ANAHEIM, Calif. (BP) – On Sunday night, June 12, 500 Hispanic pastors, wives, missionaries and leaders gathered for a night of fellowship, worship and encouragement in the Anaheim Convention Center preceding the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting.
For the pastors that traveled from places far and near, the celebration was the perfect way to kick off their time in Anaheim. Pastor Juan Carlos Regalado and his wife Lolyta traveled from Tampa, Fla., and were moved by the message delivered by special guest Erick Zaldaña.
“It was very encouraging and informative for me to hear pastor Erick’s message on the Biblical strategy to move the church forward following the pandemic,” he said.
Zaldaña is the pastor of Shadow Mountain en Español in El Cajon, Calif. Reading from Nehemiah 1, he preached a message on the strategy churches can use to navigate a crisis and recover – a message that most found useful as they steer their churches to a place of recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a three-part sermon, Zaldaña brought Nehemiah’s strategy to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall to a present-day context. First, there must be a spiritual evaluation of the church just as Nehemiah first performed a spiritual evaluation of Jerusalem when he was called to rebuild the wall.
Next, leaders must develop an action plan to improve the ministry of the church where the evaluation finds that it is lacking. Finally, there must be a plan to restore the church. Restoration, he said, involves preaching the Bible, finding joy, confessing, repenting from sin and being committed to the work once again.
Zaldaña encouraged the pastors by telling them that it is not their titles or skills that have made them qualified to pastor, but rather the calling that God placed on their lives.
“God chose you because of the condition of your heart not for your qualifications,” he said. “This is the only profession that you are chosen for, not that you choose for yourself.”
Julio Arriola, director of Send Network Texas, led worship accompanied by Shadow Mountain en Español’s worship team. Worship was interwoven with a time of prayer led by Emanuel Roque. Roque, Hispanic church catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, led the group to pray, giving praise and thanks to God and acknowledging His greatness. He also prayed for forgiveness, for the victims of sexual abuse and for guidance on responding to the issue of sexual abuse in the SBC; and he prayed for missionaries and church planters present.
Rodolfo Lagos was honored by Lifeway Christian Resources and Dallas Baptist University for his ministry to California Baptist churches even as he has struggled with his health during the past two years. Lagos is the president of the Hispanic Baptist Alliance of California. With tears in his eyes and standing after being confined to a wheelchair for months, Lagos said that “all the glory belongs to God.”
As the attendants enjoyed dinner, they heard from representatives from Southwestern, Midwestern, Southern and New Orleans Baptist theological seminaries as well as the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, Lifeway, Dallas Baptist University, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Criswell College, GuideStone Financial Resources, Innovative Faith Resources and Star Church.
Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton stopped greeted the gathering and asked attendees to please pray as the SBC heads into a week where difficult matters will be discussed. Interim executive director of the SBC’s Executive Committee, Willie McLaurin, also addressed the group and thanked them for their faithful giving to the Cooperative Program and presented Luis Lopez as the new executive director of Hispanic relations and mobilization for the EC, a role vacated by Arriola.
Pete Ramirez, newly elected executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention, welcomed the gathered Hispanics to Anaheim and asked them to “send your young Hispanic men to us,” adding: “We need them.” There is much Gospel work to be done in California, he said, and there is a great need for Hispanic pastors to minister to other Hispanics in English and Spanish.
The evening closed in worship and a prayer led by Zaldaña for a recommitment to ministry.