April 5, 2013
HIALEAH—(FBC)Despite being imprisoned in the 1960s for preaching the gospel, Cuban pastor and author Alberto Gonzales steadfastly refused to leave his homeland as he persevered in reaching the seaport city of Cardenas for Christ.
Preaching during the Ethnicity conference Feb. 28-March 1 in Miami, the retired pastor, who still leads Cuba Baptists Gonzales, challenging participants to see their own city with the same as eyes as the church of Antioch saw theirs, the third largest in the Roman Empire.
A pagan city filled with corruption and prostitution, Antioch is “similar to the cities of our times,” said Gonzales through a translator. But the city played an “extremely important role in the expansion of Christianity, in some ways more than any other city.”
When persecution forced the Early Christians to flee Jerusalem for other cities in the Roman Empire, the believers continued to preach the gospel, but only to the Jews.
“They had heard the Great Commission from Jesus’ own mouth,” Gonzales lamented, yet they traveled to Antioch and “started preaching to the Jews, simply the Jews.”
When other believers from Cyprus and Cyrene crossed over the border to Antioch and began preaching the Lord to the Greeks, many accepted Christ as Savior. Barnabas and Paul came to Antioch and remained there for more than a year as the number of believers and the church grew.
“In my life as a pastor, sometimes we focus on the same people we preach to,” said Gonzales. “How hard it is to cross the border.
“Great multitudes come to the Lord simply when we do what the Lord has asked.”
Gonzales reminded participants that it was in Antioch where followers of Jesus were first given the name of Christians and from there the gospel spread among the Gentiles.
The church at Antioch demonstrated three qualities Gonzales said are needed in to evangelize the numerous ethnic groups in our cities today--obedience, humility and sensitivity.
“To reach people in our city we have to obey the Lord, be humble and sensitive to the needs and problems of the people,” he said. The church at Antioch demonstrated obedience in their willingness to share the gospel with all nations as Jesus had commanded them, he said. citing Acts 11:20.
Their spirit of humility, Gonzales said, was evidenced in that they were “full of grace” led by Barnabas, “a good man filled with the Holy Spirit and of faith.”
“Today’s Christians are sick with pride and impressed with our own leadership,” Gonzales said, “We like to be known, liked and acknowledged,” rather than taking on the mantle of humility.
Yet the Holy Spirit was at work there, through Barnabas, who spent his energy and time winning others.
Upon hearing that the church at Jerusalem was in need and hungry, the Antioch disciples took up a collection to send to their fellow believers, reflecting the church’s sensitivity, Gonzales said.
“We are not going to reach other groups unless we are sensitive to their problem, their needs and their suffering,” the Cuban Baptist leader said.
Instead, he said, we all too often choose to “despise” others from other ethnic groups, nationalities and cultures.
“You will never win the people you despise,” he warned. “To reach the nations, we have to bring them into our own neighborhood and treat them with compassion.”
He closed with a challenge to Miami Baptists. “Great cities provide great opportunities and great contradictions. What people are you are going to reach out in this city of Miami? You must show compassion and comprehension to minister in the city and nation.”
“May God open our eyes to those that are waiting for us to awake and bless them.”