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The Polyglot Congregation

Calvary Temple International shines as a multiethnic model in Wayne, New Jersey.

Calvary Temple International (CTI), a model multicultural church in Wayne, New Jersey, reflects the growing nonwhite ethnic minority community that accounts for more than 40 percent of the 3.1 million adherents in the U.S. Assemblies of God.

Senior Pastor Thomas Keinath describes northern New Jersey, where CTI sits only 22 miles from Manhattan, as a beautiful melting pot of diverse ethnic cultures.

"We celebrate our intercultural diversity as in Joel 2:28 where God is pouring pour out his Holy Spirit on all people in these last days," he says. "There is something very special about different nationalities worshipping together."

Nearly 40 percent of people living in the metropolitan New Jersey/New York region speak another language. In New Jersey alone, 30.4 percent of the population, or 2.5 million residents, speak a language other than English at home. New Jersey claims the third highest percentage of foreign-born residents among the 50 states, behind California and New York. Without a doubt, these numbers make the Garden State a fertile mission field.

CTI conducts weekly services in English, Spanish, Tagalog (Filipino), and Korean, as well as Farsi (Persian) in home groups, representing more than 1,900 worshippers.

Birthed in a home prayer group in 1966, CTI has been known for many years as a flagship missions-focused congregation. The church currently supports 80 missionaries and gave more than $540,000 to world ministries in 2014.

Keinath marks a defining moment in 1989 that opened his vision for the importance of multiethnic ministry. While working on missions in the U.S., Keinath visited CTI's new sanctuary building project. Walking onto the construction site with exposed steel beams under an open roof, he felt compelled to kneel on the altar platform, just a bare concrete slab. In his mind while praying, he pictured flags from many nations circling the new 2,000-seat sanctuary's entrance.

"The Holy Spirit impressed upon me that this church would shine as a multiethnic ministry," he recalls. "It was a mandate from God."

He returned to CTI as senior associate pastor in 1990 and began planting seeds and opening doors for new intercultural ministries. He assumed the role of senior pastor in 2001 when Richard Fogel retired. Originally a predominantly Italian-American congregation, the church's demographics changed to include other ethnic groups, especially Hispanics, who now comprise around half of the 2,900 adherents.

In 2009, CTI marked another turning point when the Fellowship approved the concept of a new church planting provision called Parent Affiliated Churches (PAC). As a result, CTI has planted five PAC daughter churches in Spanish, Tagalog, and English on four campuses. Additionally CTI has a Korean daughter church and a Farsi language fellowship with home groups. Through earlier church planting, CTI has three Spanish sister churches as well.

Since 2007 Guido Encalada, a native of Ecuador, has been pastor of the Spanish ministry. He oversees an early service outreach on Sundays that includes a food pantry and a worship service in the main sanctuary drawing more than 200 people from 14 countries. After worship attendees gather to interact informally with the CTI leadership team.

"We embrace each other in Christ's love with no differences about our ethnic origins," Encalada says. "That's the DNA of Calvary Temple."

Oasis of Grace Assembly of God, a Filipino PAC church, meets every Sunday at the Wayne campus and in various weekly home groups in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Pastored by Michael Alba and Robert Guimary, the ministry has helped establish seven churches plus home groups in the Philippines.

Hyungdu Paik, from Seoul, South Korea, became pastor of the Korean ministry in 2012. The Koreans meet Sundays at the Wayne campus for worship and a luncheon fellowship. Once a month, attendees visit Palisades Park near the George Washington Bridge, sharing Christ and handing out flowers and candy to Koreans who live in the area.

Scott Temple, director of the AG Office of Ethnic Relations, supports CTI's vision to reach New Jersey's diverse foreign born and foreign language speaking population with the gospel.

"We must recognize the importance of reaching the indigenous church in America," Temple stresses. "What a beautiful image of what we will experience in heaven from every tribe and nation." 

CTI's mission of blending many ethnic groups into one family enhances the kingdom of God. People are attracted to CTI's international flavor, Keinath believes. While preaching on Sunday mornings, he looks up at the flags from 106 nations hovering across the balcony confirming the vision he experienced kneeling on that cold concrete slab 26 years ago.

"We celebrate God's plan bringing people in from the nations," Keinath says.

Peter K. Johnson

Peter K. Johnson is a freelance writer living in Saranac Lake, New York. More than 500 of his articles and short stories have appeared in Christian and mainstream magazines and newspapers, including the Pentecostal Evangel,Charisma, the Saturday Evening Post, Guideposts, and Decision. He also serves as a consultant and contributing editor to a scientific journal.