Last November Pepe Moreno celebrated 25 years as the pastor of the Evangelical Church in Alcázar, central Spain. We caught up with him (this is not easy) and got him to answer a few questions…
1. When did you first think about becoming a pastor?
My calling to the ministry is, in many ways, related to my conversion experience. Central to it was the impact of the Person of Christ, as it is presented in the Gospel of John. When I, later on, became established in my faith in the Lord Jesus, I very strongly felt I was called by God to make the Gospel of the Son known with all of my life and energy. So, very soon after having been brought to the love of the truth, I began to consider the work of the ministry as my life’s call.
2. How did God call you to this work? Was it a hard choice?
I think that He made me increasingly aware that whatever else other than the ministry that I could do with my life was not what God wanted me to do. This does not mean that it was not a lengthy process before arriving finally to the conclusion that I had to devote my life to preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ.
It was hard, however, to take the final step of coming to England to train at the European Missionary Fellowship and also to learn alongside Bob Sheehan then the Pastor of Welwyn Evangelical Church. It was hard because at the time I had a good job teaching English at a Bank. People, including some Christians, thought I was making a considerable mistake in leaving such a good post for what they thought to be the uncertainties of the evangelical ministry.
3. Why did you choose to partner with EMF?
I knew there were other missions, of course, but I never thought otherwise than applying to EMF. It was the natural thing for me to do. You see, my home church in Alcázar was founded by EMF missionaries. I knew other EMF missionaries in other parts of Spain as well. I also came to England very early in my life and had the privilege of attending EMF field conferences when very young. I still remember, as if it were yesterday, listening to great preaching with people like Omri Jenkins, Glyn Owen or Paul Tucker. The impression of those days still lingers in my mind after so many years.
4. What was your first month or year like?
I will always be very grateful to the training I got both at EMF and Welwyn Evangelical Church before returning to Spain. This, I think, prepared me to face the struggles involved in my first year in Alcázar. It is not easy to come to terms with a church when one is young and one is not only a member but the pastor! But the Lord was very close and we soon saw the first conversions
5. What changes have you see in Spain and the church in Spain and your church over the years?
We have seen a rapid increase in the secularization of the society. A good number of people hold to no religion. At the same time, the Roman Catholic Church has retained some of its power, particularly in central Spain where we are. Culturally, the major events of the country continue to be connected with Roman Catholics practices.
So, on one hand, you see people bent on a very materialistic way of life and an openness to new ideas about society, family and sex. But this goes, hand in hand, with a very intense religiosity in many others. We even see a mixture of both groups: people who accept the new morality and retain at the same time an allegiance to the Roman Church.
The other big change has to do with the migrants coming to Spain, some of them joining our churches, and a few others being saved among us!
In spite of secularism and Roman Catholic influence the evangelical church has continued to grow, not just here but everywhere in Spain. We have more members here than ever before! This is true in a much bigger way in other evangelical churches in Spain.
Although greater freedoms have brought other challenges for the Gospel, it has also contributed to create a much more open atmosphere in a closed society like ours. This has been good for the hearing of the Gospel. We are beginning to see people with spiritual concerns looking for answers from us and not just from the Roman Church.
6. How do you keep your joy and zeal over the years?
I think all depends on giving priority to what the Bible says is essential for all Christians not just ministers. This is the primacy of keeping up the relationship with God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In practical terms, it means to keep on reminding ourselves regularly about grace and forgiveness in Christ and God’s law as our rule of life in love. This entails being fed by regular Bible reading and keeping up your reading habits of books (for some of us this is no problem anyway!!) and trying to increase this as times goes by! This last piece of advice was given to me both by the late Bob Sheehan and former EMF Director Daniel Webber.
7. Have you got any stories you could tell us?
I would say that we have seen more Lydia-type conversions than any other! Just a quiet coming to faith, as in Acts 16.14-15, from hearing to baptism. It has happened through hearing God’s Word with a heart opened by Him to respond to the Gospel in faith and repentance.
We have seen people just coming to our meetings and being brought to faith. This is a great encouragement as we believe in preaching as God’s ordained means of gathering his own people. This has been particularly so with the sons and daughters of church families, although not all have been brought in. It is also striking to notice how a number of people have been saved in mid-week prayer meetings!
The way we got the church building in Alcázar, right in front of the main hospital for La Mancha North Region was a major breakthrough. We have come to be seen as part of the community, something which I think is very important for the witness of the church here. I am regularly invited by the authorities and other groups to events in town. I cannot attend them all but I try to go to some of them. I am also regularly asked to write for the local newspaper. This I always do. I also try to launch all my books in Alcázar so that there is a local attendance and media coverage. The TV program has also enhanced our witness in the town. Also the regular prison ministry has been good in terms of getting to know prison authorities and the police forces
As for discouragements, it is always frustrating seeing good people leaving the area because of lack of work. We also lack church officers and other preachers. We have some, but we could do with more.
8. What have you had to give up?
Nothing in comparison to which I have gained.
9. What do you enjoy most about the role?
Quite a lot of things. I enjoy preaching God’s Word. I also like being with people, listening and talking to them. I like the immense amount of reading that is needed to be preaching all the time! It is a great privilege to be immersed in God’s Word in such a way.
10. Do you ever get a rest?
Yes, of course. I enjoy sports, particularly tennis and watching football! My team is Real Madrid, of course.
11. What are your dreams for the church now?
We long for the church to be able to nurture a new generation of preachers in our midst. This is, of course, God-given, but we need to be alert and keep on praying and training. We also long to see more conversions among the people of the town. We would love to see the church becoming a light to other places nearby and elsewhere in the country. We would love to send our own missionaries!
12. What are your priorities for the next 25 years?!
To do our God’s given work better. Far better preaching, witnessing, praying and church life. We must press on and improve we are never to be complacent with what we have done so far. But above all, to reflect more of Christ in our daily lives. This is the great need Christlikeness and I am very far away from this myself.
13. Do you have any regrets?
We have not been able to retain all those who have been brought to faith here, particularly young people. It is a fact of life, of course, in such a mobile society as ours, with so many people moving from one place to the other. Yet, we regret it.
I do not think we have made a complete impact in the whole of the community, as for instance it is said Paul made in Asia as it says in Acts 19.10. There must be a community life in the church and on a personal level that should attract more yet, we still have more time to do it! We must press on.
14. How have you balanced church and family?
In my own experience I have found that a stable ministry in the same place has lots of advantages for family life, we have found this to be so throughout the years. Being at home daily, apart from when one is traveling for deputation or conferences also helps enormously. We also take holidays very seriously indeed as essential to maintain a balance in this area.
The above is an amplified version of the interview that is contained in the current edition of Vision, the magazine of the European Missionary Fellowship.