Pastor Juan Carreon, senior pastor of Hiz Houze, a church/outreach ministry in South Waco, Texas, uses a different approach to preaching the gospel.
“You have to meet people where they are,” he says.
With the opening of Hiz Houze in 2016, the church now shares the facilities of Kendrick Lane Baptist Church for Sunday services. A used van is utilized to pick people up for church.
“But we are a mobile church,” Carreon noted. “On Wednesday evenings, we take our ministry, called ‘Hip-Hop Hope,’ to the streets. People walk to the service from their homes. Speakers are turned on, rap music echoes throughout the area, people start to come in — but it’s not what most people think about ‘rap’ music.
“Instead, the words are about how Jesus loves you and that He can change your life.”
A different approach to ministry
After being saved and rededicating his life to Christ in 1997, Carreon asked God how he could serve Him. As a rap artist, music was all he knew. He lived in a hip-hop and jazz culture, grew up in the projects and was raised by a single mother. He felt he heard God say, ‘Serve people where they are.’
“I saw the need of people in the projects, on the streets, and I thought, if my wife and I could reach people for Christ through rap music, that was where I needed to start,” Carreon explained.
In this “come as you are” setting, Hiz Houze, which started with about 48 people that first Sunday in 2016, has grown to 120 on Sunday mornings (before the pandemic). Due to COVID, attendance is down a bit, but in some ways Hiz Houze has grown — for two months in 2020 the church did not gather, but core members continued to meet on Zoom, and offerings were not affected.
To date, 47 people have been baptized.
“It’s not your traditional service,” Carreon admitted. “We have artistic performers, dancing, DJ rappers and singers. Graffiti art decorates buildings and storefronts. But everything we do glorifies Christ. We use music to draw people in, then we tell them about Christ and the gospel message.”
Hiz Houze is made up of low-income families consisting of single parents and grandparents raising grandchildren due to drugs, incarceration, etc. The church reaches people through entertainment, door-to-door contacts and social media.
Recently, Hiz Houze celebrated its sixth anniversary with a meal, door-prizes and entertainment that praised God for His goodness.
A dream to plant more churches
Serving as an associate pastor for nine years and now a bivocational pastor, Carreon and his wife have other full-time jobs; he receives no salary from the church. His dream is to plant other congregations in large cities where housing projects are considered temporary and people move in and out, and opportunities to witness for Christ abound. Carreon wants people to know “people need the Lord.”
Carreon noted the ministry couldn’t exist without the support of Christian partners. Crossroads Fellowship Church in Waco is an active participant. Cindy and Steve Abbe, church planters, provide tutoring and an after-school program for students. Waco Regional Baptist Association provides funding for food supplies for a bimonthly outreach, which feeds families and helps build relationships.
On Thanksgiving and Christmas, families receive gifts and food.
Hiz Houze is active in the community. Last year Hip-Hop Hope provided 300 backpacks to elementary school students.
And Carreon believes in making disciples of church members. Disciple Program is an 11-week course where youth are taught how to pray and reach the lost. Ministry Map is another program that involves “your passion, your place and the people you hang out with.” Youth are taught to pray and are given the tools to share the gospel. In addition, Hiz Houze has started an anti-violence program.
“In south Waco, there has been a lot of crime this year,” Carreon said. “I’ve involved the city officials, and we are working to combat violence.”
He is starting a program called Timothy Project in which he encourages and guides young men and women to have a heart for ministry. By designating more responsibility to others, he has more time to prepare sermons and pray.
“The church is blessed by youth groups who help clean the church and keep the grass cut,” Carreon said.
Missions groups hold prayer walks for South Waco.
Advice to other pastors
“Grow your church young,” Carreon encouraged pastors. “You need young families with children and youth as part of your church. They provide the energy to accomplish things that older people may not have. Let your older members offer wisdom and advice as younger people take leading roles.”
When asked how Hiz Houze has changed his life, Carreon paused and said, “I had a dream to help others. I wanted my life to be one of investing in people.
“It’s different. Many would ask, ‘Why would you have a hip-hop culture in your church?’ But these people need to know Christ. It’s our way of serving God.”
Carreon is available to provide information about Hip-Hop-Hope to others. Contact him at email@example.com.