- (Photo:Javier Torres Studios Cornerstone Church of San Diego)
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Samuel Rodriguez is considered by many as the visionary leader and voice of the entire Hispanic evangelical church in the U.S. The trajectory of his ministry has taken him from a teenager that doubted his calling, to one of the most authoritative leaders within the Christian and secular world as president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference. Now, with a platform that has placed him as a major influencer, Rodriguez hopes to give back to his community and mentor those who may come after him.
During The Heart Revolution conference in San Diego on Friday, Rodriguez delivered a loud, less scholarly, more spirit-driven, powerful message that had more than 1,000 people on their feet after speaking back to back prophetic declarations. He told those present at Cornerstone Church, the host location, to prepare to give God genuine praise because the "season of the raven" was going to come to an end, while speaking about an anticipated awakening set to sweep over all believers.
After his message, a less rowdy Rodriguez sat down with the Christian Post to speak about his take regarding the "next Latino Elijahs," the uncompromising beliefs that many churches have eliminated in favor of being seeker-friendly and how church leaders can bring an end to segregation among their congregations.
The following is an edited transcript of that interview.
CP: Did you ever imagine you would have such a large platform within the Christian world and secular realm as the voice of Hispanic evangelicals?
Rodriguez: Yes and no. No until I was 14 years old. At 14, I received a strong calling, it's hard to explain and difficult to contextualize theologically to some, I just received a strong calling. My parents are not pastors or preachers and I was a math and book nerd. Everything was analytical to me, I doubted what I saw in church, I saw both the prophetic and pathetic...it turned me off because of the pathetic, so I was a Christian agnostic.
My culture was there, my mind and heart weren't, I doubted the existence of God, I was just there to please my mom and my grandma. But when I had an encounter with God, it turned my life around, that encounter came with a calling. I'm not self-called, I was called out, I was self-reluctant. The Lord had to repeat this 44 times in order for me to get it, that's not an ambiguous number, it really was 44 times, because I didn't want it.
Throughout that course, random people would come up to me, they would be at church or at venues that I would be at and say, 'Your name is Samuel and you will be a voice for your people.' Everything from MLK to the Hispanics, to meeting with presidents to leading a movement, all of that was laid out. I didn't embrace it because I thought, 'This is just some positive affirmation you just give to a young person so they can believe,' but the Lord miraculously opened doors and here we are today. Everything you see is God ordained, God favored, God graced, it has nothing to do with me, and that's not self-affirming humility by the way, it really has nothing to do with me, it's all God.
CP: Are there any young Latino leaders on the rise who you see as the next batch of visionaries to push along the Hispanic evangelical movement?
Rodriguez: There's a young man by the name of Josue Urrutia, I love him, I'm gonna put that boy right here [points to his left underarm] for the next 30 years or for a lot more than that. I believe in him and I believe in the calling on his life without a doubt. I want to instill these values in him because he's going to turn the world upside down. There's Jaime Loya from Harlingen, Texas, he's an amazing, young prophetic voice emerging, very powerful. Of course, there's Pastor Sergio de la Mora, Pastor Obed Martinez, these are powerful, emerging voices. The have already emerged, to be honest, I can't even label them as emerging because that wouldn't do them credit. They have emerged, now it's time to amplify these voices. There are also female voices likewise. I don't want to get anyone upset because of theological and denominational underpinnings, but my wife is a church planter, my daughter is currently on a mission experience in Brazil. I do believe in the Galatians adage that there's no male or female, Jew or Gentile, we're all equal in Christ. God calls women too and I want to see these Debora's and Esther's rise up.
God told me, 'Walk humbly and point to other people. Every door that I open for you, you open seven for others, that's my model.' I'm a John the baptist for Pastor Sergio, Pastor Choco, Pastor Urrutia, these amazing voices. So, all I do is get a microphone, find the stage and boom, I put them on there and say, 'Let it rip, man,' and that makes my day.
CP: It's very nice to hear someone of your caliber have a pay-it-forward mentality.
Rodriguez: The platform is only as good as much as you pay it back and give it forward because the moment you think it's yours, it's no longer yours. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away!
CP: Earlier in your message, you said that you still believe in the fulfillment of the Holy Spirit within the church and in the rapture, are these beliefs that have left the contemporary Christian church?
Rodriguez: Sure because in America, we are so uberly seeker friendly that we have become spirit reluctant. We could be both spirit and seeker friendly, it doesn't have to be either or. We have to be spirit friendly in order to truly become seeker friendly. We have abandoned the vertical for the horizontal. There are values that are absolute, there are Biblical doctrines and truths that transcend time and cultures and we have to affirm them.
CP: You also spoke about praise within different races and how you used to think praise was racially contextualized. For a very long time, segregation existed within churches and now it's not uncommon to see multicultural congregations.
Rodriguez: I want you to hear this, not in a way to compare or demean others but the Latino is anointed to pastor multiethnic churches.
CP: Why is that?
Rodriguez: Because we are multiethnic. We have the European blood that influenced Mexico but we have the Native Indian blood that was there. If you're from the Caribbean and certain parts of Mexico, some of the slaves arrived there so you have the African blood. We have all the races, we are the walking United Nations. We don't have to stretch or push it. In this church, you see the diversity? That's because pastor Sergio has an anointing for a multiethnic constituency.
The Latino pastor will lead a multiethnic revolution that will lead to the end of segregation on Sunday mornings, you can write that down.
CP: What can church leaders do to bridge the gap among different races, who want to have a multicultural congregation?
Rodriguez: You can't force it, it has to be in your DNA. If you're patronizing, you'll fail miserably. If you're catering, you'll fail miserably but it has to be part of your DNA, I don't mean physically but spiritually, your optics have to be kingdom-cultured. That means what you see, is what you get. You're only going to attract what you reflect. If on your stage you have everyone that is black, you'll have a black constituency. If your praise and worship team is black, brown, white and yellow, that's who you're going to attract. It has to be on your stage, in your board of trustees, it has to be in your leadership.