LIVE with Pastor Pancho Juarez – Part 1
LIVE with Pastor Pancho Juarez – Part 1

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LIVE with Pastor Pancho Juarez

Pastor Pancho Juarez is the founding pastor of The Ark Montebello (Calvary Chapel) in East Los Angeles (L.A.) and has been there for 28 years. Believers at the Ark minister to 3,000 adults and over 1,000 children. He and his wife, Millie, have five children. Following are excerpts from a recent interview Pancho gave Calvary Chapel Magazine.

Can you explain where Montebello is located and the type of people you minister to?

For the most part, East Los Angeles is around four and one-half miles east of downtown L.A. Montebello sits almost one mile from East L.A., but eventually East L.A. began to encroach into Montebello, so now Montebello is part of East L.A. In fact, from here we can see downtown.

Montebello used to be an Italian town and the name means beautiful mountain in Italian. Immigrants from Italy came here in the early 1900s and made bricks. The street names are all Italian names and begin with Via.

The area is middle class and mixed, but mostly blue-collar workers. There are construction workers, truckers, our essential workers. It’s an economic engine. We don't have a lot of professionals in Montebello.

Share with us about the men’s rally you have scheduled in August.

The rally is called “Keep Your Head to the Sky” and is scheduled on August 1. The people here picked the name from a song by Earth, Wind, and Fire. It’s not a Christian song, but the words are so powerful. [The apostle] Paul tells us the same thing. He says to keep your eyes on the Lord, look above, up where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Do not keep your eyes on the world. In other words, we need to have an eternal perspective, specifically during this situation that we have now. Keep your eyes on the Lord.

With all the social distancing restrictions, we are limited to 300 people. We want to keep the rally to ourselves, but I’m not limiting it, so people can invite their friends. Also, our governor imposed on us that we cannot sing. In my opinion, that's overreaching. I can’t tell the people not to sing. It is who we are.

How are you sharing the love of Christ in East L.A. during the COVID-19 pandemic?

For us, it's consistency. It’s proclaiming and explaining the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel doesn't change; society, politics, ideologically, things change. The Gospel does not change. It’s for every age, and the Gospel still saves. The Gospel still explodes. The Gospel still causes people to revolutionize their life to a transformation of the renewing of their mind. We have continued to do that. We're going systematically through the Bible, and it hits everything. In the Book of Exodus, there are plagues and people identify with plagues.

Some of my peers are using this as a political platform. I'm not against that, but I’m just not called to become a political platform. I'm a proclaimer, an explainer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—have been, I am, and I'll always be.

We have lost some people, because they are fearful of this pandemic, real, imagined, or exaggerated. We are under this auspice of a fear, this fear that has been hoisted upon us and so the attendance is very low, like across all churches.

We are very privileged to have online capabilities. That has helped us tremendously. So, we're still ministering to people online. So, with this pandemic it all depends on what lens you are using.

There’s a shaking going on. I think that God is shaking and rattling the cage. People are either coming out of it or people are just dropping out. My heart goes out to those people.

How has this fear impacted your congregation and your interaction with them?

I was sharing with the staff that there's an infiltration that is seeping stealthily into the church. It comes through philosophically, ideologically, culturally, racially, politically, and economically. Then combine that with what we watch in the media. For example, the New York Times said recently that the Christian churches are a hot bed for this contamination of COVID-19. It’s been proven that it’s wrong, but it goes out and people read the media. They read this misinformation, this propaganda, fear mongering, and they have this unrest and they are biased, and it contributes to what people are experiencing today.

We used to call it cabin fever. People that live up in the north on the East Coast, they understand what cabin fever is. In California we hear the term and now we know, because we are sheltered in place, feeling the fatigue, the stress, the madness. It could be pandemonium here if you do not have any foundational roots of truth and guidance.

With what happened with George Floyd on the racial issues, how are you ministering to people with this added on top of the pandemic?

What America is seeing now, is something that we have seen in the hood for years; but it’s something now because of cameras that are really watching the things that are going on.

Rest assured, like in any institution, or organization, even our own church, we have some “bad apples.” In the Marine Corps, we used to call it the one percent. You know, 99% of all jarheads [Marines] were honorable; we have virtue, we have morals, and we have standards of stability. But this one percent, those are the jerks that get us in trouble, and in every institution. Sadly, this [killing of George Floyd] was a very obvious abuse of authority that went rapidly, fatally wrong; and people saw it, and it's just a very implosive and explosive reaction. I understand that, but now this civil unrest, in my opinion, has been monopolized by other forces. They are sinister and dark, and you see that they’re no longer protesting. We have a right to protest, but in the First Amendment we cannot destroy, we cannot loot, we cannot kill other people. So, something is amiss.

It's that kind of ideology that's seeping in, even among Christians—a division, a schism. There are people who want to wear a mask, some people say we have to do this, we have to do that, and so there is some confusion even among the church family.

So, we need to accommodate both schools of thought and conviction, but it's very hard. The only unification that we have is the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the only commonality that we have.

How do you see the Lord Jesus using this time that we're going through in American history and how will we come out on the other side?

I think personally, as a pastor for 32 years, I see that people are considering, assessing, and appraising their lives more seriously. Things they have taken for granted are now being cherished and valued. They are making thoughtful consideration about their lives; and somewhere along the line, they're asking the questions that have been haunting humanity since the Garden of Eden. Who are we? Where are we going? What's the purpose of life? If we don't answer those questions biblically, then we're just talking heads.

Do you see an opportunity with the church, specifically our Calvary Chapel family, where people are asking questions that maybe wouldn't have been asked before?

My phone is very powerful. Right now, I can go online and go to YouTube, to any platform if I want to hear a message. I'm very fortunate to have a Chuck Smith app. I still hear Chuck Smith whenever I want to hear him. It’s in my car and through my headphones. People today at two o'clock, three o'clock in the morning, I've been told, people who are down and out and they tune into one of our archived programs. Then they show up here the next day or Sunday, and they tell me about it. So, people are listening. We cannot rely on the media telling us that people are not being responsive to the things of God. I lived through the sixties. I remember when Time magazine said that God is dead. Why? Because we had an assassination of a president, a presidential candidate, a civil rights leader, Woodstock; we were killing our students on campuses, there was a Vietnam war going on, acid, rock and roll, and sex, and we looked like we were gone. And what happened? Christ comes in and changes all of California and it swept all our country. I’m a part of that movement. I know what God can do.

It's not only a pandemic, it is the phobia, the terror, and the fatigue, and the ambient stress.We had so many fireworks here this past July 4th, that honestly, it sounded like artillery fire. It was a constant barrage of explosions. We're not talking about fireworks, they sounded like Bouncing Betties and claymore mines. They’re not just explosions, they're detonations and that contributed to the stress of what's going on. So, everyone is stressed out.

The Word of God [is soothing], bringing assurance and guidance. The Word of God is powerful. We're going through the Book of Exodus and we're going to see Pharaoh when he was told “Let my people go,” say, “Who is God? I don’t know your God.” That is the mentality of a lot of people. They don't know who your God is. And Moses said, “Let me show you who our God is.” You know what? [The Word of God] is good for us and we're blessed.

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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