The Rev. Wilfredo "Choco" De Jesus, recently touted by one publication as "the new face of social justice," has been named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People," with the New Life Covenant Ministries pastor introduced to Time readers by Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren.
"I am honored to be named to TIME's 100. It's a great privilege to be a voice not only for the Latino Christian community, but also for the poor and voiceless in our society," said De Jesus in a public statement. "The Hispanic community in the U.S. is over 51 million strong. We're people God has chosen to govern and to lead communities and cities with conviction, unapologetically. There are many great leaders in this community, and I am truly humbled by this recognition."
De Jesus's Chicago, Ill., megachurch is home to 5,000 members locally, and a total of 14,000 globally through New Life Covenant Ministries' church plants and various outreach programs.
The Assemblies of God pastor is also vice president of social justice for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and director of its Illinois chapter. The NHCLC is a grassroots coalition of more than 40,000 churches representing nearly 16 million Hispanic born-again Christians in the U.S.
De Jesus is described in the Time "100 Most Influential People" feature by Pastor Warren, previously named to the list in 2009, as embodying "the true definition of what Christ said the church should be."
"As the senior pastor of New Life Covenant Ministries, one of the fastest-growing churches in Chicago as well as one of the largest Assemblies of God congregations in the nation, Pastor Choco encourages others to go out into the community not just with words but with his own actions. Under his leadership, New Life is reaching out to the outcasts and forgotten in our society – the homeless, women suffering with addiction and prostitution, and young people in gangs," writes Warren, adding that he expects De Jesus to "continue to be a strong, ardent voice on the direction of our country."
The Pentecostal minister is one of three religious leaders chosen for Time's "100 Most Influential People," a list in its 10th year and previously described by Time's managing editor as comprised of individuals "who are using their ideas, their visions, their actions to transform the world and have an effect on a multitude of people."
The other two faith leaders included in Time's list are Pope Francis I of the Roman Catholic Church and Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish author and educator and Islamic scholar.
Both De Jesus and NHCLC President the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez were interviewed for Time magazine's April 15 cover story on the Latino Reformation highlighting the influence of America's growing Hispanic evangelical Christian population.
De Jesus, 48, began serving as senior pastor of New Life Covenant Ministries in July 2000, after serving the church in various other capacities. Under his leadership, the Chicago megachurch developed several programs to minister to surrounding communities, such as a homeless shelter, an after school program and an intensive discipleship program for college-age students.
"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," De Jesus recently told CharismaNews.com.
"I'm really humbled to represent the Christian Latino community. I now bear a responsibility for that image and what it represents for millions of Hispanics around our nation and the world, that they would see that and feel proud. I'm humbled by it, but I also understand that with revelation comes responsibility."