Dallas congregation has new leadership and methods, but same gospel heart

For New Life Baptist Church, the Great Commandment and the Great Commission are the driving forces guiding it to fulfill its vision: “Love God, love others, reach the world.”

Founded in 1966, New Life (also known as Nueva Vida) is a bilingual congregation that continues to faithfully preach the same gospel message, even as its methodology has changed. Those changes have brought great results, according to pastor Nelson Fonseca, including 34 people being baptized so far this year. 

“We want people to come to Christ,” Fonseca said. “We love them and we want them to come to the knowledge of Him—not only locally, but also all over the world. That’s why we give to missions, to the Cooperative Program, and support missionaries in different parts of the world.”

Fonseca was recently elected senior pastor of New Life after pastor David Galvan announced his retirement following 40 years of service to the church. Fonseca, a pastor’s son and native of Nicaragua, came to New Life in 2006 while studying at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, completing a Master of Divinity. Fonseca was director of missions and evangelism and has been involved in discipleship, but he describes sharing the gospel as his “first love.”  

“A hallmark of our church is prayer and evangelism,” Fonseca said.

Nelson Fonseca succeeded David Galvan as New Life pastor following Galvan’s retirement.

‘Where the people are’

During the week, New Life does not have services in the building, but gathers in homes with a total of 47 growth groups around the Dallas area. According to Fonseca, these groups are the main evangelism strategy at New Life “because that’s where the people are.” The purpose of the groups is based on Acts 5:42, where followers of Jesus have two objectives: to teach the mature believer to continue learning from the Word of God, and to have an evangelistic outreach to those who have not heard the gospel. 

“We have seen people who do not go or are intimidated to go to the church, but they come to a brother’s house and come to the knowledge of Christ,” Fonseca said.  

The focus and makeup of these groups varies, as they are structured for families, women, men, singles, children, and teenagers. They have seven regional leaders who provide updates about how the work is being carried out through the group leaders. 

"We have seen people who do not go or are intimidated to go to the church, but they come to a brother’s house and come to the knowledge of Christ."

Establishing a clear path

Among the changes New Life has implemented is a systematic approach to discipleship. Everyone who comes to New Life begins with the “New Life” discipleship program, which is designed for new members to understand the basics of the gospel. Upon completion, they move on to study the classic work Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, which seeks to strengthen the believer in spiritual disciplines. From there, the disciple will take the “Growth Group Strategy,” which is the “backbone of the church,” according to Fonseca. 

After completing those three discipleship classes—which are offered in semesters during the spring, summer, and fall—the disciple will be able to begin studying other topics focused on the growth and maturity of believers and become commissioned to disciple others.

Reaching and praying

New Life also took Vacation Bible School (VBS) outside the church’s walls this summer, with 13 groups meeting simultaneously in different locations such as parks, apartments, and other members’ homes. VBS was held Monday through Thursday, and on Friday of that week, all 13 groups joined together in one location to celebrate with the community. An average of 185 children attended per day, 161 volunteers participated, and 34 professions of faith were recorded. 

At New Life, corporate prayer plays a major role and has had an impact on the congregation, Fonseca said. For more than 20 years the church has held a 6 a.m. prayer meeting every day to pray for the sick, the church, ministries, and missions. Around 10-12 people regularly met for prayer. When church facilities closed due to COVID, the meeting was continued over the phone and blossomed to 35-40 participants—many of whom still participate today.

“We have taken corporate prayer very seriously,” Fonseca said, “and the Lord has done great things.”

Correspondent
Arlene Sanabria
Southern Baptist Texan
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