PHOENIX (BP) -- AVANCE 2017 drew Hispanic Southern Baptists from across the nation on Monday (June 12) prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting to encourage more Hispanic congregations and their pastors to mobilize for missions.
Edgar Aponte, International Mission Board vice president for mobilization, encouraged those in attendance to fill up the ranks of missionaries and churches going out and sharing the Gospel.
"There is a minority of Hispanics in the IMB as missionaries," he said and added that Hispanics can reach into places other ethnicities can't because of how diverse Hispanic looks can be. "We have the ability to take the Gospel to places where Anglos can't go."
AVANCE, held in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting, is a partnership of LifeWay Christian Resources, the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, GuideStone Financial Resources and the SBC Executive Committee.
Aponte ended his message with a challenge to the group to "trust and obey our limitless God."
President and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee Frank S. Page also spoke to the group of Hispanic pastors and leaders expressing his love and appreciation for them and calling for more Hispanics to engage in missions and ministry.
"We deeply want the involvement of all Hispanic people," he said.
In the part of the evening called Cara-a-Cara, or One-on-One in English, IMB's Jason Carlisle interviewed LifeWay's Ariel Irizarry about discipleship. And NAMB's Ramon Osorio interviewed pastor Jose Abella about reaching Hispanics.
Carlisle, IMB director of Hispanic mobilization, asked Irizarry, LifeWay leader for equipping Hispanic churches, about how a church can reach and disciple new believers.
"It's important that people first know who God is and that we are sinners," Irizarry said and continued, "then we can tell them how to repent and follow Christ."
Irizarry emphasized that the church has to have a process that takes a new believer from the moment they make a profession of faith to the moment they are ready to make disciples themselves.
Abella, pastor of bilingual Providence Road Church in Miami, noted that "it's important to reach second generation Hispanics because there are a lot of them."
Some Hispanic churches, Abella said, are reluctant to start English services or plant Hispanic churches in English because they fear the new Hispanic generations will forget their culture.
"The church is not a place to learn languages," Abella said. "We tend to identify strongly with our cultures, and while our cultures should be something we celebrate, we are first and foremost Christians."
Abella responded to a question from Osorio, North American Mission Board Hispanic church planting catalyst, about the biggest challenge in reaching second generation Hispanics. Abella challenged pastors and leaders to continually look for ways to live out the Gospel at church and throughout the week.
The Hispanic gathering also heard from a panel on mobilization made up of pastor Fernando Mangieri, church member Ivan Ballines, and pastor Ivan Montenegro.
Mangieri, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Conexion in Chesterfield, Va., shared about planting a church to reach Mixtec people and how the church trained a Mixtec leader from within his own congregation to pastor the new plant.
Ballines, a building contractor and member of Iglesia Bautista Emanuel in Aurora, Ill., shared about how he volunteered and led mission teams at home and abroad to reach the lost and his latest work in India.
Montenegro, pastor of Tabernaculo Biblico Bautista in Lynden, Wash., spoke about how the majority of his church is now on mission. He noted that even those who have feared deportation no longer do so because if it were to happen they would use it as an opportunity to plant a church in their home country.
Emanuel Roque, Florida Baptist Convention Hispanic church catalyst, attended the meeting and said that "the next generation of disciples, leaders and missionaries need to be developed out of many existing Hispanic churches."
The newly formed Iglesia a Iglesia network -- or church to church in English -- was announced during the meeting.
The network is currently led by pastors Walter Montalvo of Iglesia Bautista Peniel in Richmond Hill, N.Y., associate pastor Elias Bracamontes from Iglesia Bautista Park in Topeka, Kan., and pastor Robert Lopez of Centro Cristiano Vida in Ocala, Fla.
In an official letter released by the organization, the pastors explain that the network's purpose is to link Hispanic churches to each other, to SBC life, and to churches of other ethnicities with the intent of planting new churches and fellowship.
"To reach this goal we believe our Hispanic churches need to associate also with churches of other ethnicities including Anglo churches and together reach our common goals," reads the letter in part.
The network currently does not have any elected officials but those positions will be created and filled during the network's next gathering which is yet to be determined.