Evangelism, church planting cited in Hispanic meeting
ST. LOUIS (BP)--A firm focus on evangelism and church planting has resulted in a strong church representation and lay leadership involvement in the annual two-day National Fellowship of Hispanic Southern Baptist Churches, outgoing President Herberto Becerra said during the organization's June 8-9 meeting in St. Louis.
Becerra, who delivered the president's address and moderated the business sessions during the fellowship's sessions at Fee Fee Baptist Church, is pastor of First Hispanic Baptist Church, Plantation, Fla.
Citing numerous opportunities he has had to build relationships and communicate with Hispanics and other Southern Baptists across the country, Becerra said he has seen many changes in his four-year term of office, the most important one being strengthened ties between the fellowship and the Southern Baptist Convention.
"The organization has been able to get visibility among the churches and convention leaders," Becerra said. "This is the first time that the state convention leaders and the SBC agency staff members are noticing the fact that evangelism is happening in the Hispanic churches."
Adopting "Hay vida en Jesus" (There is life in Jesus) as the fellowship's official statement and strategy for evangelism efforts is another step in the right direction and is consistent with the SBC's "Partners in the Harvest" emphasis on church planting and growth, Becerra said.
"The Southern Baptist Convention looks to this group as a unifying force to focus on evangelism and church planting," Becerra told listeners in his final address. "We ... are committed to being strong supporters of the SBC's evangelistic and church planting goals."
Looking to the future, Becerra said he hopes for more interaction between Hispanic and other Southern Baptists.
"Our hope is to be partners even more fully in every aspect in the life of Southern Baptists," Becerra said. "This fuller participation will inspire our pastors and churches to reach their potential in the Lord."
The fellowship's newly elected president, Augusto Valverde, pastor of Resurrection Baptist Church in Miami, said he also shares Becerra's vision for unity in the fellowship preserved by a focus on evangelism and church planting.
"The most important thing is the fulfillment of the Great Commission," Valverde said.
"Because we work together we know more, we love more. We don't have to cultivate these values only in a two-day event, we do it all year long."
Valverde, who has seen his own church grow from 140 members in 1988 to more than 650 today, said his church's vision is to not only reach Miami but the entire world.
The church supports 10 mission churches in the Miami area and others in Las Vegas, Nicaragua and Honduras. They also directly support missionaries in Cuba, Spain, Puerto Rico and Argentina.
In addition, the church supports ministries and missions throughout the world by designating 8 percent of their budget to the SBC's Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist channel for supporting missions and other causes, and 3 percent to associational missions, Valverde said.
Focusing on reaching out to the Hispanic community while being strengthened by the fellowship will move the group to a new level of participation, Valverde predicted, saying, "This work needs to move us to the mobilization of the Hispanic people in evangelism and planting churches."
Translation provided by Eliseo and Alicia Aldape and Julio Fuentes.