Two Carmonas, one church
Jennifer Lee Preyss
Jan. 20, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 20, 2011 at 7:21 p.m.
They share the same name and a similar discerning composure. They're both ordained employees of God and feel compelled to spend their life ministering His message.
Though driven by the same doctrinal constitution, Jerusalem Family Praise Center Revs. John Carmona, 72, and his grandson, 25-year-old Jonathan Carmona, style themselves differently in their evangelical pursuits.
"I'm more conservative, and he's more progressive," John Carmona said, discussing how a typical Sunday sermon differs from his grandson's approach to ministry. "I stay with the old school method of preaching, concentrating on doctrinal subjects, the holy spirit and the empowerment of a life of holiness. I also preach mostly in Spanish, and Jonathan is 100 percent English. The only Spanish he knows is frijoles and tortillas, maybe."
Fashioned in a retro pair of black-rimmed eyewear, a white button down shirt and a pair of brown leather loafers, the younger Carmona's youthful dress stood out somewhat from his grandfather's sophisticated tweed blazer, black dress pants and charcoal loafers.
Even the manner in which the gentlemen postured themselves on the front row pew of Jerusalem's sanctuary poignantly illustrated the pair's near 50-year age difference.
The elder Carmona sat upright on the red fabric-colored pew, legs crossed, left hand fingers pressed delicately against the fingers of the right hand when speaking. His grandson, however, leaned comfortably against the pew, one arm thrown around the back, leaning respectfully towards his grandfather as he thoughtfully discussed their individuality.
"He's more into electronic things, and at his age, I was into books. Of course, he's into books too, but they're books on iPod and other things I don't touch. I just learned how to text message a few weeks ago," Carmona senior said, smiling. "I'm also into traditional music, and he prefers more contemporary music."
When asked to explain some of their preaching differences, the younger Carmona, who currently serves as Jerusalem's youth pastor, said, "I tend to focus on culture and media, and the things that reach my generation. I would say 90 percent of the sermons I give focus on 'It's not what you say, it's what you do.' I also concentrate on loving others, that's a central theme in my messages - being how Christ was."
Even though the two Carmonas differ slightly in their approach to ministry, they both insist the message never changes.
"The message of how to be a Christian never changes, maybe just the methodology," Jonathan Carmona said. "Our homiletical styles are different and maybe the delivery of our messages. But we're not behind the pulpit combating each other."
Agreeing with his grandson, John Carmona added, "As a minister, you want to be able to reach everyone."
So, where Carmona senior can effectively reach his adult congregation, the younger Carmona can be equally effective with the church's youth, they agreed.
Though he's degreed with a Bachelor of Arts in church ministry with a specialization in theology, and an associates degree in biblical studies from Southwestern Assemblies of God University, the younger Carmona is aware his ministry experience is relatively new. For that reason, he said he regularly seeks out his grandfather for practical and theological advice.
"I can read all the books I want, but at the end of it, it's all literature. Nothing compares to the practical side of preaching," he said. "That's why my grandfather will always be my biggest mentor. He is my biggest teacher."
And with about 60 years of practical experience as a minister - John Carmona began preaching at age 15, and became ordained in the Pentecostal tradition in 1960 - and a formal education that includes a Masters degree in theology from Vision Bible College, and an honorary doctorate in divinity from Logos Christian University, he's suitably prepared to guide his grandson in his religious and ministerial endeavors.
When he finally retires from Jerusalem, John Carmona expressed he would greatly enjoy his grandson staying behind with the church they've known and loved for so long. But he recognizes Jonathan may choose to pursue a different sort of ministry down the road.
"I could see myself pastoring a church one day, but I want to continue taking more theology classes. My passion may be more on the academic side of Christianity," Jonathan said, discussing the possibility of teaching theology at a university in the future.
And as much as his grandfather emphasized Jerusalem's "need" for Jonathan, the elder Carmona said he'll support his grandson, no matter where God leads him.
"We believe our profession is a calling from God, and God assigns the ministry you have," John Carmona said. "Jon can continue here, but I'm very aware he works for the Lord, and He can call him elsewhere."