Hispanics are strengthening their unity and cooperation within the Southern Baptist Convention by forming a leadership network set to launch at the 2015 SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, reports Baptist Press.
SBC Hispanic Relations Consultant Bob Sena announced the network in cooperation with Luis Lopez, director of LifeWay Espanol church resources, at a December 2 dinner meeting in Nashville attended by 65 leaders, including SBC Executive Committee CEO Frank S. Page and Hispanics from 23 Baptist state conventions.
Unity and communication among Hispanic Southern Baptists are essential to fulfilling the Great Commission, Sena said.
"Without God's intervention, and all of us, every one of us, working together, we will miss this strategic moment in history to impact the Hispanic world that is in such dire need of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ," Sena told the group. "Let us unite around the Great Commission. Let us unite around prayer. And remember, together we do more than by ourselves."
Sena appointed a five-member "mission and vision" team to organize the network for unveiling at Avance Hispano, the Hispanic gathering scheduled to meet during next year's June 16-17 annual meeting in Columbus.
"This committee will work and finalize what it's going to do, how we're going to develop a strategy, and then at the AVANCE meeting at the Southern Baptist Convention they will be announcing the steps that they have taken," Sena said. "They'll present us with information so that then we can right there officially, even more officially than today, launch the network that will help us to connect and to communicate with Hispanics around the country. And how interesting would it be if this became a worldwide connection?"
Guillermo Soriano, consultant for Hispanic evangelism and discipleship with North Carolina Baptists, will serve as mission and vision team facilitator. Joining Soriano are team members Fernando Amaro, Hispanic ministries facilitator of the Arizona Baptist Convention; Rolando Castro, missionary for church planting/evangelism, language churches and Hispanic church development, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware; Ana Melendez, a member of Cristo Es Rey Baptist Church, Bolingbrook, Ill., affiliated with the Illinois State Baptist Association; and Victor Rios, president of the Association of Hispanic Baptist Churches of New York/ New Jersey.
Page, who pledged to appoint an Hispanic Advisory Council within one day of his employment as Executive Committee president in 2010, encouraged Hispanics to become increasingly involved in SBC life.
"I'm excited about the days ahead, because I believe the work of Hispanic and Latino churches in our convention is going to take a whole new level of importance and involvement. And that's one of my big concerns that Hispanic churches not be seen as a fringe element," Page said. "I urge you to step up to the plate to get involved, to be involved, and I encourage you in that. And I thank God that we are partners together in the work of the Gospel."
The Hispanic and Latino population is the largest of all ethnic groups within the U.S., Page said, and is projected to outnumber Anglos by the year 2050. Page encouraged all Southern Baptists to be "pure in heart."
"In the Hispanic culture, we need leaders who will be pure in heart, so that when the people see you, they know there is no agenda, other than the agenda of Jesus Christ. And when they see me, they need to know there is no agenda other than that of Jesus Christ," Page said, encouraging pure hearts as Jesus emphasized in Matt. 5:8. "When Hispanics and Anglos and African Americans see leaders with that kind of heart, there will be unity. There will be a revival when they see a purity in heart. He did not say blessed are the perfect, he said blessed are the pure in heart."
Sena affirmed Page as a man of his word, and also thanked Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement, for his leadership.
"I'm so grateful to both of my leaders, to Frank Page and to Ken Weathersby," Sena said. "I can tell you from experience that I wouldn't be at this place or having accepted the responsibility as Hispanic consultant for the Executive Committee, if I didn't believe that Dr. Frank Page was a man of his word.... I have not seen one thing that has been an indicator of his not honoring his word."
Lopez, who hosted the meeting at LifeWay Christian Resources, said God is accomplishing unity among Hispanics.
"This [meeting] is a testimony that God is bringing a sense of unity among Hispanic churches that we haven't seen in many years, and we're grateful for that," Lopez said, extolling Page as a catalyst for diversity within the SBC.
"Dr Page, let it be known that we as Hispanic leaders pray for you," Lopez said. "We are thankful for your leadership and we're here to hear your heart and also to let you know that we support the work that God is doing through you."
Daniel Sanchez, who co-chaired the Hispanic Advisory Council with Sena, called the meeting a significant moment in SBC life, as it follows through on one of the council's key recommendations issued in a 79-page report during the council's final meeting in March.
"It is our prayer and hope that this network will expand the Kingdom of God, bring unity, reach the lost, strengthen churches, see more leaders involved in the life of the convention, increase giving to the Cooperative Program and participation in missions in North America and around the world," he said, speaking in Spanish as he read the recommendation from the report.
Sena encourages all Hispanic Southern Baptist pastors, church planters, denominational leaders, lay leaders and churches to support the network through prayer, pleading with the Lord for revival.