Hispanic Alliance launches with church-centric focus

ST. LOUIS (BP) -- The inaugural meeting of the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance provided a night of worship and fellowship as well as insight from various SBC leaders and from key Hispanic pastors.

The alliance is a network of Hispanic Southern Baptist pastors intent on reaching their Hispanic communities with the Gospel and sharing the Word of God with their congregations, said Felix Cabrera, co-founder of the organization and lead pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City.

The alliance has grown in grassroots fashion, Cabrera said, and after its June 13 gathering in St. Louis, regional meetings for Hispanic pastors will be organized to continue to encourage and help one another share the Gospel and be on mission.

The estimated 200 attendees from multiple ethnic backgrounds attended the alliance's meeting prior to the SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.

As Edgar Aponte, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's director of Hispanic leadership development, noted, Hispanics speak not only Spanish but most are bilingual and some even preach only in English.

Al Fernandez, regional catalyst in southeast Florida for the Florida Baptist Convention, said he was especially pleased to see that the network is very church-centric.

During the meeting, attendees watched a video message from Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, who encouraged the leaders to place prayer as a top priority and ask the Holy Spirit to fill them and their churches. Only then, Floyd said, will there be a fresh commitment to reach their cities, states, nation and world for Christ.

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, told attendees that 83 new Hispanic churches have been planted so far this year and that the mission board intends to plant 750 new Hispanic churches in the next five years.

"We want to come alongside your church to help you be on mission," Ezell said.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, encouraged the Hispanic pastors and leaders to count on the ERLC to address some of today's tough social questions.

He recounted that a pastor recently contacted him seeking advice about how to accommodate a little girl who felt that she was a little boy who came to the church's Vacation Bible School.

"The ERLC is here to help you figure out what it means to preach and live the Gospel in this time," Moore said.

David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, spoke about the importance of taking the Gospel to unreached people groups, noting the difference between those who are lost and those who are unreached because they have no access to hearing the Gospel.

Frank S. Page, president of the Executive Committee, voiced appreciation to the Hispanic pastors and leaders, saying in Spanish, "Yo amo a los hispanos, a sus iglesias y a sus pastores" which translates to "I love Hispanics, your churches and your pastors."

Also addressing the meeting were Johnny Hunt, former SBC president and pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock; Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; and H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

The event's sermon was preached by Sugel Michelen, author and pastor of Iglesia Biblica del Señor Jesucristo in Dominican Republic.

Michelen spoke on the importance of preaching the Gospel without making it complicated. Because of the beauty of it, he said, it's so simple that it shames human knowledge.

"Our challenge is to keep preaching the Gospel ... and leaving the results in God's hands," Michelen said.

Following dinner, a panel of six Hispanic pastors answered questions from moderator Aponte.

Members of the panel were Julio Crespo of Iglesia Bautista Buenas Nuevas in Lilburn, Ga.; José Abella, Providence Road Church, Miami; Raudel Hernández, Summit en Español, Raleigh, N.C.; Rubén Cabrera, City of God Church, Oklahoma City; Jorge Mendoza, Blueprint Church, Atlanta; and Rich Pérez, Christ Crucified Fellowship, New York City.

Among the questions: what discipleship and church planting look like from day to day; how to preach to a multi-ethnic church; how to get a church involved in missions; and how first- and second-generation Hispanics can collaborate within their churches to advance the mission of the Kingdom.

The pastors answered that church planting required them to be present in the community they're trying to reach; that preaching to multi-ethnic congregations is a matter of identifying as citizens of the Kingdom of God rather than of countries; and that intergenerational cooperation requires that the youth be humble and the older generation be open even when their ideas are not in step with one another.

Keila Diaz writes for the Florida Baptist Witness (www.go FBW.com).
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