Christian leaders need Bible as foundation, Hispanics told

August 2, 2019

Church planters and leaders must depend steadfastly on the Bible as God’s Word, on Jesus Christ and the gospel if they want to give glory to God as they lead.

That was the essence of eight sermons delivered to more than 300 Hispanic church leaders who attended a Hispanic Congress held July 19-20 at Fruitland Baptist Bible College in Hendersonville, N.C., with the theme, “Leadership for His Glory.”

The gathering was coordinated by William Ortega, Hispanic church planting consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSCNC) Church Planting Team; Marco Hernandez, pastor of Agua Viva Baptist Church in Hendersonville; and Alberto Berrio, a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Hendersonville.

Ortega coaches and encourages Hispanic church planters across North Carolina, including many in western North Carolina. Hernandez and Berrio have been active in Baptist state convention life for years.

Music and most messages were presented in Spanish, and English speakers were translated into Spanish. Speakers delivered strong messages with thoughtful lessons from Scripture and from life — messages were repeatedly punctuated by applause and “amens.”

Pastor Joselo Mercado told how many people in Indonesia escaped drowning in typhoon-driven floods by holding onto solid things that saved them.

“Like that, believers must hold onto the Word of God,” Mercado said, “from childhood to the end (of life).”

He said Scriptures can lead to wisdom by giving you the realization of lostness and can lead you to Jesus Christ. The Bible without Christ is not the Word of God, Mercado said.

“At the end of a sermon, if you say, ‘Where is Christ?’ then the gospel was not preached,” he said.

In a message on Christian marriage, Mercado said God designed marriage for His glory.

“It’s not for my happiness, and it’s not for my satisfaction,” he said.

Following the Bible should result in a marriage that is a sign of the miracle of salvation, Mercado said. When he travels, sometimes pastors want to talk about how many books they have read: “I say, ‘How do you relate to your wife?’”

Mercado, who presented three messages, is a native of Puerto Rico who is now serving as senior pastor of Grace Sovereign Church in Gaithersburg, Md. He is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Chuck Register, the BSCNC’s executive leader for Church Planting and Missions Partnerships, commended the gathering for their partnership in reaching North Carolina’s estimated 1 million Hispanics with the gospel.

Scriptures can lead to wisdom by giving you the realization of lostness and can lead you to Jesus Christ. The Bible without Christ is not the Word of God.

In a brief message, Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSCNC executive director-treasurer, built on the concept of partnership.

“I am very delighted and thankful that you are living here in North Carolina,” Hollifield said.

Citing Acts 17, he said God has made from one blood every nation of man to live on the earth and pre-appointed the times and the boundaries of their habitation.

“So I believe, because of what the Word of God says, it is not by accident that you are living here in North Carolina,” Hollifield said. “I believe God led you to be here.”

Referring to the state’s 1 million Hispanics, Hollifield said, “I am thrilled that many of them are coming to faith in Christ the Savior. Some of you represent that today.”

Referring to the great unrest in the nation over immigrants coming to this country, Hollifield said his heart is saddened because of this.

“But today I give you the good news — that God is still on His throne, and He is in charge of your lives,” Hollifield said. “I want you to pray to Him and trust in Him for your future. Continue to pray for your children, for God’s safety and protection for them.”

Hollifield said he could see the faces of many Hispanics who are serving in leadership roles with the Baptist state convention.

“I want that number to grow,” he said. “I want you to be an active part of the Baptist state convention.”

Others cast a vision for a reproducing church planting movement throughout the state.

“Our heart for you is that you would plant reproducing churches,” Mike Pittman told the assembly. Pittman leads the Baptist state convention’s Church Planting Team that includes Ortega.

“We pray that you will start churches that will start churches that will start churches.” Pittman said. “We pray that you will raise up church planting pastors who our Father will use to extinguish the darkness. We pray that you will reach your children and your grandchildren with the gospel and that we will multiply God’s kingdom here in North Carolina.”

Pittman praised Ortega as one of the world’s greatest church planting strategists.

“I’m proud of our team and we’re just getting started,” Pittman said. “God is doing amazing things, and we believe the future will be incredible. Our state needs Jesus.”

Speaker Otto Sánchez presented several messages on leadership. He challenged leaders to take time to withdraw and retreat from ministry so they can meditate and focus on God.

“When was the last time in our service we stopped hearing ourselves to hear a word from the Lord?” he asked. “For that is essential to have a relationship with God.”

Sánchez is pastor of Ozama Baptist Church in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where he is also director of the Dominican Baptist Theological Seminary.

Sánchez told how Jesus took time from His preaching and healing to retreat and pray and rest.

“We live in a world where even pulpits are filled with noise and there is no silence for meditation,” he said, “And so it is necessary to retreat.”

He urged leaders to handle with integrity information they receive in confidence by keeping that information private.

“Gossip does not edify,” Sánchez warned.

In another message, Sánchez described the stages of ministry and said leaders must be aware of the stage they are in. Pastors who are in a stage of decline can take steps to move out of it, he said.

Preaching from Nehemiah 5, Steven Blanton described how the prophet modeled good leadership traits as he led the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Blanton is senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Hendersonville and teaches at Fruitland.

He told how Nehemiah refused to burden the suffering people and refused to take the salary to which he was entitled: Over 12 years he earned but declined to take shekels that today would be worth about $1 million.

“Let us consider this as we serve God’s people,” Blanton said. “You and I may never see $1 million in our lifetimes, but we can give our people a $1 million effort.”

Blanton warned pastors against developing a sense of entitlement, telling how a pastor friend of his had embezzled money from his church and eventually was caught and served more than 10 years in prison. If you are facing criticism in your ministry, “and you feel in your heart a sense of entitlement rise up inside you, be careful my brothers and sisters. This will not end well!”

Primary sponsors of the conference were the Baptist state convention and Fruitland, but Hendersonville area churches also provided volunteers, funds and other help. Volunteers were provided by Agua Viva Baptist Church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Biltmore Church and Mud Creek Baptist Church. First Baptist Church of Hendersonville provided food for one of the meals.

by Mike Creswell  
/  Contributing Writer

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