Former IMB missionary to Spain tapped to lead SBTC’s Hispanic Initiative

The long search is over for a director of the Hispanic Initiative, an effort to increase the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention?s ministry to the state?s fast-growing Hispanic population.

During its summer meeting Aug. 3 at the SBTC office in Grapevine, the convention?s Executive Board voted unanimously, with several glowing verbal endorsements from those present, to elect Mike Gonzales of McAllen, director of missions for Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association, to the post.

Gonzales, 55, is a former Southern Baptist missionary to Spain and former ethnic evangelism consultant to the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Chiefly, he will lead in helping the SBTC advance theological education and church ministry among Hispanics.

Gonzales served in ministry and pastoral positions in several Texas churches, most recently as pastor at First Mexican Baptist Church of Pleasant Grove in Dallas. He has been director of missions in the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association since 2002 and before that was an area director/Hispanic liaison for the Annuity Board and for seven years ethnic evangelism consultant with the BGCT. His longest tenure was as an International Mission Board representative in Spain from 1976-91. Before his missions call, Gonzales said he spoke little Spanish and knew he?d need to be fluent.

David Galvan, board member and longtime friend, introduced Gonzales, saying the search committee ?feels this is God?s man for this position.?

Gonzales told the board: ?I do feel that God is in this and he has guided me through this pilgrimage. And now I?m seeing how God is touching my life and other lives? through Hispanic ministry.

Gonzales said he was saved at age 12 at Primera Iglesia Mexicana in Baytown, lured to the church?s Vacation Bible School by free snow cones.?By the end of the week, through the missionary stories and all the other things we were doing, God touched my heart,? Gonzales said.He said he grew up in that church and attended East Texas Baptist University and later Howard Payne University, where God called him to preach.

Gonzales earned a bachelor?s degree at Howard Payne in 1971 and was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree from there in 2000. He holds a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. ?I?m so happy that God has a hand upon a life,? Gonzales said. ?And I?m so happy at this particular point in my life that God is just tugging at my heart. And I feel that, hey, I?m at 55, and there?s so much to be done in the state of Texas. ?I do speak Spanish now, by the way. I?m very fluent,? he said.

Gonzales said he agrees with the SBTC?s core values of theological agreement based on biblical inerrancy, its missions emphasis and a commitment to the Southern Baptist Convention?s CP missions funding channel.

?I?m a believer in the Cooperative Program,? Gonzales said. ?During the 15 years we were in Spain we were blessed (by the CP) and Lottie Moon. God was able to minister to us and use us in a tremendous way.?

Gonzales said he hopes to help build an ?education superhighway? into the Hispanic culture to reach people with the gospel that might include cooperation with SBTC partner schools. The effort, which is a primary part of the Hispanic Initiative, involves increasing theological education among Hispanics from the G.E.D. level to the doctoral level.

Don Cass, SBTC evangelism director and a former BGCT colleague of Gonzales, said Gonzales ?is a soul winner and you can depend on him when he goes out into the field to share the gospel very faithfully, not only in pulpits, but wherever he is?airports, whatever?he?ll be telling the story of Jesus Christ. I believe God is smiling on this convention in bringing Mike Gonzales our way.?

Gonzales will work with Cass in organizing a Hispanic session of the Empower Evangelism Conference and in developing Spanish-language evangelism tools. Gonzales and his wife, Dalia, have one daughter, Angela Jolley, and two granddaughters. In other action, the board:

– extended the affiliated partnership with The Criswell College. The agreement will be reviewed by Dec. 31, 2009 and at least every five years following. Also, the SBTC will, beginning next year, give 3.25 percent of its undesignated in-state Cooperative Program funds to the college, paid monthly. Until now, the SBTC has budgeted an annual amount rather than a percentage gift to the school. The SBTC will distribute $200,000 in budgeted funds to TCC in 2003.

– witnessed the official signing of an agreement?approved at the spring board meeting?between the SBTC and Jacksonville College. The two-year college is a Baptist Missionary Association of Texas school and is an affiliated institution of the SBTC, which qualifies its for budgeted funding. Houston Baptist University, which has a ?fraternal? relationship with the SBTC, receives no budgeted funding.

– approved funds to dedicate a room at East Texas Baptist Family Ministry in memory of Betty Lane Richards, late mother of SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards.

– changed the job title of Terry Coy, ethnic church planting strategist, to senior church planting strategist/planter and partner development. Robby Partain, SBTC missions director, said Coy will oversee all ethnic church planting and will be the lead strategist in helping associations and churches plant churches.

– changed the job title of Leroy Fountain, urban church planting strategist, to church planting associate/planter resourcing and mentoring. Partain said Fountain, a longtime NAMB missionary, is skilled in ?walking through the covenant relationship? sponsoring bodies have with church planters. He will monitor church plants and build mentoring relationships, Partain said.

– approved Texas native Joe Atchison for the 2004 Paul Pressler Award. Atchison, born in Harlingen and raised in Brownsville, was instrumental in returning the SBC Christian Life Commission, which once championed moderate to liberal social views on abortion and other issues?to the biblical values of most Southern Baptists. Atchison served as a pastor many years in Texas, for three years in Arizona and later as a pastor and director of missions in Arkansas.

In a letter to the board, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards wrote of Atchison, ?As chairman of the Committee on Nominations and other positions, Bro. Joe worked to bring about the course correction in the SBC.?

– Adopted a 2005 budget of $19.2 million, up from $16.3 million in 2004. Addressing the board, Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis said through June 30, Cooperative Program receipts were $8.9 million?$1.2 million above last year at the same date and on pace to reach $17.8 million by year?s end. The SBTC CP budget for 2004 is $15.7 million. Offerings given through the SBTC to Southern Baptist international (Lottie

Moon) and North American (Annie Armstrong) missions are significantly up from last year, Davis reported, as are gifts given through the SBTC toward the Reach Texas offering for state missions.

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