- April 21, 2014
- By Jeff Johnson, BGCT President
Cultural conflict has caused some of the world’s bloodiest battles. Vignettes of violence fill the evening news. Today, cultural conflict is a danger for Christians in America, where our cities, neighborhoods and congregations experience tremendous demographical change.
Do you know what I’m talking about?
Has it hit your town yet?
Take a look around.
Our congregations will be challenged to respond in one of two ways—either (a) resist this trend and engage in Christian cultural conflict or (b) extend the hand of Christian fellowship and share the gospel.
Baptist Hispanic youth provide one of the brightest lights in our state. They are leading the way in offering Christian fellowship as an alternative to cultural conflict. I challenge all of us as Texas Baptists to follow their example.
This past week, Texas Baptists sponsored Congreso, the Hispanic youth and young adult conference. Congreso is the largest annual gathering of Hispanic Baptist young people in North America, as well as the largest Baptist General Convention of Texas event every year. Frank Palos is our director of Hispanic evangelism. He and his Hispanic evangelism events coordinator, Angie Carter, work diligently to reach the fastest-growing population segment in our state for Jesus Christ.
“Congreso is conducted in English for Hispanic students and has been the largest gathering of Texas Baptists for the last eight years,” Palos reports. “In this time, Congreso students have given over $52,000 for college scholarships and missions.” In addition, “about 2 percent of the current 1,100 Hispanic congregations affiliated with BGCT conduct English-only ministries to Hispanics.”
Jesse Rincones, executive director of Convencion, the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas, and also senior pastor of Alliance Church in Lubbock, notes: “Of the 30-plus Hispanic congregations in our association, the three largest churches are English speaking. There needs to be some type of bridge or landing pad for those coming out of the Congreso experiences that find themselves disconnected from the traditional Convencion or BGCT experiences.”
Pray for Palos as he leads in this effort. Pray for our Hispanic youth. This year’s Congreso celebrated what our Lord has done for Hispanic students’ lives through the conference for 50 years. Congreso 2014 took place April 17-19 at Baylor University in Waco.
As odd as this may feel, we should remember that such cross-cultural faith sharing really is nothing new. Jesus himself had such an experience with the woman of Samaria.
Open to change
But churches must be open to change.
We should be working toward the day when our Christian identity will tie us together in one international, multicultural community—a community that breaks down cultural barriers as Jesus did and worships the Father neither in Samaria nor in Jerusalem, but “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).
Until that time, we must face conflicts and misunderstandings together. We must dismiss the notion the Holy Spirit works exclusively among our particular culture. We should try to remember Texas Baptist churches belong not to Texas Baptists, but to God.
Thanks to Frank Palos for his leadership in Texas Baptist life, and thanks to Hispanic Baptist youth for lighting the way.
Jeff Johnson is president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and pastor of First Baptist Church in Commerce.