Filipino Southern Baptists have taken “the first step toward supporting our first church planter.”
Dan Santiago, executive director of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America, highlighted the good news in opening the FSBFNA’s June 14 annual meeting.
Vic Delacruz with his wife Radha are planting Biblical Community Church East in Mesquite, Texas. Delacruz said the new congregation, with a core team of nine families, intends to be “intentional and authentic” in its evangelistic outreach, discipleship and “in our preaching and the way we live.”
The mother church for the new plant is Biblical Community Church, Richardson, Texas, where Delacruz has served as associate pastor the past three years. The Baptist General Convention of Texas also is a partner in the plant.
Biblical Community Church East launched in January after three years of prayer, including months of online worship necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Home fellowship groups are slated to begin this fall.
An estimated 3,000 Filipino families are expected to settle in Mesquite in the next three years, Delacruz told The Baptist Paper, noting the Dallas-area city already is one of the key Filipino population centers in the region.
The FSBFNA affirmed the recommendation of Delacruz and Biblical Community Church East during a site visit with the core team earlier this year by Santiago, the fellowship’s volunteer executive director and lead pastor of Covenant Christian Church, Jacksonville, Florida.
‘Affirmation of my calling’
Delacruz said he is grateful for the fellowship’s support as “an affirmation of my calling” in leaving a full-time IT position.
About 150 Filipino pastors, wives and guests attended the three-hour meeting and a fellowship dinner at Lincoya Hills Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee, in advance of the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 15-16 annual meeting in the downtown Music City Center.
Among 200-plus Filipino churches affiliated with the SBC, nearly 70 have been active in the FSBFNA, with Santiago reporting that several are providing $100 per month support for church planting.
The fellowship’s president, Felix Sermon, pastor of the Washington-area Grace International Christian Church, Springfield, Virginia, spoke of people having become comfortable watching worship services in their living room and, now, the challenge of “getting them back into the church.”
Sermon, referencing the Israelites crossing the Jordan River in his presidential message, called on pastors to “cross that river of pandemic to go to the other side to continue fulfilling the great ministry God has given us.”
Pastors may be weary of meetings over Zoom and Facebook Live, Sermon said, but “there is no change in the ministry God has called you to. … God’s movement for your life will never change.”
‘Who are you in Christ?’
The fellowship’s featured speaker, Sonny Vitaliz, lead pastor of International Christian Church, Virginia Beach, set forth key issues in a pastor’s service. Among them: “Who are you in Christ? What have you become in Christ?”
In addition to Sermon, the FSBFNA’s other four officers were unanimously reelected: Henry Amarila of California – West Coast vice president; Jessie Arce of Delaware – East Coast vice president; Bert del Castillo of California – treasurer; and Melvin Guerrero of Florida — secretary.
Representatives from three SBC entities brought greetings to the Filipino attendees: Jeremy Sin, North American Mission Board church planting catalyst; Luigi Almine, International Mission Board’s Nehemiah Teams leader for student missions involvement; and Hoon Im, GuideStone Financial Services associate relationship manager.
Music for the meeting was provided by a nine-member multi-ethnic team from Filipino American Bible Church, Antioch, Tennessee, with bass guitarist and bivocational pastor Rene Abella, a Homeland Security official in Tennessee.