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November 14, 2015

Church Planting for Mañana

By Jorge Mendoza

It’s been said that California is just like the rest of the country, only sooner. If this is true then church planting among Hispanics must take on much greater importance. In 2014 Hispanics became the majority ethnic group in California[1]. And in the coming decades it is expected that more than a million American-born Hispanics will be entering adulthood annually in the United States[2]. This will alter the landscape of the culture in significant ways and by implication the work of church planting as well. As Justo González has noted,

Hispanic Americans have been here for so long, and yet kept their identity, it is rather doubtful that they will follow the same process of assimilation by which Swedes, Irish, and Italian have joined the mainstream of American society. Especially now that there is an increasing awareness of the value of one’s culture and traditions, it seems safe to predict that Hispanic Americans will be around mañana, and for as many mañanas as it pleases God to grant this country[3].

Rather than assimilating into the mainstream culture, Hispanics are altering it. The impact is already being felt politically. And it will only grow as it is expected that by 2030 Hispanic Americans will make up 40% of the electorate[4]. Political strategists are already preparing for this reality so should those concerned with advancing God’s kingdom in the United States. In order to do so speaking Spanglish will be required. Betsy Guzmán explains,

Spanglish is the ultimate space where the in-betweenness of being neither Latin American nor North American is negotiated. When we speak in Spanglish we are expressing not ambivalence, but a new region of discourse that has the possibility of redefining our-selves and the mainstream…[5]

When we think about planting churches among Hispanics we have to think more broadly than simply Spanish speaking churches because by the 3rd generation, the language is virtually lost. However, English-speaking ministry alone will not be sufficient to reach the 2nd and 3rd generation either for there still exists significant cultural differences and hurdles. Daniel Rodriguez alerts us to this when he writes that

It is also important to recognize that new generations of Latinos born in the United States are generating hybrid cultures that combine the different realities they are experiencing, thereby creating a Hispanic context that is even more complex and diverse than what has been experienced in the past[6].

What is needed are hybrid leaders – church planters that are able to walk fluently in both worlds because they truly belong to both the Hispanic and American worlds.

Hybrid leaders are something like Timothy was in the book of Acts. In Acts 15 we read of an intense controversy between Jews and Gentiles that threatened to destroy the infant church. It is no coincidence that in Acts 16 we are introduced to a young disciple of mixed ethnicity – Jewish and Greek. Timothy represented in his person the “one new man” (Ephesians 2.15) that God was creating in the church. Because of his hybrid nature he was able to genuinely reach into both worlds and be a bridge for the advance of the gospel within both groups and also help in making both groups truly one.

Hybrid leaders, like hybrid cars, are able to get more mileage because there will be less cultural speed bumps they have to slow down for. They are able to take ministry further in both of the worlds they inhabit. Hybrid leaders, like hybrid cars, are able to fit more easily into cultural tight spots, what sociologists refer to as “living in the hyphen”. From within the hyphen,å hybrid leaders can both reach back and draw from cultural insights and also understand the present cultural landscape in order to properly map out a way forward for church planting among Hispanic Americans.

Hispanic Americans have already done much to enrich the cultural experience of this country. They may be poised to do much for the advance of the gospel in this country as well. It is with that eager expectation that I write and wait together with all those who love God’s Kingdom.

Hasta mañana!

[1] http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-census-latinos-20150708-story.html

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-cubias/latino-population-surging_b_5283651.html

[3] Gonzalez, Justo L. Mañana: Christian Theology from a Hispanic Perspective. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990. 33.

[4] http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/05/20/407954553/the-ballooning-importance-of-the-latino-vote-in-three-charts

[5] Quoted in Rodriquez, Daniel A. A Future For The Latino Church: Models for Multilingual, Multigenerational Hispanic Congregations. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2011. 52.

[6] Ibid. 52

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jorge Mendoza

Jorge Mendoza (@jmendozza) is a Teaching Pastor at BluePrint Church and a Church Planting Catalyst with NAMB in the Urban Initiatives Group. He's been engaged in pastoral ministry since 2000 pastoring established churches and church planting. He is the son of immigrant parents from Mexico, and was raised in a blended family, while socialized in the hip-hop sub-culture. He is married to Wendy, and they have four children, Hannah, Emily, Noelle and Selah.

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