Most church planters and pastors start their ministry with the desire to become a multiplying ministry, multiplying disciples and/or churches. Every church leader wants their church members to love God, love His Word, and at least invite others to follow Him. However, this is not every ministry or church’s reality as time passes. Many churches get stuck, and the ministry declines or slows down. The answer to this problem is leadership multiplication.
Leadership multiplication is needed in every church, regardless of its size, language, or culture. When reaching the Hispanic community, pastors disciple a community of diverse backgrounds. Most of the Hispanic population have a Catholic background, and others do not have a solid biblical foundation from which to develop leaders.
Last year, SBC of Virginia partnered with the Bible Training Center for Pastors (BTCP) and ministry leaders to train a group of pastors to develop training centers in their areas. Seventeen Hispanic pastors attended BTCP’s training, which was entirely in Spanish. This training allows these pastors to go and train other leaders and church members in their regions. We pray this will lead to the birth of future church planters and pastors.
Pastor Julio Ruiz is the senior pastor at Iglesia Bautista Ambiente de Gracia in Fairfax, VA. He has been training members of his congregation since 2008 with BTCP’s curriculum. There have been at least three groups graduating out of his training center. “We are excited about what God has done,” shared Ruiz. “Out of our graduates, we have two new teachers for the training center; a missionary in Cucuta, Colombia; and Pastor Cristhian Serrano, an assistant pastor both at our congregation and Jerusalem Baptist Church (Fairfax Station).”
The church has a discipleship system with basic and intermediate tracks, and BTCP is considered the academic discipleship track. “This curriculum will provide any pastor with integral discipleship growth,” Ruiz explained. “We have new attendees who have not been discipled or equipped before coming to our church. We believe it is our responsibility to help them grow spiritually in every area of their lives.”
Pastor Diego Fernandez, the senior pastor at Iglesia Bautista Vida Nueva in the Richmond area, has been using BTCP since 2018. He shared, “We started the training center because we saw the great need to equip our people. This is hard work, but it is needed if we want our people to be ready for ministry.” One group has already graduated, and a new group is about to finish this year. Out of the first group, Vida Nueva has 20 new small group leaders, 15 leaders of ministry areas, and 2 church planters.
Five graduates transferred their credits to Louisiana Baptist University (LBU) to finish a bachelor’s degree. “This has been a start for some to complete their academic studies,” Fernandez explained. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary accepts LBU’s bachelor’s degree to continue a Master of Christian Ministries entirely in Spanish and, after that, a Doctorate of Ministry, also in Spanish.
Both pastors shared that the first group can be the hardest and, due to the lack of other trained teachers, pastors can end up doing most of the work on top of their pastoral duties. A solution to this is to work with other churches in the area. Pastor Ruiz will meet with other pastors in Northern Virginia to coordinate a training center for that area. Pastor Fernandez is also in conversations with other pastors in the Richmond area to work together and multiply trained disciples for that area
We are thankful for the results we are already seeing and the potential growth these training centers can bring. We are praying soon to start training centers in Norfolk and in the Southwest Region and to strengthen the association of churches training disciples in Northern Virginia and Richmond. We are confident this is a step to fulfilling the God-given vision of developing healthy churches that multiply! ■