SPRING HILL — What at first seemed to the Burtons to be a simple visit from a Venezuelan friend turned into a natural collaboration among fellow Baptists which actually was a “providential plan” of God, explained William Burton of the Tennessee Baptist Convention staff.
Maria Burton, William’s wife, especially was glad to host Juan Lavado of Maracaibo, Venezuela, she said. Maria, a native of Venezuela who was a dentist there, met and married William while he was a Southern Baptist missionary in Venezuela from 1995-96.
Then the Burtons were called to Tennessee, where they planted and led Iglesia Bautista La Gran Comisión (The Great Commission Baptist Church), Morristown, for 13 years. Recently the Burtons and their two daughters were called to middle Tennessee where William serves as Hispanic/ethnic church planting/evangelism specialist for the TBC.
Maria explained that Lavado is a close friend of her brother in Maracaibo. Lavado works with International Crusades based in Dallas. He coordinates work for International Crusades, which is directed by Southern Baptists and is endorsed by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, for west Venezuela, north Columbia, Curaçao, Aruba, and French Guinea. He also is a leader of the Venezuela National Baptist Convention.
Lavado was in the United States to meet with staff of International Crusades in Dallas. He arrived in Tennessee Jan. 15 for a short visit with the Burtons.
William Burton said it was not until after Lavado had arrived and settled in with his family that he thought of the idea of Lavado meeting with the Hispanic Baptist Fellowship of Middle Tennessee. The HBFMT is planning simultaneous revivals to be held in September. What Burton did not realize until Lavado and he were meeting with HBFMT was that the group was already working with International Crusades.
Burton said he just thought Lavado would be able to encourage the Tennessee group in a general way.
“He is energetic and right on the cutting edge as far as preparation for evangelistic events goes,” he explained.
Burton realized that Lavado visiting Tennessee and then meeting with the HBFMT was “providential. God is probably bringing all of this together,” he recalled thinking.
Of course, Lavado trained the group in ways to work with International Crusades. HBFMT is led by Jorge Arenivas, pastor of Tecera Iglesia Bautista which meets at Third Baptist Church, Murfreesboro.
Burton noted that according to the 2010 census about 300,000 Hispanics lived in Tennessee at that time and Tennessee was the third fastest growing state in number of Hispanic residents from 2000-2010.
During the meeting Burton mentioned 1-5-1 Harvest Plants as a possible follow-up strategy to the revivals. Burton is deeply involved in Harvest Plants through his work with the TBC.
Harvest Plants are geared toward off-campus efforts (outside the four walls of the church building) aimed at gathering people who don’t know Christ as their Savior for the purpose of sharing the gospel, discipling people, and starting churches.
Churches that embrace this strategy make a commitment to start no less than 1 plant in the next year, making an effort, with the Lord’s help to reach, win, and baptize 5 people through each plant, and planning on each plant to start 1 plant by the end of the first year.
Burton said at the HBFMT meeting he began to recognize a new way to use Harvest Plants, and the HBFMT leaders as well as Lavado agreed. 1-5-1 Harvest Plants could be used to “conserve” the work of the revivals where people make professions of faith and rededicate their lives to Christ. The Harvest Plants groups could focus on discipleship to conserve the new Christians, explained Burton.
As a result of these discussions, before Lavado left the U.S., Burton arranged for him to meet with Bobby Welch, associate executive director of the TBC. It seemed only natural, said Burton, that Welch and Lavado meet after Lavado learned of the 1-5-1 strategy.
Welch encouraged Lavado to use the Spanish-language Harvest Plants materials in Venezuela, which Lavado took with him and also can access via the Internet.
Welch reported, “Already 1-5-1 is being used in a number of churches and on most continents around the world.
“An international Leadership Conference in Guatemala City, Guatemala, May 5-7, 2014 will include 1-5-1 training. Leaders from eight countries are expected to attend.”
Welch continued, “Lavado and Venezuela have been invited to attend and will be the most welcomed guests along with all others!”