Pastor Samuel Aleman retires after 31 years leading Iglesia Bautista Internacional in Lilburn


LIBURN, Ga. — Pastor Samuel Aleman, an architect who inspired a long line of other Spanish-speaking professionals to become ministers, has retired after more than three decades leading Atlanta’s oldest and largest Hispanic Southern Baptist congregation.

“He opened the door to many Hispanics to say, ‘I have a career, and I can also serve the Lord,’” said Javier Chavez, a Gainesville pastor and university professor.

Chavez said medical doctors, lawyers and other professionals are now serving as pastors because of Aleman, who, he said, has left a legacy of faithfulness, integrity and humility at Iglesia Bautista Internacional (International Baptist Church) in Lilburn.

“If Samuel Aleman had wanted, he could have had any position in the Southern Baptist Convention, but his call has always been to the local church,” Chavez said.

In his final sermon as pastor of the Lilburn church, Aleman proclaimed Jesus as the Light of the World.  He also offered hope and encouragement to a congregation saddened by his departure.

“The Lord has something new and special for you,” he said.

Still recovering from a bout with flu, Aleman stepped to the pulpit and did what he had done on Sundays for the past 31 years — preached God’s Word with boldness, power and conviction.

It was a fitting end to a fruitful ministry during which Aleman never allowed hardship to hinder his proclamation of the gospel.

Aleman was born in Cuba in 1952 and accepted Jesus as his Savior when he was 10 years old. Already active in ministry when he and his family arrived in Georgia in 1989, Aleman became an active part of the life of Iglesia Bautista Internacional.

The church, a plant of First Baptist Atlanta, was initially called Primera Iglesia Bautista de Atlanta when it was started in 1973.  

Prior to being called as pastor in December 1992, Aleman held many roles, big and small, in the church. He served as a leader of the evangelism ministry, youth minister, Sunday school and Vacation Bible School teacher, and auxiliary pastor. Though he describes himself as an introvert, Aleman has sung in the choir and worship teams, acted in various plays, and led mission trips throughout the state and the world.

In early 1993, Aleman left his job as an architect and took on the responsibility of leading the church.

Elvis Babilonia, a deacon at the church, called Aleman a “great servant of God” who has served the church and the Hispanic community well.  Aleman was honored at a recent church ceremony as servant, pastor, leader, mentor, and brother in Christ.

For Aleman, retirement will allow more time for his hobbies, which include fishing, hunting, hiking, shooting, and going to the theater.

Babilonia said the church’s next pastor will “have large shoes to fill.”

Aleman closed his final sermon as pastor at the congregation by focusing on the evangelical mission and message of the church. He reminded listeners that the church was the first Hispanic church planted in Atlanta, with a mission of delivering the gospel to those in spiritual darkness.

The mission and message, he said, remain the same, despite who is in the pulpit.

“Several pastors have already passed through here and there will be others,” he said. “But this work is of the Lord. This work has not ended. The message needs to be delivered.”