Rick Martinez: ‘Miami is the future today’

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Rick Martinez began serving Miami Baptist Association as associational mission strategist on July 1. Here, he shares some of his thoughts as settles into his new role serving the diverse, multicultural association of churches. Pastors and others may reach Martinez at rickm@mbachurches.org.

What is your ministry background?

Rick MartinezMy family and I have served the past 20 years with the International Mission Board, all in Latin America. Most recently, we served eight and a half years in Mexico City, Mexico, where I was the team leader.

How do you see your ministry background preparing you for your new role in the Miami Baptist Association?

When I served as team leader in Mexico City, my role was to take a comprehensive look at the city and determine what needed to be done to reach the entire city. I would ask questions such as, “What areas of the city lack biblical churches?” “Which peoples or ethnic groups are represented in the city, and are they being evangelized?” “Are there other segments of the population that are underrepresented when it came to the gospel?”

As these questions were being answered, our team would then attempt to determine who among the broader evangelical world was already working to fill the gaps. Knowing who else was working in the city and where was important to the question of what needed to be done to reach the city. The question was never, “What can I do to reach the city?” If our team asked the more limiting question, “What can we do?” we would be overwhelmed.  These other gospel workers, whether they be local Baptist or like-minded evangelical churches, were our partners (whether they knew it or not) in reaching a city of more than 20 million people. It would be impossible for one mission agency to reach so many lost people.

What is your vision for the churches within the MBA?

 Having only been in the new role for such a short period of time, I am talking to pastors and other leaders to learn from their many years of experience in Miami. The former associational mission strategist, Gary Johnson, and the Miami Baptist Association staff have been very gracious and helpful to me during this time. They have done excellent gospel-advancing work in Miami for many years and have laid a solid foundation for whatever will be implemented in the future.

Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let a wise person listen and increase learning, and let a discerning person obtain guidance.” So, at this point, I am doing a lot of listening, asking for guidance and, most importantly, reading the Scriptures and praying to be able to discern the path God would like for me to take in the days, months and years ahead. The truth is that God has already told all of us what we need to do, which is to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you …” A vision for Miami needs to flow from and be channeled toward fulfilling the command Jesus left us.

What strategy have you determined to reach that vision?

Fundamentally, I don’t think the role of associational mission strategist is very different from my work as an overseas missionary with the IMB. I am still a missionary, but in Miami now. In conjunction with Miami Baptist pastors, churches and leaders, I would like to create a comprehensive strategy that takes into account all that God is already doing in the city, determine the gaps in evangelism, church planting, and missions involvement, and mobilize God’s church to fill those gaps. Another way I’m looking at this is to “ARM” ourselves: Assess lostness, Recruit and Resource God’s people, and then Match and Mobilize them to tackle the Great Commission in Miami and beyond.

Our association has about 300 churches, so when I imagine 300 churches, together with Southern Baptist churches, Florida Baptists, the North American Mission Board and IMB, working together to advance the gospel in Miami, that is exciting! I mention IMB because even though they are focused overseas, one of their missionaries will be guiding a small team of us here in Miami in how to begin planning and strategizing to reach the diaspora groups living in the city. We are all one team!

What do you perceive as challenges and as opportunities in your new role?

The greater Miami population currently stands at just over six million people. The majority of the population does not yet have a saving faith in Jesus Christ. So, just the depth of the spiritual darkness here can be overwhelming. Another great challenge is that our association has three primary language groups: English, Spanish and Haitian Creole. There are increasingly many other language groups moving to Miami as well. How does one mobilize and unify three major groups of people to tackle together the Great Commission when in many cases they don’t speak the same language or share the same culture? This is one of the great challenges of serving in Miami.

A phrase that has been popping into my mind for a while is, “Miami is the future today.” The rest of the United States will look more and more like Miami as the years progress. Miami, therefore, can be a gospel laboratory of sorts. Because it is not a traditional Southern Baptist or evangelical stronghold, we can experiment, if you will, and test strategies without too much complaint about “the way things used to be” because most of the population is unchurched. If effective strategies can be implemented here, it could possibly serve as a model for other associations that will face similar challenges in the near future.

What does your day-to-day on the job currently look like?

Every day is different. Some days are filled with administrative tasks such as responding to correspondence, paying bills and attending to maintenance issues at the associational office. Time is also spent on preparation for events where I am asked to take a role. On other days I get to meet ministry leaders who show up at the office to promote their ministries. These ministries are all potential partners and pieces that could fit well in a comprehensive strategy for Miami. My favorite days, however, are when I get to see pastors on their turf and learn about their communities, listen to their hopes and challenges, and then pray together with them. As I settle and mature in my role, I know that the day-to-day will evolve.

Are you married? Kids?

I have been happily married to my wife, Kelly, for 23 years, and we have three children: Elijah, 21; Olivia, 20;  and Gabriela, 17.

Which church do you currently attend?

The better question is, “What church do I not attend?” Because I’m the new kid on the block, I have a full calendar with planned visits to churches and even get to preach in some of them. Since I started, I have not had the opportunity to visit the same church twice. I really enjoy this aspect of the ministry because I can’t fully know Miami without understanding her churches and pastors. I love hearing how God is using our churches to advance His kingdom. Sooner, rather than later, I do need to become a member of one of our churches because I, along with my family, need a church home as much as anyone else.

How can Florida Baptists pray for you?

Please pray that God gives our great team the wisdom to discern how best to proceed in planning and implementing strategies that will make an eternal difference in Miami.

I would also ask churches in the broader Southern Baptist Convention to pray about partnering with the Miami Baptist Association. We truly are a mission field and would be a great training ground for churches to get experience in cross-cultural ministry.

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