GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP) – More than 240 pastors, Spanish-speaking church planters and North Carolina Baptist leaders attended the “We Are Not Alone” conference July 31. Todd Unzicker, newly elected executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC), was present at the event and demonstrated his deep love for the people of Central and South America, as well as for all migrants living without the hope of Jesus in North Carolina.
“God doesn’t need anyone, but I need each one of you,” Unzicker told the leaders gathered at Lebanon Baptist Church. He challenged state Baptist leaders to send 500 new missionaries from North Carolina and start 1,000 churches in the near future.
This annual conference is meant to unite the Spanish-speaking community of N.C. Baptist leaders and inspire them to continue doing ministry in their communities. This year’s conference was hosted by N.C. Baptist staffers William Ortega, Hispanic church planting consultant, and Amaury Santos, Hispanic ministries consultant for the church health and revitalization team.
Unzicker, local pastors and other N.C. Baptist staff members led various breakout sessions during the conference.
The first session, led by Leo Guerrero, senior pastor for the Hispanic congregation of Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church, focused on battling loneliness from a biblical perspective. Guerrero reminded attendees of Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart.” He also encouraged everyone to remember that Jesus Himself experienced loneliness on the cross.
Sandy Marks, team leader for the BSCNC’s church health and revitalization team, led a session about the importance of unity among God’s people and said loneliness and church revitalization often go hand in hand. Marks also pointed out that the revitalization process includes revitalizing the man, the ministry and the mission. He laid out how church revitalization depends on being connected in five areas:
- In our mutual condition as sinners
- By a person – Jesus
- By a mission
- By a calling
- By our limitations
Julio Arriola, executive director of Hispanic relations and mobilization for the SBC Executive Committee, presented the “four Vs of our company in mission” – valor, vision, victories and vida (life).
Luis Tejera, professor at Fruitland Baptist Bible College and pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, provided educational resources to attendees. Fruitland is connected with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and links its classes and facilities to help make the continuation of studies easier for Spanish speakers.
Chuck Register, executive leader of BSCNC’s Church Planting and Missions Partnerships, reminded the leaders that the convention is a family and Christ Jesus has called them to reach North Carolina and the world with the Gospel.
Mike Pittman, team leader of BSCNC’s Church Planting Team, encouraged the churches represented to become sending churches, disciple-making churches and churches that raise leaders to plant other churches.
Carlos Rodriguez, pastor of IChurch in Hickory, described how the post-pandemic church should interact with those who return as well as with those who have not returned. He presented three challenges that affect Spanish-speaking church attendees as a consequence of the pandemic: social distancing, technological and communication challenges among immigrants and emotional trauma.
Seventeen North Carolina church planters were featured by Ortega, who made a call to continue to start churches and not to stop evangelizing or discipling under any circumstances.