New pastor takes helm at Merced’s First Baptist Church

Manny Collazo is the new senior pastor at Merced's First Baptist Church.
Manny Collazo is the new senior pastor at Merced's First Baptist Church. dyawger@mercedsunstar.com

When Manny Collazo was interviewing for the position of senior pastor at Merced’s First Baptist Church, he was surprised to learn that his experiences and background were exactly what the local church needed and his goals were shared by the local congregation.

Collazo left the senior pastorate at Rivers Edge Church in Iowa Falls, Iowa, to shepherd Merced’s congregation of about 400 worshipers. He said the Merced church’s clearly defined mission statement caught his attention and things fell into place.

“My interest is to see people’s lives changed through the Gospel in ways that are relevant, contemporary and modern,” Collazo said. “I want to bring hope to a community that has some struggles in practical ways by serving the community.”

Collazo said it’s been a wonderful six weeks so far at the church at 500 Buena Vista Drive. He takes over the pastorate from Bob Nelson, who retired nearly two years ago.

He is concentrating on the church’s Easter services and intends to bring a message of hope in Sunday’s sermon. He has established a first-impressions team that is trying to ensure first-time visitors’ perceptions are favorable, and will be teaching a class on discovering the essentials of the Christian faith.

Pastor Bob Hey, the interim pastor for 20 months who has returned to his role directing Christian education, said Collazo’s hiring was a real answer to members’ prayers for a new leader after Nelson retired.

“Manny has a deep love for people,” Hey said. “He wants our church to look more like our community and reach out to diverse groups. He’s innovative, creative and also an excellent leader and preacher.”

There’s a sense of hopelessness in the community, Collazo said, and that very thing excited and motivated him.

“That’s where the Gospel shines brighter,” Collazo said. “There’s a new sense of excitement and anticipation about what God wants to do.”

Collazo, 40, was born and raised in the Bronx and moved to California when he was 17. He received an associate of arts degree in theology from Calvary Chapel Bible College in Twin Peaks and a bachelor’s degree in church administration from West Coast Bible College and Seminary in Waco, Texas.

He is working on a master’s degree in apologetics from Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Murietta Hot Springs.

He has had youth or senior pastorates at Calvary Chapel in San Jose and Monterey. He planted two churches in the Atlanta area and was the youth pastor at Calvary Chapel in Newport News, Va. for two years before going to Iowa.

Collazo has three black belts in martial arts. Collazo and his wife Denise have two sons, Manny IV, and Jonathan.