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AVANCE to hear plans for Hispanic network

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) — Hispanic Southern Baptists’ AVANCE will continue in 2015 prior to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, with SBC President Ronnie Floyd as this year’s featured speaker.

“There is no doubt that our president [Floyd] will have a powerful word from God for those present at this Hispanic gathering,” said Bobby Sena, Hispanic relations consultant with the SBC Executive Committee.

AVANCE 2015, on Sunday, June 14, will begin with a 5 p.m. dinner featuring Floyd followed by workshops from 6:30-7:45 sponsored by the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources.

AVANCE 2015 will conclude with an 8-9 p.m. session on the newly formed SBC Hispanic Pastors and Leaders Network.

More than 500 Hispanic pastors and leaders attended AVANCE last year in Baltimore during which David Platt, then a pastor in Birmingham, Ala., was the featured speaker. Platt was elected president of the SBC’s International Mission Board just over two months later.

AVANCE 2015, Sena said, signals “advance, progress, discovery and update. That is exactly what will happen during this year’s celebration — a time of networking with pastors, key leaders and church members from across North America; informational and training conferences; a challenge by the president of the SBC; and an update on the newly established SBC Hispanic Pastors and Leaders Network.”

Floyd, saying he is thrilled “to be asked to speak to AVANCE 2015,” emphasized that Hispanic pastors and leaders are “important to the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

“If we are going to reach America and much of the world with the Gospel, we must do all we can to enlist, engage and empower our Hispanic pastors, leaders and churches,” said Floyd, pastor of the multi-campus Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “The Great Awakening we are praying for in this nation includes this awakening coming to all ethnicities in America.”

Floyd added that Julio Arriola of Cross Church will be “the first Hispanic worship leader for the entire Southern Baptist Convention meeting. We are serious about engaging as well as reaching all Hispanics with the Gospel of Christ. This is why it is necessary that all Hispanic pastors, leaders and churches are a part of our Tuesday evening National Call to Prayer,” slated June 16 during the SBC annual meeting.

Sena described Floyd as “a uniquely gifted pastor, leader and preacher whom God is using to call our convention to rally around the Great Commission, unity, prayer and revival.”

Hispanic network

The new Hispanic network was launched in a partnership between the Executive Committee and LifeWay in a meeting last December in Nashville attended by 65 Hispanic leaders from 23 Baptist state conventions.

A five-member “mission and vision” team was named at the meeting to set forth organizational and strategy plans during AVANCE 2015 in Columbus.

Guillermo Soriano, consultant for Hispanic evangelism and discipleship for North Carolina Baptists, is serving as the mission and vision team’s facilitator. Other members of the team are Fernando Amaro, Hispanic ministries facilitator of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention; Rolando Castro, missionary for church planting/evangelism, language churches and Hispanic church development, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware; Ana Melendez, a member of Cristo Es Rey Baptist Church, Bolingbrook, Ill.; and Victor Rios, president of the Association of Hispanic Baptist Churches of New York/New Jersey.

The task force, Sena said at the meeting in Nashville, “will present us with information so that then we can right there [in Columbus] officially, even more officially than today, launch the network that will help us to connect and to communicate with Hispanics around the country. And how interesting would it be if this became a worldwide connection.”

Speaking to Baptist Press, Sena said the network is “a historic moment — for the first time in Southern Baptist life a concerted effort is being made to establish inter-communication between the Executive Committee of the SBC and the broad spectrum of Hispanic Baptist entities, pastors, leaders and laypeople throughout North America. This will enhance deeper understanding and greater cooperation between Hispanic Baptists and SBC entities, state conventions and Baptist associations.”

AVANCE details

All AVANCE 2015 sessions will be at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, site of the June 16-17 SBC annual meeting in which Floyd will lead the convention’s focus on “Great Awakening: Clear Agreement, Visible Union, Extraordinary Prayer.”

The AVANCE 2015 dinner program at 5 p.m. will be in Grand Ballroom 1, Level 1, of the convention center. Even though participation is free, tickets are required to attend and can be obtained online.

Workshops, from 6:30-7:45 p.m., will be: “LeaderGO” (IMB) in Room C212 on Level 2 of the convention center led by Daniel Sanchez of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; “The role of the leader in the family” (NAMB) in C226, Level 2, led by Gonzalo Rodriguez, senior pastor of Iglesia El Buen Pastor in Metairie, La.; and “How God uses imperfect people” (LifeWay) in C215 on Level 2 led by Javier Sotolongo, senior pastor of Iglesia Bautista Estrella de Belen in Hialeah, Fla.

The report from the vision and mission team for the new network will begin at 8 p.m. in Room A103 on Level 1.

Luis Lopez, director of LifeWay Español church resources, said pastors and church leaders coming to AVANCE 2015 will “not only be challenged to continue to accelerate our church planting efforts in reaching our nation for God, but will be encouraged to see what God is doing among us. We will also celebrate the next steps taken to connect and communicate with Hispanics around the country through the Hispanic Pastors and Leaders Network.”

In addition to IMB, NAMB and LifeWay, AVANCE 2015 sponsors include GuideStone Financial Resources and the Executive Committee. Coordination for the gathering is being facilitated by the Hispanic liaisons at each of the entities.

Serving on AVANCE 2015’s program committee, in addition to Sena and Lopez, are Jason Carlisle, Hispanic mobilization leader for the International Mission Board; Ramon Osorio, national church mobilizer with the North American Mission Board; and Miguel Perez, customer relations language specialist with GuideStone Financial Resources.

Setting the context for AVANCE 2015, Sena said, “The Southern Baptist Convention is becoming more ethnically diverse. About 20 percent of churches in the SBC are multi-ethnic, with more than 10,000 ethnic congregations which includes 3,200 Hispanic congregations.

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in the United States had grown to 54 million by July 1, 2013, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority,” Sena said. “This explosive growth should motivate us to covenant together to make an unprecedented effort to reach this mission field with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Elias Bracamonte, associate pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., told Baptist Press, “We encourage all to get involved in being supportive in the efforts of reaching today’s generation for Christ. As sisters and brothers, the Lord’s call is to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world with a commitment to the Great Commission.”

Bracamonte also voiced appreciation to Executive Committee President Frank S. Page “for promoting and encouraging unity and prayer for a spiritual awakening in our churches.”

Also prior to the SBC annual meeting, the National Hispanic Baptist Fellowship will host its annual National Day of Prayer on Monday, June 15, from 7-8 p.m. in the convention’s Prayer Room in Hall D of the Greater Columbus Convention Center.