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

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 church planting kit aimed specifically at starting Hispanic congregations was unveiled by NAMB church planting media specialist Eric Ramsey. The kit includes three television spots, two radio spots and computer software with templates in popular, high-end CD 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 kits can be personalized for churches and are available at no cost through state conventions.

The television spots, “Nuestra Familia, Su Familia” (a place for your family and my family), were the first produced by NAMB to win a coveted “Telly” award. The spots feature Telemundo, a sophisticated spoken style developed by a cable station of the same name.

“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 10y ears, 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.”

“I thank God, and I want you to hear me well,” he said. “I am a Baptist and a red-bone [blooded] Baptist. I am with people of the Bible. I thank God for what he’s doing through Hispanics at the North American Mission Board.”

Other program guests included Heberto Becerra and Julio Fuentes, officers of the Hispanic Baptist Fellowship; Eloy Rodriguez, pastor of the Parkway Hispanic Mission, Orlando; James A. Fortinberry, director of missions for the Greater Orlando Baptist Association; Bob Sena and Roberto Gama of NAMB; and Daniel Sanchez, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth.

Four students from the Orlando area received diplomas from the Church Starting Institute, a ministry of the Florida convention’s Hispanic and international church planting department. The institute’s purpose is to train pastors and leaders in the area of church starting. This year, four centers operated in Florida, resulting in several new churches. Certificates were awarded by Moreno to Roberto Roberts, Hector Emilio Calix, Jose Borjas and Carlos Rivera.

Eduardo Docampo provided translation for this article.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan