AVANCE honors, encourages Hispanic missions commitment

ST. LOUIS (BP) -- AVANCE 2016 drew more than 100 Hispanic attendees from across the nation for an evening focused on "Firmly Standing on the Gospel -- Boldly Committed to the Mission."

During the June 12 gathering, Hispanic pastors and leaders were recognized for their work in the Kingdom and were encouraged to immerse themselves in missions in order to reach other Hispanics for Christ.

AVANCE, held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, is a partnership of LifeWay Christian Resources, the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, GuideStone Financial Resources and the SBC Executive Committee

God is working "in a great way among Hispanics," especially Southern Baptist Hispanics, said Bob Sena, Hispanic relations consultant with the Executive Committee, as he introduced EC President Frank S. Page.

Page, in underscoring Hispanic missions advance, gave special recognition to lead pastor Felix Cabrera and the Oklahoma City-area Iglesia Bautista Central for their commitment and contribution to the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' channel for supporting national and international missions and ministries.

"We have done just what God has told us to do," Cabrera said in response.

"I encourage you to also give to the Cooperative Program," Cabrera said to the audience, "and that way we can reach those who we cannot go to physically" to the world's lost masses.

LifeWay also recognized pastors Ramon Medina and Gary C. Wood who used LifeWay resources to impact their churches and communities.

Medina, pastor of the Hispanic ministry at Champion Forrest Baptist Church in Houston, used church and community LifeWay resources relating to the movie "War Room" to start a Bible study that proved to be both effective and popular.

Wood, executive director of Equip Biblical Institute's International Church Planting Training Centers in California, was unable to attend the meeting but was recognized for utilizing LifeWay resources effectively for curriculum used by more than 100 churches participating in the program.

NAMB also gave special recognition to Martin Vargas, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Real in Hollywood, Fla., for his commitment to missions and church planting. Iglesia Real has services in Spanish and has started two additional services for Portuguese and English speakers, in addition to planting four churches across the nation and its involvement in church plants in 29 countries. Martin also was unable to attend AVANCE but sent a video greeting expressing gratitude and honor at the recognition.

SBC President Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, challenged AVANCE attendees to go "above and beyond" to reach other Hispanics for Christ.

By 2050 Hispanics will make up more than 20 percent of the U.S. population, Floyd said, and will represent 60 percent of total population growth.

"Do you think it's time to reach Hispanics?" he asked. "That is only going to happen by planting churches, revitalizing unhealthy churches, having focused leaders and Hispanic pastors leading within the SBC."

Floyd invited the Hispanic pastors and leaders to join in the SBC annual meeting sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, which will include an emphasis on prayer for spiritual awakening and global evangelization along with a discussion of racism in America.

"I urge you to join me so we can really impact the world," Floyd said.

William Ortega, Hispanic church planting consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and former International Mission Board megacity strategist in Mexico, preached the event's sermon.

Ortega encouraged AVANCE attendees to be on mission by planting churches.

"Making known the glory of God is the church's supreme mission," he said. "Missions is how we get the world to know God."

In his message Ortega noted that churches need to plant churches for three reasons: in obedience to the Great Commission; in order to reach an ever-growing population; and because "the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."

The turnout and positive response to AVANCE, Sena said, are a result of the Executive Committee making known its readiness to help Hispanic churches.

"Throughout the year we have met with the state Hispanic fellowships and asked them, 'How can we help you?'" Sena said.

Daniel Sanchez, who co-chaired a Hispanic Advisory Council with Sena, said that it is important to have SBC national leaders like Page and Floyd address the group.

"It's extremely important to have the message of unity coming from the top SBC leaders," Sanchez said.

Following the dinner, LifeWay and IMB hosted separate workshops.

Diego Fernandez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Vida Nueva in North Chesterfield, Va., led the IMB workshop focused on showing pastors how to get involved in international missions and to encourage their churches to give to the Lottie Moon Offering for international missions.

Victor Pulido, regional church consultant for LifeWay Global Churches US West, led the LifeWay workshop which showed pastors how to incorporate the Disciples Path series, now available in Spanish, into their Bible studies.

Keila Diaz is a writer for the Florida Baptist Witness (www.goFBW.com).
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