Lisa F. Rodriguez, who grew up in a Christian home in the small town of Barnesville, Georgia, knew she wanted to impact society as a follower of Jesus after encountering so many people who had no relationship with the Lord.
After graduating from high school, Rodriguez sought a five-year degree track at Northeastern University, concentrating on finance and accounting classes. In the Boston school’s cooperative education program, Rodriguez worked six-month internships at such major corporations as IBM and Citibank in New York.
“My goal was to get to Wall Street to minister to people in the business world,” says Rodriguez, 54. After earning her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1989, Rodriguez went to work as an associate at Bankers Trust Company in New York. She received a promotion to assistant vice president in 1992.
Upon moving to the Big Apple, Rodriguez started attending Times Square Church, a congregation started by Teen Challenge founder David Wilkerson. Her ministry involvement at the church over the next decade included teaching women’s Bible studies and serving on a ministry team that provided community outreach in Harlem through a newly developed church owned coffeehouse. She met her future husband, Carlos, a Puerto Rican native, at the church while they worked in children’s ministry.
Rodriguez says the Lord allowed her to share her faith with co-workers, some of whom accepted Jesus as Savior as a result.
“We are given small windows of opportunity in life to share Jesus with the world,” Rodriguez says. “While people will not always receive the gospel right away, it is wonderful that the Lord allows us to participate in watering the seeds that have been planted.”
Deutsche Bank AG New York took over Bankers Trust in 1998 and Rodriguez began a nine-year stretch as a vice president for the corporation. She kept working for the conglomerate after sensing the Lord leading her to move to northeastern Pennsylvania in 1999. She attended Light of the World Church in Stroudsburg, where she launched the prayer ministry, provided financial and spiritual counseling, and taught financial management and budgeting classes.
For six hours each day, Rodriguez rode a commuter bus round-trip to New York City from the Pocono area. She used the time to seek the Lord for sermons, to pray, and to study for school.
“The Lord also gave me opportunities to share how great He is and His gift of salvation with fellow commuters,” Rodriguez says. “Many sought prayer for themselves and family members. I often thanked the Lord for giving me a pulpit on the bus.”
The Deutsche Bank headquarters was located across the street from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Rodriguez had been scheduled to attend a meeting in the Twin Towers that morning, but it got canceled. Nevertheless, Rodriguez needed to flee from her 32nd floor office directly across from the World Trade Center just as debris from one of the tumbling skyscrapers enveloped Manhattan.
By 2012, five years after becoming a controller’s team director for American International Group, Rodriguez joined the ministry team at Pleasant Valley Assembly of God in Brodheadsville. She established an intercessory prayer ministry, taught Sunday School, and served as secretary of the church board. During that span, Rodriguez graduated from the AG’s Global University.
In 2017, Rodriguez became the full-time pastor of New Life Assembly of God in Scranton, a city with an 84 percent white population.
The multiethnic church sold its property in August and is in the process of relaunching in adjacent Dunmore, a community of 13,000 residents — 95 percent of whom are white. Rodriguez has no qualms about leading ministry in such an environment.
“My efforts have always been to integrate different cultures in the church,” says Rodriguez, who obtained her Master of Divinity from Southwestern Assemblies of God University in 2018. “When I was in corporate America, I usually was the only woman and only African American in company management meetings. I embrace situations like that.”
Rodriguez says she has encountered no difficulties ministering as an African American woman, even though it’s unusual to be a lead pastor in such circumstances.
“People are able to see there are more similarities than differences,” she says. “When you peel back the skin color, we’re basically the same.”
The Penn-Del Ministry Network for the first time this year elected at-large presbyters for under 40, female, and ethnic minority posts. Rodriguez was nominated in both the female and ethnic minority categories, and was elected as the female representative.
Donald J. Immel, superintendent for the network, is thrilled that Rodriguez has joined the team.
“She has financial acumen from her deep professional background, she is a female ordained credential holder who also happens to be an ethnic minority, and she has a Hispanic husband,” says Immel, 60. “The diversity she brings to the table will enrich our perspective as a leadership team.” Immel also notes that Rodriguez is enrolled in SAGU’s doctoral program.
Immel says the decision to include the three new slots on the presbytery ballot is an effort to better reflect the overall demographics of Pennsylvania and Delaware.
“We instituted the intentionality in part to be relevant to our millennials, who wanted to know why we weren’t more ethnically diverse on the leadership team,” Immel explains.
Immel predicts the replant in Dunmore will thrive.
“Moving to the new location is an affirmation to Lisa’s risk-taking and leadership skills,” he says.