Pastor Josue Rodriguez’s newborn son helped spark a vision for a new church plant.
Rodriguez and his wife, Hannah, come from two different backgrounds. He was born and raised in Puerto Rico, his father a local pastor, while his wife is native to North Carolina.
When the couple had their first child in 2021, Rodriguez wondered what kind of church his son would grow up in.
“I quickly came to realize that if we go to Mom’s church, our son is never going to feel fully at home. But if we go to Dad’s church, our son is never going to feel fully at home there either,” Rodriguez said. “Because, culturally, he is a mixture of both of us.”
Soon after the birth of their child, the Rodriguez family moved to Charlotte, sent by iChurch in Hickory to plant a church there. As he wrestled through this question about his son’s future, Rodriguez began examining numbers. The statistics he learned about his new home were staggering.
According to the 2020 census, six out of every 10 Latinos are no longer considered immigrants, having been born in the United States. Charlotte, with a Hispanic population of more than 150,000, likely has close to 100,000 non-immigrant Latinos.
“This is a huge threshold we crossed in 2020,” Rodriguez said. “The majority of Latinos we see in the streets were born here. Most people don’t realize that.”
Rodriguez noted that this second generation – the non-immigrant Latino population – has a distinct culture from the first. Second-generation Latinos grow up speaking Spanish in the home and maintain ties to their Hispanic heritage, but they often assimilate into wider American culture in a way that they no longer look, act or speak like their parents.
To Rodriguez, this trend has major implications for the Hispanic church.
“When it comes to multi-ethnic couples and second-generation Hispanics, there’s a huge gap in how they do church,” Rodriguez said. “What is happening is the Hispanic and multiethnic families are being split when it comes to church. They can’t find a place where the whole family can gather together.”
Rodriguez’s heart broke over the generational divide he observed. The realization that his son would likely face similar problems inspired him to cast a vision for Casa Viva, the Charlotte church plant.
“The heart of our vision is to bridge the gap between first- and second-generation Hispanics and multiethnic families, so that they can find a church the entire family can love,” Rodriguez said.
Since its inception in early 2022, Rodriguez and his launch team have dubbed Casa Viva the Spanglish church, a tongue-in-cheek way to emphasize the vision God placed on their hearts.
Services at Casa Viva are not entirely in Spanish, not entirely in English; they strive for an organic mixture that highlights the value of each cultural background.
For the last six months, Casa Viva Church has met on Saturday evenings. Although the church is still in its early stages, the team has already seen growth, from 20 to about 60 people per gathering.
But more importantly, Rodriguez says the church has already seen God uniting generational divides.
He recounted a story where a young Hispanic woman came to Casa Viva and found a home there. She soon brought her mother, who came from a Catholic background but fell in love with the church. They then brought the father and son, as well as the son’s girlfriend, a non-Hispanic woman. They all came to know the Lord and now regularly attend Casa Viva.
“None of them were going to the same church, none of them were practicing the same faith,” Rodriguez said. “When they all found a spot where they felt honored, loved, cared for and comfortable to belong, they were able to unite.”
Casa Viva church has yet to officially launch — the church is still prayerfully seeking a building for Sunday morning worship — but God is already working in Casa Viva to bridge the gap between generations and cultures.
For the last several months, Rodriguez and the church have worked closely with the church planting team for N.C. Baptists, now called SendNC. SendNC Director Mike Pittman is encouraged by what he’s seen at Casa Viva.
“For years, [our team has] talked about the need to plant churches that are dedicated to reaching the second generation of our language works around our state,” Pittman said. “Casa Viva may not be the first to do this, but they are certainly early adopters of planting a church that is focused on the next generation of Spanish speakers. I love what God is doing with this team and pray to see many more in the near future.”
Will you pray God will use churches like Casa Viva to continue uniting the Hispanic community in North Carolina? To learn more about church planting or becoming a Sending Church, visit SendNC.org.