GAINESVILLE. Ga. – Javier Chavez, church planter and senior pastor of the growing and dynamic Iglesia Bautista Amistad Cristiana International in Gainesville, will be nominated for the recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention at the annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif., next month. Amistad Cristiana means “Christian friendship” and Chavez’s winsome personality and the affable atmosphere of the church makes members and guests sense the hospitality afforded at the Gainesville church.
The Georgia Baptist pastor has served in various denominational roles, including the 2018 SBC Committee on Committees, as 2019-2020 second vice president of the Georgia Baptist Convention and the state convention’s executive committee. Chavez was nominated for SBC second vice president at the 2021 annual meeting in Nashville; and was narrowly defeated in a runoff vote.
Chavez, a former missionary kid, immigrated to the United States as a transfer college student and went on to pursue master and doctoral studies at Wheaton College and Biola University. He met his wife in Chicago, and as newlyweds embarked on a journey to South America to serve as missionaries for thirteen years. All four children were born while they were serving the Lord in Peru.
Chavez explained, “I was called, not necessarily to be a pastor, but I was called to serve people. I became a pastor when I lived in the Peruvian jungle. That is where I learned to be a pastor. That is where I learned to love people.”
Amistad Christiana is a church with a multifaceted ministry and works closely with Chattahoochee Baptist Association, the Intercultural Church Planting of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and is a cooperating church with #ReachingNextGen, an emphasis through the GBMB to share the Gospel with children and teenagers and disciple them in the faith. In addition to his role as pastor, Chavez finds time to be a visiting professor in the School of Theology and Missions at Truett McConnell University.
According to Chavez, he will be the only Hispanic American and the only Georgia Baptist messenger to be nominated for any SBC elected office in Anaheim. Chavez has expressed a willingness to serve not only because he wants to represent mainstream Southern Baptists, but also the growing population of Hispanics in America.
He remarked, “Hispanics now number more than 65 million people or almost 20 percent of the population in the United States, but we only have 3,600 Hispanic churches in our convention. We must do a better job of reaching out to this segment of our population. I commend the SBC for its concern in planting new churches and sending more Hispanics into the mission field, but I also believe that the Hispanic church in America needs to move from the receiving end to the contributing end in terms of financial support and become a part of the conversation where decisions are made.
After a valiant, but unsuccessful attempt to become an officer at the SBC meeting in Nashville last year, Chavez resolved to focus his attention on his local church, which is a part of Amistad Cristiana, Inc, an international missions and church planting enterprise developed by Chavez.
“However, it was my local church,” affirms Chavez, “that urged me to consider serving as Recording Secretary so that I might represent the sentiment of the growing Spanish-speaking demographic of our convention. After prayer and discussing the matter with my family we agreed that it would be good for me and my church to not only participate in the life of our Southern Baptist Convention, but to make myself available for an office that is less political and more about service.
“The idea of serving has represented my heart and the passion of my ministry for 21 years. The mere idea of being able to communicate what takes place at our annual meetings in the Spanish language, which is the language spoken in almost 4,000 churches across the SBC presents to us an opportunity to become a convention of congregations that resembles more of what heaven looks like.”
Chavez continued, “First, if I am elected, I want to serve all Southern Baptists, but I would seek to use my ability and influence to have the Book of Reports translated into other languages that represent the growing ethnic groups in our Southern Baptist family.
“Second, I would like to gather a group of volunteers for our annual meetings that resemble the breadth and width of our constituencies.
“Third, as an ex-officio member of the Executive Committee, I intend to inform the crucial decisions that are being made in that forum and help put those decisions in the proper context for the Hispanic church and the local Hispanic pastor. Many do not attend our annual meetings because of the language barriers. For our ethnic groups to be engaged and involved, they need to be informed.”
Chavez, added, “I fear that our Convention is fragmented; and I fear that there may be a growing distance between the denominational leadership and the members of the local church. Some are beginning to see a more hierarchical form of governance and administration. Our congregational system and the autonomy of the local church need to be understood within this context. I think if we change our mentality about leadership, we will have less executives and more servants.
“I dream of a united convention of churches. I have come to realize that in the SBC we will continue to have our differences and there may evolve some contrasts of ideas and opinions, but at the heart of everything we must respect each other as a part of God’s family. Let’s go back to what we do best together – carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth with a unity that is based on the absolute truth and authority of the Word of God.”
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here