Radio personality Cisco Cotto plans church in 'irreligious' Oak Park

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Conservative talk radio personality Cisco Cotto has always had a religious side, as he indicated in our profile from January of 2010. So it's no surprise to hear that after losing his radio show with WLS, he is planning to "plant" a church, here in his hometown of Oak Park.

Here's part of his pitch from his website, "Many of you know about my years of study at Moody. I felt strongly that God led me there for something specific (other than meeting my wife, though that was cool). Over many years God has been increasing my love of Oak Park and its people. The community is intelligent and engaged. People here care about their fellow man in a way that's not seen in many places. Over time my love of Oak Park and burden for those in the community have grown deeper and have intertwined.

"It became clear about a year ago that God was calling me to plant a church in Oak Park to specifically build relationships with the 40,000 people in this village who are completely irreligious. I started working with the church-planting team at the Evangelical Free Church and last week, after an exhaustive assessment process, their team affirmed my call to plant a church in Oak Park. So the quest to launch and build Village Church of Oak Park begins.

"I have no illusions that it will be easy or without setbacks. Ministry is tough. There are times when I am overwhelmed with excitement at what God is going to do in this community. Other times I am nearly crippled by a sense of how utterly incapable I am to do this. The fact is, I am incapable. But God can get it done."

We're not sure about that 40,000 "completely irreligious" figure, but we wish him luck. On his website, he asked supporters for two things necessary to get a church started: prayer and "cash." See the website for details.


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Reader Comments

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Posted: September 8th, 2011 1:32 PM

Eileen, I do agree that pastoral care is lacking in many congregations. I also know that it is normal for pastors/leaders to visit the sick even if they aren't members. Willow Creek is too huge for the senior pastor to visit everyone. That's what the elders and ministry workers are for. The Apostle Paul established churches all over but there were elders in place to oversee daily work.Likewise,in Exodus that's why Moses was told by his father in law to establish judges in Israel.


Posted: September 8th, 2011 1:25 PM

Eilene, Cotto mad made the third comment, before most of the following critics, and wrote "thanks for pointing out my poor use of the term 'irreligious'." I thought it was noble for him to comment almost immediately and imply he misspoke. I don't understand why so many people are still taking issue with a comment he made when he addressed it as a "poor use of the term" before they even voiced their opinion. I don't think many people noticed that he already addressed it and implied fault.

John Wood  

Posted: September 8th, 2011 11:30 AM

Not being a member of a religious congregation is the same as being "irreligious"? I think not. Maybe he mispoke. I profoundly think not. But I wish him well in trying to establish a new congregation.

mv113 from op  

Posted: September 8th, 2011 7:17 AM

I'm with Epic on this one. According to the census website they have not collected religious data since 1936. I also could find no surveys that tracked religious participation that gave numbers for Oak Park. Sounds like SWAG analysis to me. Where do you get your numbers Mr. Cotto.

epic lulz  

Posted: September 7th, 2011 8:19 PM

I still want to know where Cotto is getting his data about the religious preferences of Oak Parkers, how ever incorrectly he characterizes it. The US Census doesn't collect religious information, and none of the other major survey organizations publishes Oak Park level detail as far as I can determine. The ball's in your court, Cotto.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: September 7th, 2011 3:43 PM

Churches are responsible for many murderous events. Government used atomic weapons against civilians and FDR vetoed a 1943 federal law outlawing lynching. If there are more people in the dog park than church,try going to Lake/Central to our Lady of Notre Dame and watch the sisters distribute food to the poor, city Catholic schools that graduate minorities while public schools fail. I seldom go to church, but I recognize the good and the evil and on both sides.Are we better off without churches

Dutch Elm  

Posted: September 7th, 2011 1:25 PM

Another new American Protestant demonination? At approximately 14,000 - and counting - Martin Luther, Henry the VIII and John Calvin must be turning in their graves over the heresy of it all!


Posted: September 6th, 2011 11:50 AM

From his blog: 2) Cash It usually seems like people ask for prayer right before they ask for your money. Funny how that works. But ministry in Oak Park is going to be expensive. From space to equipment, it's going to take some significant financial resources to get this done. Whether you can give $50 one time or every month, we're grateful. Don't think you need to give a huge gift to have an impact (though we appreciate those too). There are two tax-deductible ways to give.

Eilene McCullagh Heckman  

Posted: September 6th, 2011 11:17 AM

@TK But if you want someone to be "responsible" it doesn't help to point out how "irresponsible" they're being. If you want someone to be "religious" it doesn't help to tell them they're all irreligious...un-churched people...and imply that they need someone to save them. Last time I checked...that's God's job. There's a difference between evangelizing...and marketing...that today's evangelical movement is ignoring. I don't need to be preached at...what's missing from churches today is "pastoral care." Which is something you can't do properly when you have to use a PA system to be heard in the back rows. When I was in the hospital...I got a visit from my family church's pastor...and an offer for prayers of healing...even though I wasn't a regular attendee. I doubt the pastor at Willow Creek does the same...ya know? Cotto's statements seem a lot more like he wants to "preach to" people than actually take the time to "minister to" them.

O from Oak Park  

Posted: September 5th, 2011 1:11 PM

Susan, it appears that you believe in science. For each action, you will get an equal or opposite reaction. You set your action into motion, and you got a re-action. Try another action. Try respecting others choices and you may get the equal action back.


Posted: September 5th, 2011 3:15 AM

Susan, we will continue to be fools for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hopefully someone with credibility shares with you why they really believe, not the fluffy ideological stuff but what has occurred in their life since placing faith in the Messiah.


Posted: September 4th, 2011 10:01 PM

@O. Yup I have a belief that I subscribe to--reason. The difference is that it is not an imaginary made up thing that I need to keep me warm at night, teach me how to be ethical, good and decent, and a free thinker. Karma, yet another made up unprovable thing that shallow minded fools came up with to explain things that they couldn't understand. Cheers

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 4th, 2011 2:18 PM

Jim Coughlin, nothing gets past you.

O from Oak Park  

Posted: September 4th, 2011 2:17 PM

Susan, maybe you have another belief that you align your life with. Lots of people like the idea of Karma. Maybe you do too, and Karma paid you back with flatulence, and at the worse possible time with your hemorrhoids flaring up. Do you follow the principals of kindness towards others? If so, next time you choose to talk out your rectum, talk with someone who can appreciate it, like your Proctologist.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: September 4th, 2011 1:50 PM

"If you want to get rich. Start a religion." That's how the founder of the Church of Scientology explained his decision to stop writing sci-fi novels. I wonder if L. Ron Hubbard may have inspired Cotto to try this latest stunt.


Posted: September 3rd, 2011 11:00 PM

@loren--the wave you speak of sounds a lot like what happened to me after I had a couple of bad tacos the other night. The difference between us is that I am not dumb enough to mistake intestinal gas/feelings for the belief that I am confirming God's plan. The nice thing about claiming God has a plan for you is that no one could ever disprove you. Yup it was God's plan for me to make fun of you. It was also God's plan for me to mistake God's plan for the loud fart that came from my backside.

Joel from Oak Park  

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 7:38 PM

Isn't starting a church that caters to atheists kind of like opening up a Brazilian BBQ joint for vegetarians? another proud member of the irreligious faction...

Loren Andersen from Oak Park  

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 2:39 PM

John - very mean spirited, uninformed an inaccurate. This is not a fall-back plan. Cisco is still in demand and could easily find work on the radio elsewhere. Sometimes we feel led to do things. A follower of Christ may pray about these things and ask for confirmation. When that confirmation comes like a wave, it's a pretty clear that you are in-line with God's plan.

John McCarthy from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 11:08 AM

This is just SO apropos in the land of the Doopers. It's also the fallback copout move for every failed guy from the business world. Can't cut it? GOD wanted you to fail so you would heed His true calling and "plant" a church! Sharpen up them proselytizing chops, Cisco! Time to go "save" the great unwashed of Dooper-Land! Just don't come to Berwyn, OK, pal?

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 9:30 AM

Perhaps "irreligious" is not appropriate but I would not bet against 40K "unchurched" folks in OP. When I moved to OP 40 years ago there were 13 Methodist churches within five miles of my home. Today there are 4. Other denominations have experienced similiar declines. On Sunday mornings the attendance at the dog park across from my current church is appproximately the same as the attendance at my church.


Posted: September 2nd, 2011 12:36 PM

Thank the lord for Cisco Cotto and his conversations with "God," I'm sure this church will catch fire and bring "God" back to the OP.


Posted: September 1st, 2011 9:04 PM

Chris made me laugh. Thanks!

BKB from Elmhurst  

Posted: September 1st, 2011 4:35 PM

It's actually a great publicity ploy until the market improves for ... talk radio personalities.

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: September 1st, 2011 9:58 AM

Of course they are irreligious, they are all Unitarians, now where the hell did you put the coffee maker?

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: September 1st, 2011 7:06 AM

Great. Another property that doesn't contribute any property taxes to a village that desperately needs a bigger tax base. Just what we need.

bon chance Mssr. Cisco  

Posted: August 31st, 2011 11:14 PM

Good luck to you in Oak Park; a place with misplaced idealism and moralism.

epic lulz  

Posted: August 31st, 2011 10:25 PM

I'd like to know where Cisco gets his "40k irreligious in OP" data. Sounds fishy to me.

Eilene McCullagh Heckman  

Posted: August 31st, 2011 1:01 PM


Violet Aura  

Posted: August 31st, 2011 10:50 AM

Proud Atheist is a Pastafarian. His god is the Flying Spaghetti Monster!


Posted: August 31st, 2011 9:45 AM

@ JO, NOT the entire village, just the 40k that didn't identify with a specific church. So, see? That makes it better, lolol.


Posted: August 31st, 2011 6:45 AM

The entire village is "irreligious"? That explains all the churches. I guess the only people who go to there are from elsewhere.

Proud Atheist from Oak Park  

Posted: August 31st, 2011 1:05 AM

I guess I'm one of the "40,000 irreligious" in OP - and proud of it. You have my best wishes Mr. Cotto, but you'll never have my money or my attention.

Am I Religulous or Irreligous?  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 10:02 PM

Just about everyone I know in OP belongs to one of it's many churches. I would hardly call OP an 'irreligious" community. But, if some of people here are not affiliated with a formal congregation that's their choice. Do what moves you brother but not being a part of congregation doesn't mean someone isn't spiritual or religious and if they aren't religious they won't go to your church any more than the one already on the corner.

Violet Aura  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 5:43 PM

Although I no longer can stomach WLS-AM for longer than two minutes, I was surprised to learn of Cisco's political leanings when he went off on his own. I always enjoyed his voice as the newsperson but I dislike his attitude, as illustrated in his comments towards OP. Does anyone know his age? Is OP really his "hometown?" I wanna know how old this character is. Hey Cisco, I am SPIRITUAL, not religious. I believe organized religion was (and still is) the Illuminati's ploy to divide and conquer!

Makdlspdlkoo from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 5:27 PM

Tom from River Forest seems to have listened to this guy on the radio. It will be fun if this works out and if he can undo all what Oak Park stands for.

Jg Morales  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 5:22 PM

We have churches all over this little village. But we do need a mosque and an ashram...

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 4:47 PM

Yes, a church that preaches intolerance, bigotry, and selfishness should go over well in Oak Park.


Posted: August 30th, 2011 4:36 PM

Best of luck. Seriously.

OP Mom  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 4:35 PM

Cisco, just because 40k people don't identify with an organized religion does not mean they need churchin' , particularly of a conservative flavor. It's a free country and all so have at it but if I were you I'd hire a PR firm to write or at least screen your quotes so you don't sound so uneducated. You lost me at irreligious and sent me running at " cash".

Eilene McCullagh Heckman  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 4:10 PM

Yep...because lord knows I've been waiting here in irreligious Oak Park...where there aren't ANY churches or synagogues...and certainly no CONSERVATIVE churches (*cough* Calvary *cough*) to be saved from my irreligiosity. And here I was all excited when I read the headline thinking Peter Sagal was going to start a church...THAT I would have shown up for...

Cisco Cotto from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 3:53 PM

Ken, thanks for pointing out my poor use of the term "irreligious." The 2010 demographics data shows 40,000 people claimed no religious affiliation to a particular faith group, but that certainly doesn't mean they are irreligious.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 3:36 PM

He needs to mail his resume to Glenn Beck.


Posted: August 30th, 2011 3:33 PM

Irreligulous. We like to call ourselves "religion free."

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