Worship celebration speaker encourages Texas Baptists to embrace and love each other as the family of God

by George Schroeder on July 17, 2023 in News

Imploring Texas Baptists to love each other as the family they are, Ellis Orozco tied it to the church’s gospel imperative. “The greatest evangelistic strategy ever,” he said, came “straight from the heart and lips of Jesus.”

Christ told his disciples that people will know they belong to him “by the way you love each other,” Orozco said. “When people who are out in the world look into the life of the church and see the way you love each other, and they say, ‘I don’t know what these people have – but whatever it is, I want it.’”

Orozco, coach to pastors at Karooso Ministries, recently retired after 30 years as a senior pastor at three Texas Baptists churches – most recently at First Baptist Church in Richardson – addressed messengers Sunday night at the first Worship Celebration of the 2023 Texas Baptists Family Gathering. Preaching from Acts 2:42-47, he showed how the earliest church was both devoted and generous in several ways.

Orozco’s message was translated into Spanish by Jesse Rincones, executive director of Convención Bautista Hispana de Texas and lead pastor of Alliance Church in Lubbock.

Orozco related his family’s story, beginning with his grandfather’s emigration in 1919 from Mexico to Texas. He worked and eventually settled near Houston, purchasing a plot of land that a multiplying family lived on for years. The family, he said, lived next to each other and cared for each other in sacrificial ways. Later, he asked his father why he had paid for the education of his cousins whose fathers had died.

“He didn’t even understand the question,” Orozco said. “He just shakes his head, like he does whenever I ask a stupid question, and he says, ‘It’s family. That’s what you do for family.’”

Orozco noted the Family Gathering’s theme for 2023 is “the family of God, the household of God, and that just as we don’t choose our biological families, “it’s the same with the church.”

“Jesus chooses who is part of his family,” Orozco said, “and look at the people Jesus chooses: fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes – not exactly Harvard material. These are the people Jesus chooses. We don’t get to choose.”

The final verses of Acts 2, Orozco said, “paint a picture of a church that was indeed a family, both devoted and generous.”

The church was devoted to the Scripture, to fellowship, to remembering Jesus and to prayer. It was generous in sharing resources with each other, in giving to those in need, in hospitality and in sharing the gospel.

Describing how the believers shared things in common, he noted it wasn’t “communism, socialism, or any -ism,” but a necessity because when Jews became Christians, they were typically disowned by their families and communities.

“For many of these new Christians, the church is their new family, and suddenly the only family they have,” he said. “So they were together and had everything in common. Of course they did, as my father would say, because ‘that’s what you do for family.’”

The early church also was generous in hospitality, which it practiced indiscriminately. Orozco encouraged Texas Baptists to do the same as a way to follow the early church’s final example of generosity: Sharing the gospel.

“It’s simple,” Orozco said. “Those who are against the gospel aren’t against enchiladas.”

The question churches must ask, he said, is simple: “When the world looks into your church, what do they see?”

“I’m concerned that increasingly in the evangelical church, they don’t see churches with arms open wide, but they see a church with clenched fists, waiting to fight – fighting with each other, fighting the world.”

Orozco’s grandfather was 25 when he left Monterey, Mexico, leaving his family behind. It wasn’t an easy decision or trip, Orozco said, adding that crossing the Rio Grande took courage. “But he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and jumped” – and the results more than 100 years later, include several generations of descendants who have achieved success in many ways.

“I wonder if he could ever have imagined what his courageous leap of faith would produce,” Orozco said.

And then he charged Texas Baptists to do something similar in embracing and loving each other as the family of God.

“That’s what Jesus is asking you to do: the hard thing, the scary thing,” he said. “To be a true family. Because families are messy. To be a safe place, where there is now no condemnation. To accept those who think and look and believe differently than you.

“That’s hard to do. It takes a lot of courage. You have to close your eyes, take a deep breath and say a little prayer in order to be the true family of God.”

The Worship Celebration also featured Trio de Hoy, a Latin gospel band that has spent, as one member said, “25 years singing together” to share the gospel, “especially in the language of heaven – español.”

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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