HOUSTON—Two Houston pastors are committed to multiplying their ministry by investing in the theological education of other Hispanic ministers in the area.
Equip pastors to minister
Bulmaro Luna, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Bautista Peniel, and Johnnie Musquiz, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Houston, want to equip pastors for the ministry to which God has called them.
“The vision of ministry can get stuck in one area when leaders do not have preparation,” Luna said.
With support from Seminario Bautista Teologico Mexicano, Luna started Seminario Teologico Bautista Peniel nine years ago, and three graduating classes have completed studies.
The most recent graduating class earned 85 credit hours at Louisiana Baptist University, which began a partnership with Seminario Teologico Bautista Peniel in 2015.
Programs of theological education like Seminario Teologico Bautista Peniel are important because the need already exists, and because that need does not show signs of slowing down, Luna noted.
Prepare other ministers to respond to God’s call
Like Luna, Musquiz saw the need to offer theological education to ministers in the Houston area. In fact, he grew up with it. Musquiz remembers being one of the few Hispanics in college and seminary.
Since he committed his life to ministry in 1975, Musquiz has seen one aspect of his calling as preparing others to respond to their own call from God.
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Iglesia Bautista Houston partnered with Baptist University of the Américas to offer Baptist Bible Institute certification, a 60-hour program that trains ministers in their own location at a low cost.
Most students are bivocational ministers who have to pay for their own materials and for the cost of the classes, without any financial assistance for education from the churches they serve.
“For someone to come and study here is a big sacrifice,” Musquiz observed.
Meeting a need
Programs such as Seminario Teologico Bautista Peniel and the Baptist Bible Institute program at Iglesia Bautista Houston make a big difference to Hispanic ministers who cannot afford to attend seminary and may not be able to meet their academic requirements, some participants noted.
“There are so many requirements for one to study in theological schools,” said Judith Espinal, who attends Seminario Teologico Bautista Peniel.
“Those schools are not at our reach, so this is a good opportunity,” her husband, Jose Espinal, added.
Even after ministers have served churches many years, some realize they need more training to serve better.
“There are times when one reads the Bible but does not understand what it is saying or whom the message is for,” said Luisa Mondragon, who has been in ministry 19 years, and started taking BBI courses at Iglesia Bautista Houston two years ago.
Mondragon believes God has called her to serve and teach other, and she wants to be equipped for that task.
“You can only teach your people what you know,” Musquiz said.
Both Luna and Musquiz receive help from family and other church members to run their congregations’ theological education programs. Luna’s daughter, Heidy, takes care of administrative tasks of Seminario Teologico Bautista Peniel. Musquiz’ wife, Melida, does the same for the BBI program at Iglesia Bautista Houston.
At both programs, volunteers help provide a dinner every week for the students, since many have to attend class immediately after work.
The programs depend on the support of other pastors. For instance, Moises Flores of Iglesia Bautista del Redentor in Houston teaches at Seminario Teologico Bautista Peniel and directs a theological school called Instituto Biblico Ministerial.
Church-based theological training schools face challenges. Both Luna’s and Musquiz’ programs need better resources, such a theological library for students to use. At this point, when students conduct research, they must rely on their teachers’ books.
Still, Luna insists, the work of the theological education programs is possible thanks to God’s provision. Often, that has been manifested through the sacrifice of the teachers who, although are offered reimbursement for their travel expenses to and from the school, often choose not to accept any compensation for their service.
Hispanic Texas Baptist churches need ministers to serve their congregations, and those ministers need to be theologically prepared, Musquiz said. As the Hispanic population in Texas continues to grow, that need likely will increase, he added.
“We need a hundred more of these for our people,” Musquiz said.