On May 2, I had the privilege of sharing God’s Word with the Bethel Baptist Church, Roswell, church family. The day before, May 1, would have been my dad’s 78th birthday had he not passed away in 2009. He is interred at South Lawn Cemetery in Roswell. Since I was going to be in Roswell on May 1, I thought I would put some flowers on his gravesite to honor his birthday. Then, I thought, “Why stop with him? Why not put flowers on the gravesites of other family members?” Have you ever had thoughts that led to plans that quickly outgrew you?
I put this plan into effect before I left my sister’s house that morning (she lives in Farwell, Texas where I had stayed because I had been in Clovis the day before). She went with me to purchase the flowers. We estimated what we thought would be enough to put a small bouquet on each grave. We were wrong.
I started with my parents. Then, moved to each set of my grandparents. Then I found my dad’s mom’s parents. Then, I found a great-aunt and uncle. I had parceled everything out pretty well for a guy whose usual interaction with flowers is over the phone as I send flowers to someone. As I started to leave, I realized that it was likely that my dad’s dad’s parents were also there. This set of great-grandparents passed away long before I was born; and for some reason, I had never visited that site.
Do you know you can find just about anything on the Internet? Even people’s gravesites. After figuring out the system by which the graves were located, I found my great-grandparents; Ardemas and Ollief. In life they went by A.C. and Josie. I returned Sunday afternoon with the larger bouquets than I had brought the day before. I just figured it had likely been sometime since someone had honored them in this way. I have a lot of family in South Lawn Cemetery.
Then, I did something some of you may find strange. I just started walking through the cemetery reading gravestones and wondering about the stories that were buried on these grounds. I found stones that recognized men who had given their lives in WWI and WWII. I found a stone from a man who served in and survived both of those conflicts. I found stones from men who served in the Union Army and others who served in the Confederate States of America. I found stone after stone after stone that listed names of people, their dates of birth and their dates of death. But, I found very, very few stones that attempted to tell anything about their lives. Those stories had been silenced.
Finally, I found an interesting stone. It was erected for a husband and wife. The declaration below their names and information professed, “Gone, but not forgotten.” The husband’s dash information was complete. He was born in 1873 and died in 1947. She was born in 1878. No one recorded her date of death on the stone. I looked this up also. She died in 1959 and was buried in this plot. Evidently, “Gone, but quickly forgotten.” That experience made me wonder how many things do I profess, but my actions fall short?
In 2015 our convention of churches decided on five objectives to attempt to reach by 2025. In this column, I’ve been reviewing those objectives. Finally, we arrive at the last and most ambitious. We professed that we want to reach 1,000,000 unreached Hispanics through disciple-based evangelism strategies.
The ambition of the goal is seen in the fact that there are just barely more than 1,000,000 Hispanics in New Mexico. I like the ambition that professes we want to reach all Hispanics for the Kingdom. However, even though I do not have the numbers in front of me, I think my guess that we have not moved the needle much over the last few years in the numbers of Hispanics we are reaching, is at least close to true.
So, what do we do? Make a profession of intent and walk away? I certainly hope not. I would suggest that we need to double down. We need to grab hold of the heart of a God that “is not wanting any to perish but all come to repentance.” We need to decide to commit resources to joining God in His task of calling people to Himself.
As I speak to pastors and leaders across our state, we do have some pretty awesome successes in reaching Hispanics for Christ. However, we are not, yet, experiencing the type of movement that sees anything close to the “church planting movement” we need to reach 1,000,000 Hispanics with the Gospel.
You are the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. Together we work cooperatively to reach our communities and the world with the Gospel of Jesus. May each church determine the most effective strategy for them to most effectively reach people (including Hispanics) with the Gospel. May our cooperation together through the BCNM prove to be incredibly effective to reach all peoples of our great state with this Good News. May we never be accused of having actions that fall way, way short of our professions.