Digital church becomes a reality, connecting families from Central America

Jeff Gongwer (left) stands with Pastor Neftali Coronado and Dave Nelson, associational mission strategist of Georgia’s Kimball and Central associations.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gongwer

Digital church becomes a reality, connecting families from Central America

By Scott Barkley
The Christian Index

The physical effects of COVID-19 hit people hard, but the impact is felt just as strong in areas a little harder to measure.

Pastor Neftali Coronado arrived in the United States from southern Mexico 21 years ago and would soon plant La Iglesia Bautistia El Buen in Central Baptist Association. A prolific church starter, he would go on to begin congregations in the Georgia cities of Washington, Athens and, most recently, Milledgeville. With the onset of COVID-19 and subsequent shutdown in travel, many of those Hispanic church members were cut off from visiting their families.

Coronado decided to use technology in helping keep families together digitally, said Georgia Baptist Missions East Central Region consultant Jeff Gongwer.

“Pastor Neftali had the idea of connecting his church members’ families who had COVID-19 through What’s App and Zoom,” Gongwer stated. “He’d get the phone numbers of their loved ones in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and other Central American countries to do this.”

Neftali also participated in the calls, asking questions as to how he could pray for the families. Over time, he would present the gospel.

“In one instance he led an entire family of six to the Lord,” Gongwer reported. “The mother of this family had COVID and was in a coma. He prays over her during Zoom calls often.”

Three times a week, Neftali produces recordings of him singing Christian songs and sharing Scripture. The recordings of 2 to 3 minutes are received by approximately 120 people.

The effort has become a long-distance digital outreach, one where consistency has been the key.

Digital discipleship

“He’s also leading several families through basic discipleship materials, focusing on five subjects,” Gongwer said. “Those are ‘Read the Bible,’ ‘Memorize the Bible,’ ‘Share the Bible,’ ‘Apply the Bible’ and ‘Meditate on the Bible.’”

In addition, people from different churches and countries join for the worship services Neftali leads on Tuesdays and Thursdays over Zoom. The services stay within the 45 minutes limited on Zoom’s free accounts.

Future plans include Coronado contacting pastors local to those he has reached. Whether they have become believers or are still investigating Christianity, finding a nearby church home is important to maintain personal contact.

Hispanic church planting is a growing need in the Peach State, Gongwer stated, and ministers such as Coronado are leading the way.

“Pastor Neftali’s passion is for the gospel and planting churches,” he testified. “He’s always looking for opportunities to plant churches or to assist others to do that. His dream is to have a center where he can train Hispanic church planters and see churches started.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was originally published by The Christian Index. To read more articles like this on Georgia Baptists, visit This article also appears in TAB News, a digital regional Baptist publication. For more information or to subscribe to the TAB News app, visit