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Power to the People


Power to the People

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For the first couple of years serving as lead pastor for the first time, Nelson Feliciano didn’t pay much attention to Ephesians 4:11-12.

Despite the passages in which the apostle Paul detailed various ministry gifts in the body of Christ, Feliciano figured he needed to head up any spiritually related activity at Calvary Chapel Assembly of God in Los Angeles.

Now, more than three years into his assignment, Feliciano has learned to share.

“I no longer start and end the service,” Feliciano says. “I let others do it, and I just preach.”

Sandra Feliciano, Nelson’s wife of 35 years, is grateful.

“He has learned to delegate and empower others,” Sandra says. “He wanted to do everything himself before.”

The Felicianos and a 10-member Calvary Chapel leadership team last year participated in Acts 2 Journey quarterly retreats for congregations desiring to reach their kingdom potential. AG Assistant General Superintendent Alton Garrison led the AGTrust Church Transformation Initiative sessions.

“The Acts 2 Journey has made me see things differently,” says Feliciano, 55.

Martin Martinez, who started attending the church shortly after Feliciano arrived and became assistant pastor last summer, says congregants now sense “a responsibility of ownership” as never before.

“Pastor Nelson has given liberty to people to accomplish tasks before them,” says Martinez, 34. “He is allowing people to get involved, and the church is more united than ever. There is a feeling that we’re going somewhere, that our glory days will be in the future.”

The Acts 2 Journey also prompted the church to be more outward focused. Subsequently, adherents are active in a food pantry that serves over 500 bags of groceries a week and involved in a local program to thwart human trafficking. The church has feted local police and schoolteachers with banquets, plaques, and honorariums.

Calvary Chapel is located in the east L.A. neighborhood of El Sereno, where 87 percent of residents are Latino. Sandra is a Mexican-American born and raised in nearby Carson. Nelson, from Puerto Rican ancestry, grew up in Brooklyn, and still has a distinctive New York accent. He preaches in English, to a mostly second-generation Latino congregation.

Feliciano says he spent much of his youth partying with friends. As a teenager watching television in 1980, with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, Feliciano stumbled across a televangelist preaching. Feliciano felt called to accept Jesus as Savior and to separate from his stoned gang member buddies. He soon moved to L.A. and married Sandra, a Mexican-American. The couple have three daughters. Feliciano first became a youth pastor at 25, and he served in that role for more than a decade at Wilmington First Assembly of God.

In response to going through the four-part Acts 2 Journey, the leadership team has decided to rename Calvary Church AG as the Lighthouse of the City. 

Garrison estimates that as many as 300 churches will go through Acts 2 Journey sessions this year.

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