NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Luis Muriel, a university-trained economist from Peru and an associate pastor from Georgia, left a recent conference for Hispanic pastors with a lasting lesson: Scripture alone is sufficient for revival.
“Many Christians believe the Bible is the Word of God,” Muriel said. “But at the same time, many Christians believe the Bible is not enough. They use psychology, marketing, anthropology, sociology. It is a problem in the church now. But in my heart, I have the conviction that I am going to use the Bible for every problem in my church.”
The drive for revival was at the heart of an Aug. 6-8 conference held by the National Fellowship of Hispanic Churches of the Southern Baptist Convention at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. More than 100 pastors to the Hispanic community attended the conference — the second such gathering for the Hispanic organization — and more than 400 people attended a Saturday festival. The gathering was the second for the Hispanic organization.
For Muriel, who has about 80 involved in the Hispanic ministry at the small, but growing Alliance Community congregation in Athens, Ga., prayer also is critical. Each Monday, he gathers with other men to pray specifically for revival, not just in his neighborhood, but throughout Athens and around the world. Sometimes those prayer sessions last for several hours.
“Our burden is to see revival in this country,” Muriel said. “That is the reason I came to this conference. This conference is about revival.”
Several Spanish-speaking NOBTS faculty members hammered home the revival theme. David Lema, director of NOBTS’ Miami-based Center for the Americas, taught on true spirituality, focusing on revival in personal life.
Main-campus professors Tim Searcy, Bill Warren and Ed Steele, all former missionaries to Spanish-speaking countries, also participated in the conference. Searcy taught on true discipleship; Warren taught on revival in a world of change; and Steele taught on the elements of revival.
According to the 2000 Census, there were 35.3 million Hispanics in the United States, not including those who may be in the country illegally. One of the biggest challenges facing pastors in the Spanish-speaking community involves dealing with illegal immigration. By 2050, the government projects that more than 102 million Hispanics will call America home.
It’s also a challenge for traditionally Anglo congregations. Muriel experienced this firsthand when he came to Alliance Community from Peru.
“The church knew nothing about immigrants, problems with immigrants or illegal immigration, because the Anglo church was always around Anglos. When I started my ministry here, some church members thought that for me, it was a new thing to use a microwave,” Muriel said.
But the church had a vision to become a truly multicultural church in Athens. As home to the University of Georgia, Athens has a multicultural population, with an estimated Hispanic population of about 17 percent.
“We don’t want to be an Anglo church or Hispanic church. We have Mexicans, Americans, Canadians, Koreans, people from El Salvador and Guatemala,” Muriel said. “The vision of a multicultural church is happening now.”
God also is moving in the Hispanic community on the north side of Lake Ponchartrain in suburban New Orleans. Humberto Medina, an NOBTS graduate student from Peru, is Hispanic pastor at First Baptist Church, where 65 Hispanics regularly attend worship.
In reaching the community for Christ, the lack of education is a hurdle in sharing the Gospel, Medina said. And there is the matter of immigration as well as the cultural differences that can exist between different Spanish-speaking countries, despite a common language.
“A lot of Hispanic people have trouble understanding the Gospel message because they don’t have an education,” Medina said. “The issue of illegals is difficult, but my responsibility is to carry the Gospel to lost people.”
Like Muriel, Medina believes the Bible alone is sufficient to spark revival.
“It’s most important to reach people with the Bible,” Medina said. “The Bible changes people. We’re not teaching the history of America or Latin America, just the Bible and Jesus Christ, His work of salvation. Some churches have programs, like entertainment. But we need revival.”
But both pastors say the spark of revival is needed not just in neighborhoods or in cities, but globally.
Muriel said his vision is “to share the Gospel not only in my neighborhood, but with all people, all cultures. We want to build a ‘Bible culture’ in our church. We want to worship according to the Bible, not according to fashion.
“Months ago, I was praying, asking God to help me put my light over the table, not under the table,” Muriel said. “I need to know that every step is from God, [that] we are walking step by step.”
Representatives from several SBC entities also participated in the conference — NOBTS, North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, GuideStone Financial Resources, Golden Gate and Southwestern seminaries.
NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke said the seminary was honored to host the Hispanic fellowship. “NOBTS is committed to expanding the certificate and undergraduate level theological training we currently offer for Hispanics in Florida,” Lemke said. “During the meetings, we profited from a listening session with some key Hispanic leaders about what the greatest needs are to improve the delivery of quality ministerial training for Hispanics.”
Next year’s Hispanic conference will be hosted by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
For more information about the National Fellowship of Hispanic Churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, visit www.confraternidad.net.