on Monday, July 25, 2022

The conference “Cree,” Spanish for “believe,” drew more than 500 Hispanic pastors, staff members and lay leaders to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary July 15 and 16 in a first-ever gathering of its kind to encourage and equip Hispanic church leaders.

Representatives from churches across Louisiana and Mississippi attended the two-day event hosted by NOBTS, the New Orleans Baptist Association (NOBA), and Louisiana Baptists. Pastor Otto Sanchez, long-time pastor and director of the Dominican Baptist Theological Seminary in the Dominican Republic, was the keynote speaker.

Fabio Castellanos, event coordinator and director of the Spanish Online Education Programs at NOBTS, said the conference was well received.  

“There is a great thirst for the Word of God in the Hispanic people and God is using his tools such as the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, NOBA, and Louisiana Baptists to prepare His servants to walk with Christ, proclaim His truth, and fulfill His mission,” Castellanos said.

In the Friday night address, Sanchez drew from Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts 8, to urge participants to view the proclamation of the gospel as an “urgent mission.” Obedience to the mission must come “without protest, without delay and with a good attitude,” Sanchez added.

Proclamation of the gospel is a “non-negotiable” and the gospel must be explained accurately and must communicate that belief is not simply a “feeling,” Sanchez said. 

“The gospel is not felt, it is understood. That’s why it has to be explained,” Sanchez said. “That’s why Philip asked him ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’”

Salvation is “God’s work” and He directs that work as he pleases, Sanchez explained. “Believing in Christ is not a tradition, believing in Christ is not a mechanical act, it is the response of a Holy Savior, saving a person dead in crimes and sins,” Sanchez said. 

The conference grew out of a long-time dream of helping build unity among the Hispanic churches while helping them connect with ministry resources available through the seminary, Castellanos explained.

“God planted in my heart years ago the idea of having a Hispanic celebration at the seminary that would serve as a point of convergence for the growing and devout Hispanic Baptist community and the seminary,” Castellanos said.

Castellanos gives God credit for the event.   

“I am sure that God was behind it all,” Castellanos said. “I could not grant the success of the conference to the event itself but to His mercy toward the Hispanic people and those involved.”

The feedback Castellanos received included gratefulness for the conference’s focus on living in unity, integrity, and with devotion to God; the emphasis on family; the chance to gather as a Hispanic community; the challenge to live in ways consistent with scripture while living separate from culture.

David Speed, pastor of the Metairie and New Orleans campus of Iglesia Celebration, also spoke at the conference. Speed is a former missionary to Mexico and Guatemala and a NOBTS student.  

David Lema Sr., pastor of New Orleans’ First Baptist Hispano-American Church who has served the New Orleans Hispanic community for fifty years, expressed gratitude for what the conference accomplished. Lema said, “In this conference, the past, the present, and the future of the Hispanic Baptist Church have been brought together.”