(Photo: The Christian Post)
Wilfredo "Choco" De Jesus, pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, shared Tuesday that he believes the massive growth his Illinois megachurch has experienced during his 13 years of leadership is due to an active and bold outreach to society's outcasts.
De Jesus, whose New Life Covenant Church is the largest Assemblies of God congregation in the U.S., is home to 18,000 global members (4,000 locally) due to its more than 135 outreach ministries that stretch all over the world.
The Chicago pastor, who appeared on "The 700 Club" on Tuesday, attributed the boost in New Life's congregation size, which numbered less than 70 when he and his wife took over leadership in 2000, to its decision to reach out to those in need and those "that nobody wants," such as the homeless, gang bangers, drug addicts.
"The Bible tells us that the eyes of God (are) looking to see whose heart is fully committed to Him. There are just so many hurting people during our time here, and in our nation, that New Life Covenant decided to stand in the midst of all the turmoil, all the pain and suffering, and become that true beacon of light, the Gospel."
Drawing on Stephen's life-costing decision to preach the Gospel as recorded in the Book of Acts, De Jesus added, "When Stephen stood up, Jesus stood up in the heavens."
"I think we all have that time and season in our lives where we have to be challenged to be standing up," he added.
De Jesus, 48, also serves as vice president of social justice for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which has 38,000 member churches, and is in a unique position to speak on the values and concerns of the Latino/Hispanic evangelical Christian community.
He mentioned that the major issues currently on the table are immigration, education and poverty.
"It's not only the pulpit that we preach (from), but we speak into these issues that are facing our people," he said.
"I think the Church is the largest institution, the greatest institution on the planet Earth. The Bible teaches us that we're the head and not the tail," he added. "Although we've been acting like the tail for so many years, this is the season for the Church to be the head, and so we're leading the way."
De Jesus, recently named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People," has shared that his own experiences of being one of six children raised solely by their mother in the inner-city makes him acutely aware of the need to put what he believes as an evangelical into action.
"When you live in the inner city, it shapes you because you see the injustice and you can't just preach on Sunday and then ignore it like it doesn't happen. You have no other choice but to jump in the middle of that fight and speak for people," he has said previously.
Watch Pastor Wilfredo "Choco" De Jesus's interview on "The 700 Club" below: