Almost every small town or large city in Arkansas has one – a Mexican restaurant. It’s one of the most popular places to grab a bite to eat. We walk in, sit down, and begin to hear Spanish phrases from the employees as they interact with each other or brave customers practicing their Spanish. In this environment while we are enjoying our chips and salsa, do we ever stop and think if there is a church reaching these Hispanic employees?

This is what Francisco Gomez, Hispanic Church Planting Strategist for the ABSC Church Planting Team, wants believers and churches thinking about as they go to local restaurants. It’s what the Lord of the harvest wants all believers and churches to be thinking about as they go about their daily lives. Who around us needs to hear the Gospel? Do the people sitting near us have a church family where they can worship God in their heart language and hear the Truth of God’s Word on a regular basis?

There are churches who do see the community around them. They notice the diversity of ages and ethnic groups, and they recognize the need for more churches to reach more people here in Arkansas. These sending churches begin to pray – asking God to show them what steps they need to take to plant another church. Sometimes they seek to identify people within their congregations who need to be sent out to begin a new mission. Many times, these sending churches contact the ABSC Church Planting Team and ask for assistance in identifying and equipping planters before they are sent out.

That’s the main purpose of the Church Planting Team’s Assessment Retreat. These retreats offer a process that sending churches can walk through with potential church planting candidates. So far in 2020, three assessment retreats have been held – one in March before COVID restrictions, one in September using Zoom and following safety guidelines, and most recently, another one in October specifically assessing four Hispanic couples.

The retreat itself may only be one day from 9am to 4pm, but weeks and months of preparation have gone into the assessment of these potential planters. Background checks, reference letters, personality tests, personal questionnaires, and marriage assessments have all taken place before the couples arrive at the retreat. Then, at the retreat, they have the opportunity to hear each other’s stories of how God has called them to plant a church. As they share these stories, assessors are listening and asking them questions. They are seeing if these couples have what it takes to plant a church that will last.

It’s a full day of interviews, sharing God’s call, sharing the vision for the plant, preaching a six minute evangelistic message, and asking God to make it clear to each couple and each assessor specific areas where the potential planters and their wives can grow. After the retreat, the couples and the sending churches receive feedback from the assessment team. This feedback is designed to help each couple move forward to follow Jesus and see their communities impacted with the Gospel.

On October 17, four couples were assessed.  Two sending churches identified four couples, and now there is potential for four Hispanic church plants. There is still much to be done, small groups to be formed, money to be raised, meeting places to be found, renovations and prayer walking, but the journey has begun for these couples and their sending churches. Will you join us in praying for them? Will you join us in looking for those around you whom God may be calling to plant a church? Will you join us in watching God multiply two sending churches into six Christ exalting churches?

How to pray:

Pray for each of the locations where they will be planting: Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Little Rock, and Texarkana.

Pray for God’s financial provision for each couple.

Pray for God to strengthen their marriages and family as they make the transition to plant a new church.

Pray for a strong and healthy relationship between the sending church and the church plant.

Pray that God will give each church planter favor in the community as he builds relationships and wins opportunities to share the Gospel.

Pray for the health and safety of each couple and family.

Pray for God to give them wisdom as they gather in small groups and do effective ministry in each community.

This article was written by Francisco Gomez, Hispanic Church Planting Strategist at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC).

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