(Photo: Freedom House Church)
Investor turned pastor Josiah Silva left what he thought at the time was the pinnacle of success, relative wealth at age 24, and two years later, answered the call from God to start a church in Southern California, he said.
"When the time came at age 26 to fully answer this call, I didn't want to do it! My exact words to God were, 'God, there are so many churches, just bless one of them. Business is good and life is good.'" Silva, who is the pastor of FreedomHouse church in La Habra, told The Christian Post. "However, I felt God speak to me and say, 'I want to pour out something new and fresh upon this generation, something that will make sense and people will connect to.'"
Silva, a Los Angeles native, who "grew up very poor" alongside his four brothers, while being supported by their single mother, was adamant about leaving his career for his calling. At 24, he was running a full-service real estate office with 12 in-house agents, who collectively generated over $100 million in annual revenue.
However, before climbing the ranks of the corporate world, Silva had sensed God's purpose for his life during his time in high school where he led a Bible club for two years. Upon seeing a growing number of students attending each meeting he began to see his own potential as preacher.
"We would have worship and I would do my best to preach a 'message' even though I didn't know what I was I doing," Silva said. "After seeing hundreds of salvations month after month, one day, my pastor said to me, 'Josiah, I think you're called to be a pastor.'"
A short time later, he went on to attend Bible college but during his time there, he decided to transfer to another university in pursuit of collegiate football. Three years into his time as an athlete he suffered a knee injury that made him realize God's ultimate purpose for his life.
"I learned a valuable lesson about walking in God's perfect will," says Silvia, and that same lesson struck a chord within him once again at age 26.
"I remembered the lesson I had learned as a young man in surrendering my life [to Him] and laying things down and not carry what He didn't call me to carry," Silva said. "So with that word, I spoke with my wife and stepped out and began FreedomHouse in the living room of our home."
With no experience or plan, or "five steps to this or that, just a word and passion from God," Josiah and his wife Marie, initiated their first service in their living room in August 2008 with nine people in attendance, mostly family members.
"We moved some furniture in our home, put out 15 plastic chairs, a music stand as a pulpit, our kids church was in the garage and my sermon well, lets just say I got no sleep all night trying to figure out how to write a message," Josiah said. "I remember in the middle of the night looking at the chairs and thinking, 'OK, this is crazy, no one is going to come...God fill those chairs.'"
Josiah says the biggest challenges he faced during the inception of FreedomHouse, that he aptly named after its humble worship meetings inside his house, aside from having a set church structure, budget and staff, was trusting that God would provide.
Marie embraced their new ministry, knowing it was her calling since a younger age. However, she was concerned over the fact that they had not started a family.
"[I] Felt excited, [and] burdened to a people we had not seen yet. My reservations were we didn't have children," Marie said. "At the time we were not able to have children, today we have two miracle children, and we were young so I questioned if people would be able to receive from us."
Five years have passed since FreedomHouse's inaugural service and what initially began as a nine member church has grown into a congregation that draws nearly 1,000 people with four weekly services split between two locations.
"Today, FreedomHouse has become a thriving, growing, and dynamic church!," Josiah said. "We're people of all ages, and ethnicities [that] come together to lift up the name of Christ."
Since the church's launch, Josiah says his vision for Freedom House is that it be a place that changes people's perception about church being irrelevant.
"Based on what God spoke to me to begin this church, my vision is a place where it's the highlight of the week for people, a place where forgiveness and life are found," Josiah said. "A church that is full of devoted followers of Christ, and disciples who will pay any cost to see Jesus come into the hearts of people. A church that is full of the Holy Spirit and walks in His power, that it be a place where the impossible is possible and [where] miracles happen, a church that touches the heart of God."
The Silva's now consider their roles as co-lead pastors an honor and acknowledge that they have come a long way since that first Sunday service in 2008.
"It's not easy [leading alongside Josiah] however, I don't make it an 'either, or' but [rather] a 'both, and,'" Marie said. "By the grace of God, I can be both a pastor and a mom, both a women's ministry leader and a wife. I rest in the fact that if He has called me to it, He will make a way for it."
Josiah shares the same sentiment and says that after recently celebrating their church's fifth anniversary, the most rewarding aspect of being a pastor is seeing people encounter God and have their lives changed.
"Whatever small part my life plays, making that encounter with God happen is my joy and the least I can do, for all God has done in my life," Josiah said.