Submitted by René Maciel, President
This past weekend Baptist University of the Américas was privileged to host the 6th Annual Hispanic Preaching Conference on our campus and at Theo Avenue Baptist Church. It was a great event for BUA, but more importantly it was a great event for Hispanic pastors from across Texas and Mexico. We had 262 pastors and ministers in attendance for this first year at BUA.
Participants enjoyed practical seminars with themes such as; sermon preparation, presentation of the sermon, preaching to youth, planning and leading different styles of worship, emotional health in ministry and prayer in the minister’s life. The Saturday session featured an inspiring keynote sermon by Rev. Gilberto Gutiérrez, pastor of Iglesia Buatista Horeb, Mexico City, and former president of the Convención Nacional Bautista Mexicana.
For the previous 5 years, Truett Seminary at Baylor University has hosted this important gathering which former dean Paul Powell initiated for the training of Hispanic church leaders and pastors. When I came from Truett to BUA, Dr. David Garland gave me his blessing to bring this meeting down to San Antonio and to BUA. I am grateful for his willingness to allow us to host this event. This event is now co-sponsored by Truett Seminary and the Office of Hispanic Ministries at the Baptist General Convention of Texas. We greatly appreciate their support and commitment to train Hispanic church leaders. We will continue to host this event each year in March and hope to see the conference grow every year as Hispanic ministers experience BUA as a vital source for ongoing education.
All of which begs the question, who else is training Hispanic evangelical church leaders today to meet the exploding need for churches and ministries to serve diverse Hispanic peoples? Who will train ministers to reach and serve the immigrants? Recent projections suggest that 82% of U.S. population growth from 2005-2050 will be due to immigrants and their descendants, according to a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center.
Who will reach the 2nd generation Hispanics that straddle two cultures with courage, and sometimes conflict, or the third or the fourth generations who have embraced much of mainstream American culture but for whom their Hispanic culture still looms large?
Not only are there issues of cultural knowledge and awareness at work here, but there are issues of economics and the skyrocketing cost of higher education. The tension will always exist where the more expensive an education one receives, the less inclined that graduate is to give their life in service to humanity, if for no other reason than “how will they pay off their college loans?” So it would seem we need culturally informed education at every economic level to serve every level and generation of Hispanic peoples. BUA provides both, the unique experience of theological education in a Hispanic learning community, and affordability that puts a quality education within reach of everyone.
Demographics alone are declaring that the training of Hispanic church leadership is one of the most important challenges for theological education in our generation. I am convinced that if the declining church in North America does not re-tool itself to welcome and serve the burgeoning Hispanic population, and thus be revitalized by them, it will miss the biggest ministry opportunity of the 21st century.
That’s why Baptist University of the Américas continues striving and advocating for the education of Hispanic ministers at all levels, from traditional diploma level courses that put education in the heart of the churches to accredited university degrees that can take a talented minister to the heights of education. We’ve been on this journey since 1947 and know the whole range of the educational terrain pretty well. This University is vital to Texas Baptists and to the world, and I am grateful to have that importance pictured perfectly at the recent preaching conference.
We appreciate your support and involvement. See you again next year!