Church Planter Feature: Pablo and Erika Pizarro
This month’s featured church planters are Pablo and Erika Pizarro. Pablo is the lead pastor of Lighthouse Assembly of God in Newark, NJ.
Lighthouse re-launched in March 2010 as an inner-city church that has since made its mark as a social justice ministry by not only meeting the spiritual needs of their community, but also providing social and economic resources to the greater community of Newark.
We asked Pablo to share some information about Lighthouse and their ministry in the community. See below:
Lighthouse Assembly of God was re-launched in March of 2010 in the city of Newark, NJ. Since 2010, Pastor Pablo Pizarro has lead this inner-city church that initially started as what was known then as a “home missions church.”
Rev. Pablo Pizarro, born and raised in the inner city of Bronx, NY, was launched and commissioned along with his wife, Erika, and two children, Savannah and Zack, out of Temple Rock of My Salvation Church in Newark as a Parent-Affiliated Church (PAC). When Pablo and his family set out to lead Lighthouse Assembly, their home church also sent out a core group of seven to help with the launch.
In early 2010, there were only five remaining families from the previous home missions church, including Pablo, his family, and the seven core leaders sent to serve. Pastor Pablo says this was all new to him, but he felt confident that God had a great and wonderful plan for the inner city of Newark.
When Pablo and the group were commissioned during the Easter season, they wasted no time and began to go door-to-door within the community, handing out invites to their upcoming Easter service. Afterward, Lighthouse celebrated its first Easter service with 80 people in attendance. Since then, the mission of Lighthouse has been to let the community know there is a new church in town and that they care for them.
Lighthouse’s vision: “Love Christ, Serve People and Touch Lives”
Most new churches launch with a vision already in place, then the core group and the pastor memorize it and put it on their letterheads. However, we wanted to assure that everyone in the community knew and felt what we were all about. We did this in a very strategic way.
We set out to be intentional and strategic in how we would “evangelize” the community. We didn’t want to do it the conventional way. We first surveyed where we were:
What’s our neighborhood like?
How are the schools?
Who are our elected officials?
So, the first thing we did was realize we are in a tough city. The church we rented from was directly across from a huge school, so we decided to do a hip-hop concert. We called it “Hip-Hop Fest,” and we planted a stage right in the middle of the street directly across from the church and the school.
We caused a scene on purpose (we had permits). All traffic was re-directed or had to drive by where we were. We had several ministries perform and lead worship, and we saw a lot of people come together, including the school faculty and neighbors.
This is where you hear “500 people came to Christ, 200 were filled with the Spirit, and there were 300 baptisms.” However, that was not the case. We had large crowds, but about 20 people decided to stay connected with us after the event.
The most important and powerful thing about this hip-hop concert was that it caught the attention of the school faculty, city officials, and nearby neighborhood. Many said, “I didn’t even know there was a church right across from the school.” This was a huge victory for us. We were on the map.
Since then, Lighthouse has grown steadily and strategically. A friend of mine in Chicago, Rev. Choco De Jesus, calls this form of evangelism, “strategic enticing events.” I simply felt that our city had to be reached at their level and so, since 2010, we have been reaching out to the community very differently.
Since the launch of Lighthouse:
373 people at our highest-reached weekly attendance
Two Sunday services hosted at 9:00AM and 11:00AM
Midweek Wednesday night prayer services
Just launched in 2018: Lighthouse Community Groups all over the city and in surrounding towns
Lighthouse has made its mark as a social justice ministry in the community of Newark. Some examples are:
Yearly backpack, haircut, and school supplies giveaway
Yearly toy giveaway to three local hospitals and schools
Monthly grocery giveaways every first Saturday
Yearly family turkey giveaway
Adopt-a-school project (7 North Ward schools) providing uniforms, food, and other resources to less fortunate families in Newark
Adopt-a-block and prayer walks every summer.
Free food giveaways every summer throughout the city of Newark
Monthly medical checkups at our church
Yearly Police and Firefighters Appreciation Banquet to honor our local public servants
Yearly Newark public school teacher appreciation dinner
Pastor Pablo Pizarro serves on the board of Mayor Ras Baraka and on the city of Newark’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Civilian Complaint Review Board. He has also served as a police chaplain for 15 years.