How are they to hear?
November 1 2001 by Laura Thompson , BR Intern

How are they to hear? | Friday, Nov 2, 2001

Friday, Nov 2, 2001

How are they to hear?

By Laura Thompson BR Intern Iglesia Bautista Misionera of Pittsboro is reaching beyond the local community with the message of Christ. Pastor Javier Benitez places a strong emphasis on discipleship to good effect. Eleven churches are now led by ministers from the Pittsboro congregation. Those churches are also engaging in training and have sent ministers into even more communities.

For now, the Pittsboro congregation's work must go on without its pastor. Benitez is currently continuing his education in Texas, where and his wife, Alma, are attending the Hispanic Baptist Theological School (HBTS) in San Antonio. Benitez is taking 18 course hours each semester, trying to get back to his church as soon as possible. In his absence, deacons from his congregation lead church services.

Because of a lack of Spanish-language programs in the region, Hispanic ministers like Benitez often face separation from their congregations in order to pursue theological training.

Most locally available programs are not accredited to offer course credit or degrees. Moving to San Antonio to attend HBTS is one of few options available to North Carolina's Hispanic ministers.

John Jones, BSC Hispanic/Latin American consultant on church planting, is chairman of a task force set up by the BSC to study needs in the Hispanic mission field.

A key part of the task force's report was a survey of Hispanic pastors. One hundred percent of pastors surveyed expressed an interest in theological education with one third having only a limited English proficiency. These pastors need education presented in Spanish and focused on the specific needs of Hispanic congregations.

"The opportunity is there and the interest is there," Jones said. "It's just a matter of creating a program that will meet the students' needs and provide the training that they need for ministry."

One of the problems resulting from this need is a lack of trained leadership for Hispanic churches. The task force's report states that there is an "extreme shortage of qualified leadership." Because the task force has set a goal of 300 new Hispanic ministries over the next 10 years, that need will continue to grow.

"If we are going to have 300 new churches in North Carolina, we are going to have to start growing our own leaders. We can't expect to keep pulling them from Texas," Jones said. "The ultimate goal would be to develop capable and qualified church planters in North Carolina."

Jones said he appreciates Pittsboro's contribution to the need for leadership. "Pastor Benitez is an effective motivator," Jones said. "He understands the needs of the community across the state and nation and has often sacrificed good leadership from his church to this need."

When asked about his vision for the future, Benitez said, "I know I will not lose the vision of opening more churches. I would like to open one every year."

Although the task force has not finished its research, Jones is already imagining the possibilities. "My dream would be that we would have something to offer through some of our colleges or divinity schools that would provide training for the Hispanic community at large," he said. "We have to have trained leaders and the current structure does not provide the training that they need."

(EDITOR' NOTE - Sims Poindexter, member of Pittsboro Baptist Church, contributed to this story.)

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11/1/2001 11:00:00 PM by Laura Thompson , BR Intern | with 0 comments
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