Nearly 400 Baptist Hispanic pastors, church planters and lay leaders gathered for two regional congresses on missions and church planting in Wilmington and the Winston-Salem area in July and August.
BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Baptists from El Salvador prepare specialty food from their country for the evening meal during the July Hispanic Congress held at Pine Valley Baptist Church in Wilmington.
Several pastors from Central America and the Caribbean joined with North Carolina Hispanics to challenge lay leaders and pastors towards greater participation in missions and church planting. Both sessions were in Spanish.
About 130 Hispanic leaders attended the Wilmington Congress at Pine Valley Baptist Church July 29-30 and more than 230 attended the Winston-Salem Congress at the West Campus of Calvary Baptist Church in Advance Aug. 5-6.
“These sessions are focused on casting a vision for churches and mobilizing lay leaders by discovering God’s call towards church planting or missionary service. We are able to recruit future church planters through the Congresses,” said William Ortega, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Hispanic church planting consultant and organizer of the congresses. This was the second time the congresses have been held.
About 170 Hispanic Baptist churches are now part of the BSC and represent the fastest-growing segment of the convention’s church planting ministry. The convention has helped start some 65 new Hispanic churches since 2014.
In the same time period, Hispanics made nearly 14,000 evangelistic contacts and counted more than 1,200 professions of faith. Hispanic congregations average about 40 in Sunday worship attendance, Mark Gray, team leader for the BSC’s church planting team, reported to the congress at Calvary.
Such growth is welcome, because Hispanics represent by far the biggest ethnic group in North Carolina, with numbers estimated to total between 800,000 and 1 million. That equals as much as 10 percent of the state’s total population. Hispanics now make up half the population of a number of towns in the state and now represent around 14 percent of the population in larger cities such as Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
The state convention also provides Hispanic leadership training and events for youth, ministries involving hundreds of Hispanics during the year. Fruitland Baptist Bible College now has a Spanish language track that enables Spanish speakers to get trained for church leadership in Spanish. Fruitland also operates several satellite centers for teaching courses in Spanish.
Adrián González, a pastor from El Salvador, spoke multiple times at both congresses on the envy, pride, jealousy, selfishness and other toxic traits that prevent Christians from fulfilling the Great Commission from God to reach the world for Christ. González was warmly received in both locations with “amens” and applause punctuating his messages.
Luis Tejera of Puerto Rico spoke on how to have a healthy church. Lester Urbina of Honduras told of his missionary work in his home country and of his plans to start a new Hispanic church in the Statesville area.
Alfredo Valencia urged the Hispanic leaders to reach not just other Hispanics but also the 154 different people groups now living in North Carolina. Hispanic church leaders can best be mobilized for such outreach through disciple making with an Acts 1:8 focus, he said.
Calvary Pastor Rob Peters urged the leaders to reach a million people for Christ. Matt Willis, Calvary’s associate pastor for missions and evangelism, said addition of new members is not enough – they must add through the process of multiplication instead. He offered free copies of Calvary’s “Los Cuatro Campos de Cultivo del Reino,” to those present to help them.
Ortega said there is a growing excitement among Hispanic Baptists in the state over events like the congresses and about the growing role Hispanic Christians are having in missions and evangelism. Hispanics also have increasingly important roles within the Baptist state convention; several Hispanic pastors have served on the convention’s Board of Directors. Greensboro pastor David Duarte currently serves on the board.
New convention resources in Spanish were premiered at the congresses: a printed piece, “Neustra Iglesia No Está Sola,” plus a new Spanish language video about Fruitland’s Hispanic ministry.