California pastors are exhausted.
It is no secret that the global church suffered huge challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of religious persecution and cancel culture, churches especially have felt the effects of extended lock downs and shrinking congregations.
California pastors are also coping with unique challenges, since they have had to stand firm and even fight to defend their religious freedom. Their beliefs are challenged on all fronts, and it is easy for them to feel they are losing the battle against a rapidly changing culture.
Hispanic pastors in the state are no exception.
For those pastors, the first Summit de Evangelismo that took place in Los Angeles this past Saturday was providential.
Since its launch in 2021, one of the goals of BGEA’s Hispanic Initiatives Ministry has been to strengthen the Hispanic church and encourage a renewed focus on Evangelism and revival.
With this in mind, the ministry announced that in 2022 it would hold three evangelism summits within the United States and one in Quito, Ecuador.
The first Summit de Evangelismo welcomed hundreds of local Hispanic pastors and church leaders for a day of plenary sessions, fellowship, praise and conversations aiming to energize evangelism efforts within the local church. The talks took place in English and in Spanish, and translation was provided in both languages.
The event was structured around 15 presentations by well-known Hispanic leaders in various areas of ministry, as well as several short messages presented on video.
While the presentations were divided into six subjects, a common thread tied the talks together—the importance of preaching the Biblical Gospel and targeting the church’s efforts on future generations.
Speaking on Galatians 6:4, Cuban-born writer Wendy Bello reminded the audience how easy it is for churches to deviate from preaching the Gospel of the Cross of Christ to a message that is popular and puts human welfare at the center.
“Brothers, if we are merely telling people ‘God loves you,’ that message is true, but it is not enough. We have a holy God who judges sin, and we can never come before Him unless we acknowledge our sin and put our trust only on the Cross and the blood of Jesus Christ.”
Lucas Leys, experienced speaker and writer who holds a PhD by Fuller seminary and describes himself as a mentor of future leaders of the church, argued that the church needs a paradigm shift.
“Most churches stem from the principle that pastors are there to serve and call adults, assuming that they will bring their children,” he said with characteristic dynamism. “But reality shows that the opposite is true: parents will go where they see their children flourishing.
“Brothers, young people complain that the church is boring and the worst thing is that many times it is true. We must transmit to the next generation that the Gospel of Jesus is the most exciting truth of life, because it tells us that we can do in his strength what we could never do in our own strength.”
Son of a Mexican church planter, pastor Eli Bonilla is a second generation Hispanic who speaks Spanish but feels more comfortable speaking in English.
“Whether you say I crossed the border or the border crossed me, it doesn’t make a difference,” he said. “God wanted you here to be committed with the proclamation of the Gospel… Can we believe that our Gospel is deep enough to reach anyone, and wide enough to reach everyone?”
“God really moved on this place,” Chris Swanson said. “Talking to pastors between sessions they commented, ‘This is what we needed. We’ve been praying for this for years.’”
“What the Hispanic church of California needs and hasn’t had until now is something like this, that calls us to unity as a church and calls us back to the main thing, which is the [proclamation] of the Gospel,” said one of the pastors in attendance.
“I think the throughline of this event has been unity. Unity regardless of your origin, unity among generations,” Bonilla said. “The simple and clear Gospel transcends all the cultural confusion of the moment and all the reports we’ve been hearing that we are losing the battle for truth. The reality is that we are not. The truth is still powerful; it is still relevant.”
“I am very grateful for this event,”said Jeff Tolle, Pastor of Vida Church LA. “The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association… has really shown their faithfulness. For us in the Latino community it is a privilege that [this organization] wants to contribute and be part of what God wants to do in and through this community.”
When asked to give an invitation to the upcoming events, Swanson shared: “Pastor, leader, church member who feels a passion for the Gospel, we want to see you in Chicago and Dallas, it will be an honor to have you join us,” he said. “We want to encourage you and also give you an exhortation that will serve you to keep running the race and fighting the good fight.”
The next events for Summit de Evangelismo for the Hispanic Church will take place in Chicago, Illinois, on September 10 and in Coppell, Texas, on October 15. Internationally, the Evangelism Summit for Latin America will take place August 29-31 in Quito, Ecuador.