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At AVANCE, Hispanics hear Ronnie Floyd, David Platt

[SLIDESHOW=40447,40448,40450]COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) — In a night marked by worship, fellowship and workshops, Hispanic Southern Baptist pastors and leaders from across the United States came together for AVANCE 2015 prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.

The June 14 gathering began at 5 p.m. with worship led by Julio Arriola from Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, followed by a dinner and featured speaker SBC President Ronnie Floyd. David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, also addressed the group. After the dinner, the IMB, the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources hosted workshops. The evening concluded with an informational session from the new Hispanic Leadership Network.

Floyd, speaking to some 200 Hispanic Baptists, with translation by IMB Hispanic mobilization leader Jason Carlisle, started his message by quoting Romans 13:11, which states in part, “already it is time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed.”

“This is the moment God wants to do a mighty work” in America and beyond, Floyd said at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Reaching the United States and other nations for Christ is a mission that requires the participation of Hispanics, Floyd said. “If we’re going to reach America,” he said, “we can’t do it without you.”

He encouraged the Hispanic audience to go back to their cities and towns with a vision and a mission to reach them with the Gospel, assuring them that the SBC would do everything it can to help them carry out that mission.

Floyd concluded his message by saying, “Jesus said: ‘I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it….’ And if you go to the end of the book, Jesus wins.”

In a conversation with Baptist Press, Floyd said the best way for Hispanic pastors and leaders to get involved with SBC is through their state conventions and local associations. He also encouraged younger Hispanics to get involved in building churches “the way they need to be built” and to get engaged in Gospel work.

William Burton, the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s Hispanic and ethnic church planting and evangelism specialist, followed Floyd’s message by recounting a resurgence of Hispanic church planting in the state.

In a year’s time Tennessee went from having 238 baptisms of Hispanics to approximately 630 in 2014, Burton reported. The church-to-Hispanics ratio went from 1 to 18,000 in 2013 to 1 for every 7,820 Hispanics in 2014 and now 1 for every 6,736 since May 2015.

When Platt took to the podium, he started by stating “Gloria a Dios” (“Glory to God”) for what God is doing in Tennessee.

Platt said he believes the movement in Tennessee is of God and that he has no doubt those new believers have a divine purpose to reach other parts of the world with the Gospel.

“The local church is at the center of the Great Commission…. The IMB wants to posture itself to help you,” Platt said. “My prayer is that IMB may enter into a partnership with you more intentionally…. [W]e don’t want to usurp you.”

The IMB currently has 4,734 field personnel under appointment. If the IMB and local churches formed the kind of partnership he envisions, Platt said that number could be in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands.

Platt ended his address by saying he longs for the day when the IMB wouldn’t be needed anymore, for the day when there is no such thing as unreached people groups.

AVANCE 2015 committee members recognized Victor Mendoza and Daniel Tuchez with plaques for their service during the past year.

Mendoza, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Emanuel in Aurora, Ill., was recognized for five years of service in North America and South Asia. He couldn’t make it to the meeting and his award was accepted by a fellow pastor. Tuchez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Shaddai in Jackson, Tenn., was recognized for planting five new churches in Tennessee during the last year.

After the hour-long workshops sponsored by IMB, NAMB and LifeWay, the Hispanic pastors and leaders gathered for an informational session with the Hispanic Leadership Network.

The network, which launched in a meeting last December in Nashville as a partnership between the Executive Committee and Lifeway, set forth three findings about Hispanics and the SBC.

First they noted a lack of knowledge among Hispanic Southern Baptist churches about what it means to be part of the SBC. Second, they stated that there is a disconnect between the churches, the associations, state conventions, the national convention and its entities. Finally, the network reported that there is no clear understanding among Hispanic Baptist churches of the benefits and services available from the SBC entities.

In order to remedy those issues, the network has planned a series of steps which include an annual meeting of core group members, an annual meeting with SBC Hispanic pastors and leaders, a central database of the Hispanic Leadership Network and the creation of more state Hispanic fellowships.

Bob Sena, Hispanic relations consultant with the SBC Executive Committee, closed the evening, saying that he had attended a meeting where he was told that Southern Baptist Hispanics were very divided, but that he didn’t want that to be the case anymore.

“Despite the distance and diversity, let’s tell them that we are united as one,” Sena said.

Also during AVANCE:

— Daniel Sanchez of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary led a missions workshop, noting that there are approximately 6,000 unreached people groups in the world for which churches must train leaders who will go out to reach them for Christ.

“Is there something worse than being lost? Being lost and having no one look for you,” Sanchez said.

During the hour-long workshop, Sanchez opened the floor for pastors to share how they have discipled leaders in their churches and how they themselves were discipled.

One pastor who was visiting from Cuba said he started with just a couple of families whom he discipled for some months and then sent them out to do the same and today they have started their own house churches.

Sanchez’ presentation included a breakdown of how Jesus and Paul discipled in the Bible and how their model of discipleship can be used by pastors and leaders today.

— During the AVANCE dinner, Luis R. Lopez highlighted two new LifeWay en Español resources for pastors to disciple their church members.

One of the resources is the movie “War Room” to be released Aug. 28. The movie follows main character Elizabeth Jordan as she engages in prayer to save her family’s future.

Accompanying the movie but available now in Spanish is the War Room Bible Study which includes five video clips and five Bible studies adapted from the movie. The kit is available for purchase on LifeWay’s website.