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Consortium takes stock of Hispanic surge

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–With the tripling of the U.S. Hispanic population since 1980 — from 15 million to nearly 47 million today, or 16 percent of the U.S. population — the SBC Hispanic Consortium continues to focus on the challenge of sharing Christ with this largely unreached people group.

A dozen Hispanic leaders attended the consortium’s 2010 session, Oct. 7-9 at the North American Mission Board, representing NAMB, the International Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, SBC seminaries, Woman’s Missionary Union, GuideStone Financial Resources, state conventions and local associations. Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, and Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s new president, also attended, along with a representative of the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C.

The group’s consensus is that the Southern Baptist Convention needs more Hispanics in mainline convention positions; more Hispanics on the boards of trustees of SBC entities; more Hispanics in academia — especially those with Ph.D. degrees; more Hispanic seminary students; and most importantly, many more than the 3,200 existing Hispanic churches if the SBC is to make a difference among this exploding ethnic group.

“The massive growth of Hispanic people in the United States is a seismic shift in the population that few seem to understand is coming,” Page said. “This seismic shift in population and demographics is going to change our culture, and I think it’s going to be largely positive.”

After his election as Executive Committee president, Page said one of his first trips was to visit Los Angeles and Fermin Whittaker, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention. One of every 10 U.S. Hispanics lives in Los Angeles County.

In fact, Los Angeles leads U.S. metro areas in Hispanic population (5.7 million), followed by New York/New Jersey (4.1 million), Miami/South Florida (2.1 million), Houston (1.94 million) and Chicago (1.9 million).

“I want you to find a way to reach Hispanic men, women, boys and girls for Jesus Christ,” Page exhorted consortium members. “There’s perhaps more openness among Hispanics towards the Gospel than any other ethnic group, certainly more so than among Anglos.

“We need to move quickly to do whatever we can to reach what is becoming the largest ethnic group in the nation.”

Page said he wants to work with SBC’s Hispanic leadership by creating a national task force to take Baptist ministry to Hispanics to a new level.

“It’s time to step up to the plate. We’re well past the time to have a Hispanic president of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Page, himself a two-term SBC president. “Too many Hispanic Baptists are staying in the local fellowships. We need them to move up to leadership positions in the mainstream of the convention.”

Ezell — who said his first church in Fort Worth, Texas, consisted of 55 percent of English-speaking Hispanics — promised the consortium that “we at NAMB will continue to support the work you’re doing. We must in order to keep up with the exponential Hispanic population growth. Let there be no doubt. We want to reach all people and we don’t care who gets the credit.”

Bob Sena, director of Hispanic resource development and equipping in NAMB’s church planting group, said the U.S. Hispanic population is projected to triple again by 2050, when 25 percent of the country will be Hispanic. In Texas, Hispanics already make up 39 percent of the population and by 2030 are on target to become a 52 percent majority in the Lone Star State.

Sena said the SBC is not keeping up with the Hispanic population explosion as evidenced by the fact that 13 U.S. metro areas with Hispanic populations of over 20,000 have no Hispanic Baptist churches.

“While the overall ratio is one Hispanic church per 14,753 Hispanics, in some areas the ratio exceeds one church per 70,000 Hispanics,” Sena said. In the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania metro areas, he said there is only one Hispanic Baptist church for every 100,281 Hispanics. Sena also cited research that more than 75 percent of Hispanics prefer to worship in Hispanic-oriented congregations.

In jointly presenting a “State of the Hispanic Consortium,” Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, and California’s Whittaker suggested the following:

— heighten awareness in SBC entities regarding Hispanic work.

— improve communications between SBC entities regarding Hispanic work.

— share information on events, projects and activities in SBC entities related to Hispanic work.

— challenge Hispanic leaders within each SBC entity to enable their organization to become more effective in its Hispanic ministry by setting goals, designing action plans and implementing those plans.

— share resources and continually update Hispanic data across SBC entities.

— become more effective in promoting Hispanic ministry work.

— ensure continued focus on Hispanic ministry opportunities among SBC entities — especially in the wake of recent leadership changes at the Executive Committee, NAMB and IMB.

NAMB’s church planting group has published a new book — “Reaching Hispanics in North America” — a tool for understanding and engaging the Hispanic mission field. Tailored for state convention and local association staffs, directors of missions, pastors and lay leaders, the book is available by sending an e-mail to [email protected] or by calling 1-888-749-7479.

Created in 2005 from a report by a national Hispanic task force to NAMB, the Hispanic Consortium is an ad hoc group serving as a catalyst to help Southern Baptist entities maximize their effectiveness in Hispanic ministries. It is composed of staff members from six entities, a state convention executive director, a state convention missions director, an associational director of missions and an SBC seminary representative.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

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