North Carolina’s population continues to become more of a melting pot of ethnicities.
Because of the state’s diversity in jobs, competitive cost of living, and other factors, more people are moving here from different countries.
“The face of America is changing,” said Antonio Santos, Baptist State Convention of N.C. (BSC) senior consultant for Hispanic church planting, to participants of the Heavenly Banquet Nov. 13 at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex. The Heavenly Banquet showcases multicultural ministry throughout North Carolina.
“Numbers are cold and hard to follow,” Santos said, but urged people to look around them. “We have the opportunity to share Jesus. We need to see it. We need to prepare our churches.”
The United States has the second largest Hispanic population in the world. An estimated 350,000 Hispanics immigrate to the U.S. each year. Santos called the Hispanic population around Raleigh, Durham and Fayetteville “hyper growth” because of the speed at which the population is rising. He urged people to pray for:
cultural understanding of the Hispanic people by the general population,
salvation from the “bindings of Catholicism,” and
God to help “us to seize this historical moment in reaching the Hispanic population. It’s very hard trying to react later on.”
Diversity in North Carolina
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, said 230 languages are spoken in North Carolina schools. “We are excited about reaching more and more people for Jesus Christ,” said Hollifield, “but we need more and more people who know [and] speak other languages.”
BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Larry Phillips, center, performs with brothers Felipe, left, and Esteban Polo. The brothers are part of Apex Baptist Church’s Hispanic congregation. They asked Phillips, who was one of the speakers at the Heavenly Banquet, to play a song with them.
With the election of the first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Hollifield said he has “never seen more excitement, more unity” than at the meeting in June in New Orleans where Fred Luter was elected.
Luter is pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.
“It was a great day in the history of the SBC,” Hollifield said.
Hollifield mentioned the need for more English-speaking congregations to support planting new non-English-speaking churches.
“We want to get the gospel to all people,” Hollifield said.
Always a missionary
With 13 years at the convention, 19 years in international missions and 13 years as a North Carolina pastor, Larry Phillips thanked participants of the multicultural ministries banquet for their support over the years in his role as Hispanic church planting consultant.
“So much of who I am is made of what I learned from you,” said Phillips, who currently is interim director of the Hollifield Leadership Center and formerly held Santos’ position as senior consultant for Hispanic church planting. He will retire in January 2013 and continue as a BSC consultant.
He encouraged participants to go beyond discipleship.
“If we just disciple … we will fall short of what God expects of us,” Phillips said.
“From this point in my life I will be only a missionary.”
Forget titles and positions, Phillips stressed.
“When it’s all said and done it has to do with character and it has to do with competency,” he said. “I believe that every believer is sent by Jesus … with the cross in community to the culture.”
For too long Baptists have had African-Americans working with African-Americans, Hispanics working with Hispanics, he said.
“It’s time for a change,” he said. “It is now time to break the barriers.”
Discipleship is a great first step. That critical step “leads us to become missionaries,” Phillips said.
“It’s now time to live life together,” Phillips said, encouraging them to take their “place at the table” by being part of the N.C. Baptist leadership.
For more stories from the annual meeting, visit here.