Rich Perez was born in New York City to Dominican parents who immigrated to the city in the early 80s. His was a Catholic family until his mom stepped into a small Spanish-speaking church in the early 90s.
Rich grew up straddling two worlds—the Dominican world at home with Juan Luis Guerra, arroz y habichuelas and merengue, and the American world at school with Jay-Z, pizza, French fries and basketball.
As a young man, people listened to Rich and followed his lead. As a Christian, he wondered what this leadership quality should mean for his life. He began to consider becoming a leader within the church or even a pastor. As he wrestled through this, he started asking questions. He brought other people into the consideration and praying process. Rich says, “Once it became clear that this was what I was supposed to do, I could not see myself doing anything else.”
His mission field is the young generation that often experiences a significant disconnect between their faith and their experience—particularly as a Hispanic American. It’s a struggle he felt during his teens and early 20s. He says, “Faith and church and religion are often out of reach for the younger generation, and even more so for the Hispanic American that does not know how to handle their faith and ethnic identity.” This is where his own dual identity works as a divine tool. He can connect the dots for them. He tells them there’s a marriage between their ethnic identity, their location and Jesus. They have worth and value exactly as they are, because this is who God specifically created them to be.
This message of identity in Christ is the heartbeat of his church. Christ Crucified Fellowship started in his apartment in 2012. There were about seven people, sharing a meal together, studying the book of Mark.
It has been quite a journey—full of ups and downs. Rich elaborates, “Church planting in NYC is crazy and funky. We’ve had all sorts of hard lessons and some have left scars, but God has strengthened us and brought clarity over time. He has been very kind.”
Soon after Rich connected with CTC’s Robert Guerrero in 2013, he attended a CTC training program for church planters. He is now passing that same training on to other leaders through a CTC program that meets in Brooklyn. Rich says, “I can invest in minority leaders who might not be able to travel to midtown Manhattan. And I can bring it to them in more accessible language. I want to use my privilege and my power to make access for some of these other guys so they can benefit from this. If you have a leader who has potential but does not have access, I want to open doors—to be a part of their development, their journey.”
The training programs have been timely and encouraging for Rich. One module, called Grace Renewal, covers healthy self-leadership—having good rhythms— reading the Word of God with an understanding of law and grace. He says, “As I facilitated the training, I was surprised how I was refreshed in what God was saying to me about my life, about my ministry.”
In addition to training leaders all over the city, Rich works to help prepare and send out leaders from within their church. The associate pastor recently launched a church plant in Harlem, and Rich is working with others who are interested in church planting.
Christ Crucified Fellowship exists to display the goodness and peace of God in the city. Their hope is to see NYC reached through a united network of neighborhood-based faith communities. They seek to see the city renewed through the power of the gospel.