Brownsville church uses holidays to share Christ’s love with community

Members of Ecclesia Community Church use the holidays to reach out to people in their community. Sometimes they deliver donuts to local businesses, while other times they are permitted to sing Christmas carols at a local eating establishment. SUBMITTED PHOTO

’Tis the season

It’s Christmas Eve morning, and a group of families from Ecclesia Community Church is working its way through a series of parking lots, making visits to local businesses, offices, and restaurants. 

The church members are carrying with them two gifts for each place they stop: sugary-good donuts and the sweetness of Christ’s love. Before they leave each location, they sing Christmas carols and invite the people they have blessed to church. 

“People greet us with great joy, and some ask us why we are doing this or why we chose them,” Pastor James Martinez said. 

The answer is simple: Ecclesia Community Church wants to impact lives and take advantage of every opportunity to share God’s love—even if that means going out into the community on a holiday morning.

Holiday seasons provide one of the best opportunities for Ecclesia to do this, according to Martinez. Around Thanksgiving, the church forgoes a traditional Sunday service and instead hosts what it calls “Friendsgiving,” where a meal is served and members can invite their unchurched friends to share physical and spiritual nourishment with them. 

Christmastime brings multiple outreach opportunities. Church members work together to prepare gift boxes for underprivileged children around the world through Operation Christmas Child. In the week leading up to Christmas, church families gather at the local Chick-fil-A to sing Christmas carols to those eating at the restaurant and to invite them to their Christmas Eve service.

Martinez said he approached several businesses about caroling at their location, but all of them said no. One day, he was eating at Chick-fil-A and decided to ask the manager if he would be open to the opportunity. The manager agreed, saying he had already been looking for someone to sing at one of their Christmas activities. 

Such opportunities give Ecclesia Community Church more visibility in the community which, in turn, provides members with more chances to share words of encouragement and invite people to church. 

“People know who we are because of what we do in the community to reach out to them,” Martinez said. “Many of those who are coming to the church are coming because they know who we are and that we are there for them.”

Pastor James Martinez says people in the Brownsville community are aware of Ecclesia Community Church because of its many outreach efforts. SUBMITTED PHOTO

All things to all people

Ecclesia Community Church has been rooted in community service since beginning as a plant in 2020. That was also the year something else started—COVID-19. So just as the church was starting up, everything began to shut down. 

Undeterred, Martinez led the church to use its facility to start a food distribution ministry. God opened the doors for Ecclesia to receive a large supply of food each week that not only provided for the community, but also for other churches to distribute. 

“Every week, there were about 3,000 families who came to get food and hear the gospel,” Martinez said. The food ministry is still going strong today, holding monthly food distributions and even partnering with an aid organization in the Central Texas city of Waco. 

The food ministry was just the beginning for a church that has continually made necessary changes to better suit the specific needs of its community. For example, Martinez planted Ecclesia with the idea that it would be an English-language church. However, God showed him that to be relevant to the diversity of families in a community on the Mexico border, the church would need to be bilingual. Even so, the church has learned that while many adults speak Spanish, their children communicate better in English.

“We see more and more families [that speak] multiple languages and the church is called to reach them.”

“We see more and more families [that speak] multiple languages,” Martinez said, “and the church is called to reach them.”

Another adjustment Ecclesia was willing to make to better suit the community was to host its main weekly service on Sunday night rather than Sunday morning. That accommodates the large number of people in the community who work long Saturday night shifts or those who work Sunday mornings.

About 80 people are attending Ecclesia each week, Martinez said. He prays for more to come as the church continues to reach outside its walls. His latest outreach—opening a coffee shop—is scheduled to begin this month.

Martinez, who was the manager of a well-known coffee shop for 10 years, saw a need in the area for a similar establishment with an accessible location and affordable prices that would likewise open its doors to share Jesus with every cup of coffee served. His desire is for the coffee shop to be a place where the community can come for prayer, food, and provision. The name of the shop will be 2:42 Coffee House—named for Acts 2:42, which states, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.”

“We exist to help people know God, love God, and serve God,” Martinez said, “so we are willing to do all we can to fulfill that mission.”

Correspondent
Arlene Sanabria
Southern Baptist Texan
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