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Exploding Hispanic population prompts stepped-up church planting, leaders say

EDITORS’ NOTE: This story replaces one with the same headline in BP 6/19/00.

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–An exploding Hispanic population in the Orlando area mirrors a nationwide phenomenon, said Frank Moreno, director of the Florida Baptist Convention Hispanic and international church planting division.

Addressing nearly 150 pastors and denominational workers at the third annual Hispanic Church Planting Network Celebration at Parkway Baptist Church June 13, Moreno was joined by members of the Hispanic unit of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.

“Hispanics are growing faster than the baby boomers,” Moreno said.

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show the Hispanic population grew at a rate seven times faster than the rest of the nation between 1980 and 1990. It is projected to grow to 80.7 million by 2050.

Citing a sharp increase in the number of new ethnic churches started recently in Florida, Moreno urged those in attendance to be part of a mentality that promotes evangelism and church starting within its ranks.

“We want to join the Anglos in reaching out for Christ,” Moreno said. “We want to be partners together in the harvest.”

A new kit designed to resource Hispanic church planting was introduced by NAMB media strategist Eric Ramsey. The kit includes three television spots, two radio spots and computer software with templates in popular high-end software to create brochures, posters and church bulletins.

The materials, created by an exclusively Hispanic workgroup with the exception of Ramsey, reflect a range of Hispanic family members from children to an elderly couple, laughing and praying together in various settings alive with movement and color.

The television commercials — which have a common theme of “Nuestra Familia, Su Familia” [Your Family, My Family] — are the first spots originating in Spanish to be produced by an evangelical denomination for national distribution. One of the spots also has received a Telly Award, which give national recognition to outstanding non-network film and video productions.

“This was a big step for NAMB,” Ramsey said, “and a big step for Southern Baptists.”

Starting new churches is not a new task for Southern Baptists, said Dennis Mitchell, director of the NAMB church multiplication team. He said Southern Baptists started 1,589 new churches in 1999, with a goal of 2000 new churches this year.

It is not enough for each ethnic group to only reproduce themselves, however, said Mitchell, in his message titled “Stretching Your Reach.”

“How dare we neglect the plight of those like ourselves in our community,” he said. “God told Moses to gather all men. Go and take possession of this land.”

Part of the strategy is to train workers, said Moises Rodriguez, manager of NAMB’s Hispanic unit. He will leave NAMB this month after 10 years to pastor First Mexican Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas.

Rodriquez said he was a young migrant worker first called to salvation in Jesus Christ and then trained to “take the Word to a lost world.”

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  • Joni B. Hannigan