(Photo: Ministerio Mizpa)
Editor's Note: Pastor Josue Urrutia has been leading a multicultural, bilingual church in Alexandria, Va. for the last four years. Throughout his short time in pastoral ministry, Urrutia's congregation has grown from a church of only a few, lacking in many resources during its inception, to a growing church that caters to the DC area. His position as a young pastor has enabled him to lead his congregation, Ministerio Mizpa, in a lax and contemporary environment during Sunday services yet, his vision to have an uncompromising, Biblically-based foundation has remained at the forefront of his ministry.
Recently named as one of the next Hispanic evangelical influencers by National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) president, Samuel Rodriguez, Urrutia, is a second generation Nicaraguan, who hopes to push along the Latino church movement in the U.S. while focusing on the development of his church.
The following is an edited transcript of Urrutia's interview with The Christian Post:
CP: How would you describe your preaching style?
Urrutia: To understand my preaching style you would have to understand my background. I was born and raised in a Hispanic Pentecostal church, listened to T.D. Jakes on a regular basis, but I helped out at a traditional American church. This produced in me a spirit filled dynamic message along with practical application. If I can hype a crowd real well but did not leave any substance that they can apply in their daily walk with Christ, at their workplace and home, then I'd only be an entertainer.
CP: How do you maintain a Biblically sound message amid a generation that prefers a "watered-down" version of God's word?
Urrutia: God's word remains true through the ages. The key is to maintain [focus] into God's heart and what He wants to speak. If He truly gave you the message He will also make sure the hearts will be receptive to it.
CP:Tell me about your congregation, what's the demographic and how do you maintain a growing membership being a young pastor?
Urrutia: We have a very multicultural church with a predominant second generation Latino presence. We have every age range but the predominant demographic is young, married couples. We are focused on healthy growth instead of numeric growth because anything healthy will grow and reproduce on its own.
CP: You're single and you're 24, how do married couples and elders in your church connect with you as their pastor since you probably have yet to encounter some of their life experiences?
Urrutia: Jesus was single and 33, and in my opinion the best marriage counselor ever. I, in no way, compare to Jesus but I simply follow His steps and ask for His wisdom to speak His life principles into other people's lives and even marriages.
CP: Now that Ministerio Mizpa is reaching its fourth year, what has leading a church taught you?
Urrutia: It has taught me to depend and rely fully on God! The most strategic and best practices of church growth can never remove God out of the equation. I always say, 'be the best you can be and allow God to be all that you can't be,' because it's in everything you are not that He shows everything that He is.
CP: How does Mizpa retain new members? Does your church focus on discipleship and the importance of teaching them Biblical foundations?
Urrutia: As we try to retain growth, we facilitate a connection class, which gives new members a strong foundation in their walk with Christ and a sense of belonging. We are preparing to also relaunch our small groups with a new approach. We believe discipleship and spiritual growth comes through relationships in the body of Christ when we live life together through God's word.
CP: How do you decide on the message that you will be preaching on?
Urrutia: Very simple, what people hear on Sundays is only an overflow of what God spoke to me in secret. The most powerful messages I've preached, I have communicated passionately because I first preached it to myself.
CP: How do you feel about strategic methods used in many churches that try to make the Bible relevant to people?
Urrutia: I think whatever works for each church to bring people to Christ to have a deeper relationship with Him is a "win" for the Kingdom of God. We have to understand that the message should never have to change but the way in which we deliver it should be relevant to the people we are trying to reach. If the message does not point back to Jesus and give clear instructions on how to respond to the word we aren't making it "dummy proof" for someone that's never heard of Him.
CP: Do you believe in calling out sin according to the Bible, not in a legalistic way, but in a way that people understand Biblical truths versus omitting those veracities in favor of having a complacent congregation?
Urrutia: I believe we can preach against sin every Sunday and not change a single person if the message lacks the conviction of the Spirit. I try to show people how they can develop a relationship with the Spirit and be sensible to its convictions and guidance, and that is where true genuine change takes place. When I do address sin I always make sure that it is through a filter of Jesus' grace.
CP: According to a recent study, the rise of the "nones" is gaining rapid momentum. One in five Americans claim to have no religious preference, which has brought religious affiliation in the U.S. to its lowest point in decades. How do you reach out to those individuals?
Urrutia: As a Christian non-denominational church that allows us to cater to those people who say, "I don't like religion" or "I was hurt by religion." The reality is that many of us are turned off by religion but none of us are turned off by relationships and that is exactly what God pursues with us. So we just try to create an environment where people can feel accepted regardless of their background or the way they are.
CP: You have been named as one of the next rising Hispanic evangelical leaders to push the Latino church reformation movement along according to Samuel Rodriguez. What does that mean for your ministry and for you personally?
Urrutia: I'm very honored by it and it raises my sense of commitment to the cause for which I was called. Samuel Rodriguez mentioned he is a "John the Baptist" preparing the way and pointing towards others, and as he points to me I can't help but point to Jesus. As our ministry is given a platform our mission remains the same, "extend the kingdom of God, impact lives, and express Gods love through our actions" and our message that "Jesus still saves, still heals, still delivers and he wants to do it in your life today" remains the same as well.