why did you choose BBS?
Primarily it was because of their passion for church planting. I worked alongside Ken Davis (Director of Church Planting) for six years to help start Living Hope.

What led you to Colorado?
Our experience at Living Hope gave us an increasing burden for a multi-ethnic church in a large urban center. When we heard about the opportunity in Denver in the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in all of Colorado, we jumped at the opportunity. In July 2008, after earning my M.Div., we moved to be a part of a church planning elder team. In October, Providence Bible Church was launched.

What roles do you fill?
Our church is bilingual. We are one church that worships in two languages, Spanish and English. One of my main responsibilities is to preach in Spanish.

Additionally, I oversee our 12 missional community groups, and I am a founding board member of University Preparatory School, a kindergarten through fifth grade, tuition-free, college-prep, public charter school. I am also a member of the Diverse Neighborhood Collective Association, designed to give a voice to all people. I am also the director of Providence Fellowship, a highly selective, two-year post-undergraduate urban leadership development program in downtown Denver. Our mission is to launch a movement of lifelong urban church leaders who will work through local churches to advance the mission of God and transform the cities of the world.

What are some highlights of your experience?
We were able to purchase a 6,800-square-foot building debt free six months into our church plant. Out of this building we now run two church-based non-profits. One is Encompass with a mission to uplift orphans, single moms, and widows in downtown Denver. The other is Strong Tower Ministry, which is a prison reentry ministry. Every week we have 100 or more ex-felons come to our building looking for jobs, bus tokens, housing, food, etc. On a given Sunday at Providence we have 25 to 35 ex-felons in our worship service. We also have a mid-week service designed to reach out to sex-offenders that can't come to church on Sunday.

Another highlight is the start of our bilingual worship services. I've always had a dream of seeing one church worship God in two languages.

Launching University Preparatory School in our neighborhood is also a highlight. Out of 100 Latino kids that start kindergarten, only three will get a college degree. I believe in three years University Prep will be the best K-5 school in all of Denver. Several parents from this school are coming to Providence and are being discipled to the Savior.

What are the challenges you face in your ministry there?
One of the biggest struggles I face is pride. When I first came into the city out of seminary I thought I had all the answers to the neighborhood's problems. I was trying to be a white messiah with answers to the racial, gang, education, and economic problems. This led me to view the people in my neighborhood as projects to work on rather than people to love. Over the past three years I have had to learn to listen to people's stories and look at their assets rather than their deficits. All of us are made in the image of God and whether a person is homeless, jobless, single mom, ex-felon, etc., they all have gifts, talents, value.



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Posted on: 6/24/2011 11:49:15 AM

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