It was 1996 when Rudy Corea started leading the youth ministry at Central Baptist Church in Heredia, Costa Rica. Abandoning his full-time profession as a dentist, he simply answered God’s call to impact the next generation.
After learning of the book, The Purpose Driven Church (PDC), Rudy read it cover to cover and began introducing the five purposes to the church.
“I found the principles relevant, simple, and biblical,” he says.
At the time, there were only 10 kids at the church. Within two years, that number grew to 80. With a desire to impact youth on a larger scale, Rudy moved to the eastern mountains of Costa Rica where he felt God was leading him.
His goal was to bring excitement to the local church and break from traditions that kept youth away from a relationship with God. Rudy began hosting theater productions in public spaces to draw people from the community.
“Literally thousands of young of people came to accept Jesus through the theater ministry,” he says. “I wanted to build a church that appealed to young people.”
In 2003, Rudy planted Vida Abundante (Abundant Life), a Purpose Driven Church dedicated to youth. In a congregation where members were between 12-18 years of age, Pastor Rudy was the oldest member at 26 years of age.
“It was tough at the beginning, because the kids didn’t have money to tithe,” he explains. “We had no building fund, so we met in schools, gyms, and other community spaces that would require little expense.”
Starting out with 280 people, Pastor Rudy couldn’t contain the exponential growth, especially after leading the church through 40 Days of Purpose. Today Vida Abundante has 1,600 members, making it the fastest growing church in Costa Rica.
While neighboring churches prayed that God would bring in young people, Pastor Rudy was dealing with the fact his own church had very few adults. Those adults who visited often left after hearing the contemporary music or seeing Pastor Rudy’s long hair and casual clothing.
The feedback and rejection didn’t bother him. He simply focused on serving the lost with the love and hope of Jesus.
“We knew from the beginning that we were called to be a church for the unbeliever,” he says, “and to provide good worship and a solid message about acceptance and grace.”
After nearly a decade, the climate of Vida Abudante began to change, with more non-Christian adults attending with their children. This shift from kids and youth to young families brought balance and stability to their church.
Programs became family-focused, with five youth groups, a theater program, children’s classes, and a pastor dedicated to each of the five purposes. They also introduced a weekly discipleship program, and have built a volunteer base of 450 people.
All the while, members would gather in hotels, parking lots, and parks until they had a place to call home. In 2016, that vision became a reality, and Vida Abundante opened the doors to their new building. Four months after the grand opening, they were packed to capacity, despite three weekend services.
This momentum led to the immediate construction of a new building to accommodate 6,000 people, which would allow the current facility to house youth ministries. Their growth isn’t limited to their province however; Vida Abundante will be planting new churches and engaging in missions work across Niger, Cuba, Venezuela, and Chile.
Now at 40 years of age, Rudy is already preparing for a smooth transition to the next generation of leaders.
“By 2023, the church will be 20 years old,” he says. “Once I’ve invested two decades in this church, I’d like to make way for the next wave that God has planned.”
To learn more about starting a Purpose Driven Church, visit pdchurch.flywheelstaging.com/start.