BALTIMORE (BP) — Several Hispanic groups, in an example of Southern Baptist cooperation with a Latin twist, joined in meetings, fellowship and worship prior to the SBC annual meeting at the Baltimore Convention Center. The June 8 event, which began with dinner at 5 p.m., included four workshops and a celebration service that concluded with a concert at 11 p.m.
At least 500 Hispanics from Baltimore-area churches and others from churches and ministries in other states were present for the Avance Hispano gathering, jointly hosted by LifeWay Christian Resources, the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and GuideStone Financial Resources. Liberty University also was on the program as a guest supporter of the event.
David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, was the dinner’s featured speaker. Platt’s two books “Radical” and “Follow Me” have been published in Spanish by LifeWay.
Platt was introduced by Luis Lopez, director of LifeWay en Español, as “a man deeply committed with Christ and His Word. The first love in the ministry of David Platt is making disciples using the simple biblical model of teaching the Word of God, training disciples and transmitting the faith.”
Platt began his brief talk with humor, recounting times when his inadequacy in Spanish had caused embarrassment during recent trips to Latin America. Platt also told of the work with Hispanics that is part of the local and international ministry of The Church at Brook Hills.
Platt told the gathering that “there is currently a state of confusion with Christian identity. Following Christ is more than just a prayer.” When the Holy Spirit comes into the life of the Christian, that person becomes a radical in his cultural context, he noted.
“[W]e have something better than the American dream,” Platt said. “We have the hope of eternal life in Christ. When [people] see Jesus, they will see the American dream pales in comparison.”
Platt concluded with a passionate plea that “God’s ways may be known on earth and His saving power. God will receive the glory that He alone is due until that day when all of us are gathered around the throne together. We will sing a new song! We will glorify Him as one body! Gloria a Dios!”
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, also addressed the crowd, speaking in Spanish.
Page thanked Hispanic Baptists for their partnership in the Gospel, saying he is “well aware of the cultural changes in our culture” and that “we must reach Hispanics for Christ.”
Page reported on the work of the Hispanic Advisory Council, which was the first council he appointed as Executive Committee president. He thanked Bobby Sena and Daniel Sanchez for serving as the council’s co-chairs. He said he eagerly awaits the report of the council and reported that he had recently added Sena to the EC staff as a part-time national Hispanic consultant.
Jason Carlisle, the IMB’s director of Hispanic mobilization, introduced Juan Carlos Rojas, president of the Western Cuba Baptist Convention, who was the guest preacher for the worship celebration. Carlisle announced a new partnership initiative for church planting involving Cuban Baptists and outreach in North Africa.
North America continues to be a challenging international mission field, Carlisle said, noting that “Dearborn, Mich., has the largest Arab presence outside of North Africa and the Middle East. Hispanic Baptist missionaries are making advances in the Muslim world here and in other countries.”
Carlisle reported that “more than 80 people have accepted Christ in one of the Muslim unreached people groups [UPGs] as a result of Hispanic missionary work.” Another joyful note was that “during the celebration of Enlace 2014 in Richmond, Va., 27 Hispanic pastors and leaders gave $17,000 for missions in the Arab world.”
Much of the work that the IMB’s Hispanic mobilization team and Hispanic IMB missionaries are doing cannot be reported due to the sensitive nature of the outreach, Carlisle said. However, great advances are being reported in many areas of the world and the many UPGs reached by Hispanic Baptists missionaries and Hispanic churches.
On behalf of the IMB Hispanic mobilization, several Hispanic leaders and pastors were recognized for their support of IMB Hispanic mobilization efforts in other countries: Jesus Guillen, Daniel Tuchez, Eliud Reyes, Jose Nater, Ramon Medina and Guillermo Mangieri.
Miguel Perez, Hispanic representative for GuideStone, spoke of how the SBC financial services entity is helping Hispanic pastors deal with their retirement. “GuideStone can be a support for pastors of small churches and even pastors in retirement who never had an opportunity to make any contributions,” Perez said. He shared packets of information in Spanish with those present as well as gifts of several books by O.S. Hawkins, GuideStone’s president, that are in Spanish.
Joshua del Risco, NAMB’s director of Hispanic evangelism, introduced Ramon Osorio as a new NAMB staff member in the area of Hispanic mobilization. Osorio shared his testimony as a church planter, the challenges he sees for America’s Hispanics, and NAMB’s Send North America strategy for reaching key the cities across the continent.
Luis Lopez, director of LifeWay en Español, shared that “God is doing beautiful things in our midst” at the SBC publishing arm. “The Hispanic population is growing faster than the statisticians projected. Today there are 53 million Hispanics in the United States. In response to this rapid growth, LifeWay has produced new materials in Spanish for Sunday School and open groups.”
Lopez noted that according to new research, “Latinos have a high degree of respect for the Bible. At least 87 percent of Hispanics own a Bible but only 8 percent interact with it.” The challenge is to use this knowledge as a platform to start small groups, Lopez said, stating that the new materials in the series Conectandose are designed to be resources for groups.
David Raul Lema Jr. is associate team strategist for theological education ministries with the Florida Baptist Convention.