The Table Podcast

Ministering to Hispanics in the Church

Description: In this episode, Darrell Bock, Miguel Lopez, Ivan Leon, and Michael Ortiz discuss Hispanics in the church, focusing on how the church can better minister to Hispanics

Timecodes
00:15
Bock introduces Lopez, Leon, and Ortiz
03:58
Are the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” adequate descriptors?
09:08
Latino and Hispanic values
13:58
Statistics of Hispanics living in the United States
16:06
Theological education for Hispanics
19:54
Challenges of ministering to Hispanics
22:26
What do Anglo-Americans not get about being Hispanic or Latino?
27:58
The difference between integration and assimilation
33:30
What can come across patronizing when communicating to Hispanics?
35:41
Latino and Hispanic views on life
40:33
What mistakes should be avoided when ministering to Hispanics or Latinos?
Resources

Samuel Escobar https://goo.gl/6Yo4RX
Rene Padilla https://goo.gl/AvNhKI

Transcript
Dr. Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table. We discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. Our topic today is Hispanics in the Church. I have three distinguished guests with me today, Ivan Leon, Miguel Lopez, and Michael Ortiz. I’m going to let them each introduce themselves and their ministries. I’m going to start here with Ivan. Tell us a little bit about what you do and where you live and your association with Hispanic ministry.
Ivan Leon
Well Dr. Bock it’s a pleasure to be here and also I’m glad to talk to your audience. I am, Ivan Leon as you said. I was born originally in Argentina, came here to the US 20 years ago. My passion always been to utilize media, this form of communication in fact to reach Latinos. I came to the US precisely to get training in that. I got a bachelor’s at Liberty University, that’s the technical side of training. Then I was fortunate to come to here at DTS and get my theological training. So those two areas compliment. I now lead a marketing agency that is dedicated to help ministries, churches, publishers really engage the untapped Hispanic population in the US.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay, thanks Ivan. Miguel?
Pastor Miguel Lopez
Thanks Dr. Bock. I’m so excited to be here today. I’m one of the pastors at the Heights Baptist Church, teaching pastor for the church and also responsible for our Hispanic ministry.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And that’s here? Is it in Dallas or in a suburb of Dallas?
Pastor Miguel Lopez
Yes it is in Richardson, suburb of Dallas.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Uh-huh
Pastor Miguel Lopez
Our ministry approach is an integrated ministry which basically means that we’re not a church inside of a church, we are a ministry that seeks to create a cultural bridge between the Hispanic community and the vibrant life of a local church. So everybody that’s part of this Hispanic ministry are members of the Heights and they get to participate in every ministry and also join the mission of the church.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay and Michael?
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Dr. Bock thank you again for having us at The Table podcast. It’s an honor to be here with you. My name is Michael Ortiz and I’m currently working at Dallas Theological Seminary. I have a faculty administrative role. My faculty role is working in the teaching in the World Missions in the Cultural Studies Department, but I’m also working as director of what now is DTS en Espanol, which I’m sure we’ll hear more about that, but in essence it’s part of a new department here at DTS intending to try to reach out to the Hispanic culture and we have programs and courses and other initiatives that will hopefully bridge that gap between theological education and the local Hispanic church.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. Now I’ve heard two terms that I kind of want to unpack before we even get started to show you how basic this conversation is and that is you hear the word “Hispanic” and it sounds like it’s all one thing, okay? Or you hear the word “Latino” and it sounds like it’s all one thing, okay? But I have someone from Argentina here, right?
Ivan Leon
Mm-hmm.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Miguel where are your family roots from originally?
Pastor Miguel Lopez
From Mexico originally.
Dr. Darrell Bock
From Mexico. Michael where are your family roots originally?
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
From Cuba.
Dr. Darrell Bock
From Cuba? Okay, so that already introduces the point of the question. So let’s talk about terminology here to just to start off and just to throw everybody off at the start. [Laughter] Let’s talk about Hispanic and Latino. How does, How does the, and here’s the question: Are those the better terms to use in describing the group and then what do you need to be aware of as you describe this group? Miguel I think I’m going to start with you.
Pastor Miguel Lopez
Sure. Well the label of course is a label that’s pretty much a label used in the United States.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay.
Pastor Miguel Lopez
When you talk about Latino or Hispanics you’re trying to address a very diverse people group. The term tries to describe cultural realities, but also countries of origin and providence. So Hispanics are not a monolithic group. You have nationalities like Cubans, Mexicans, right, people from all over the world so you can see that they’re not monolithic in that sense, but also culturally. When you talk about Hispanics you may be referring to somebody that’s just a first generation immigrant whose first language is Spanish, but that learn English here or may not have learned English.

Then you have their children that grow up here, a second generation whose primary language is English and then they still speak some Spanish. Then you will have some Hispanics that if we’re thinking more on a racial donor, all Hispanics are mestizo, they are a mix, right, of European cultures and then native cultures. So you have third generation Hispanics that speak only English and maybe have a Spanish name or some cultural makeup, but they’re not a lot anything that their first generation grandparents would be.

So you have a very diverse group in culture or ethnicity or country of origin in that label. Finding the right label is difficult, but I think in general it encompasses all those cultures that have to do with that ancestry.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. Ivan do you have anything you want to add to that and then I’m going to ask you about Brazilians in a second. [Laughter]
Ivan Leon
Oh okay, thank you very much, obviously to Argentina right?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right, right, right.
Ivan Leon
Well no you know diversity obviously is very clear as Miguel here described it, but one aspect that I always like to notice is that you know especially those that arrive here from those Latin countries once they’re here really they’re nationality boundaries begin to kind of blur you know? I have more Mexican connections now or Columbian or Cuban than I ever had and in my daily life I experience those cultures as well.

Basically a Hispanic like my fellow neighbor, right? So except although every four years when the World Cup comes around, [laughter] you know where I think there is a sense also of you know community because we’re all here as immigrants. Even those that are already born here – by the way the majority of Hispanics in the US are already born here.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Now I’m going to come talk about that in a minute, yeah.
Ivan Leon
So but there are still family traditions, aspirations, you know attitudes that are really tied to the heritage and make it rich. So you know they still feel the essence of pride in that identity. So my point is diverse, but in that diversity I think there’s unity as well.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. So what do you do with the Brazilians? Are they in the family or are they cousins or how do you think about Brazilians?
Ivan Leon
That’s an interesting question, why don’t I let the Cuban answer? [Laughter]
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Thank you.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So Michael I mean obviously if you do DTS en Espanol that’s not Portuguese, but still I raise the question to almost illustrate the difficulty.
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Yeah you know I think the term “Latino” as some would say that Latino refers to anyone that is from the Latin American setting or background. So you could almost take Latino and you could include the Brazilians in there if you wanted too if you look at from that perspective.

The tern “Hispanic” may then be a broader term in the sense that it might cover Spanish speakers that may not be from Latin American, may not be living in the United States, but in other parts of the world including Spain and other sections of the world.

So the way I see it is Hispanic is probably a broader term and maybe Latino is one that has its roots has to do with a geographical location.

Dr. Darrell Bock
So then what do we do with the Spaniards? [Laughs]
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Well you know that’s a good question.
Ivan Leon
I think it goes back to my point they’re brothers you know? I mean they are really brothers, siblings, they’re part of the family, Spanish, Portuguese almost speaks similar in sounding and we can understand. But I think again you know once they’re here, other than the World Cup you know, but we feel a lot of unity and affinity. We want to get together you know to socialize, because basically we share a lot of those common traditions.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. Now the next question is I think an obvious one coming off of this and that is, there are cultural features and cultural affinities that exist out of this cultural context. Let’s talk about some of the values that would be identified with being Hispanic or Latino that are a part of the world that many Hispanic live in. I don’t know who to have begin here, maybe Ivan why don’t you start us off on that one? What values do you see as important to Hispanic in general? Again it’s a generalization, but I do think there are some characteristics that people recognize.
Ivan Leon
Yeah well definitely you know when – I’m going to speak more of those that come from other countries or they have over the last you know two, three decades you know they brought a lot of energy and dedication and entrepreneurship. I mean Hispanic entrepreneurial business are skyrocketing right now in this economy.

So the reason is because you know they bring all the energy, the really hard work ethic you know infused into the society. I think it’s the way to really get into this cultural and to move up in the social ladder and so on. So I think that aspect you know is very important. Another aspect is actually religion you know?

Dr. Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Ivan Leon
Mainline denominations in the US are surviving and are actually moving and growing because of the influence of ethnicities and specifically Hispanics. So there’s a big movement in that. A lot of them arrive with Catholic roots as we’ve mentioned before, but they’re moving away from that tradition in search for a more genuine and fresh. Actually you know part of acculturation to their society. So I think those two are really, really key.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. Miguel do you think of anything else that belongs in that mix?
Pastor Miguel Lopez
You know I think it also is a strong sense of relationships. It’s not so much the pragmatic task oriented mentality, it is very much a relational social fabric that moves the Hispanic community.

In Latin America it’s all about relationships and the preverbal manana is not that people don’t care about tasks, it’s the relationship that’s expected over that. So family, also you’re extended relationships matter a little bit more than for the average American family, because your geography, your job and your occupations is very much in a big degree determined by your proximity to your loved ones. So family, family to an extent is a predominant value and that’s secondly, that I would say from that that spirituality is very important, not necessarily just religion, but just the spirituality. Hispanic have a sense of destiny and supernatural in the supernatural that sometimes is not satisfied by religion and therefore gets people in trouble with syncretism or a spiritual quality that’s not necessarily distinctively Christian or even in the ballpark.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Well that’s an interesting observation, I may come back to that. Michael do you have anything you want to add to mix? I was thinking actually family was one of the things that was in my head as I was asking the question, because I’ve seen Hispanic family – one of my closest friends is half Guatemalan and had a Guatemalan mother and their family was always around them. When I was with them hey I wasn’t just with brothers and sisters I was with cousins and grandparents and that kind of thing.
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Yeah obviously family is very important in the Hispanic culture. I know that in Cuba for instance it’s not uncommon – I’m talking about the Cuban setting, but even here in the United States. I just met with someone here in Florida a couple of days ago who they’re from Cuba, but they lived in New Jersey for a long time and I asked them what part of New Jersey and because I know that there is a section in Jersey where most of the Cubans would live and they seem to kind of come together and settle in in a certain area and then they make that sort of their home for a long time.

The other comment I wanted to make concerning the family is that what I also see that is maybe not unique necessarily, but it stands out a little bit more I think within the Hispanic family and the culture and that is especially when you see the first generation Hispanics come to the US the parents really are here not so much for them – well for themselves of course, but also they have children and they really want to see their children advance and get education and have a better life here. You see that across the board I think with most Hispanics. You’ll have parents that are working several jobs just to have their children be able to have the right education, go to the right schools and advance so they have more opportunities here than they would have had in their native country.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Now let’s talk about something that I think Ivan you raised which is most of the Hispanic who are here are second or third generation, they’re not – they haven’t immigrated here.
Ivan Leon
Mm-hmm.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Now I know you were ready with some statistics earlier, but in general what are we talking about? I mean is this two-thirds, one-third, you know what kind of breakdown are we talking about here?
Ivan Leon
About 55 percent of the 57 million already were born here. Yeah that’s what the partner research –
Dr. Darrell Bock
And the Hispanic population in the United States now represents what percent of the total do you know that? Do you have that number?
Ivan Leon
In the total US?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Ivan Leon
Yeah, 16 percent or 17 percent.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Sixteen percent, okay. So I suspect it comprises now the largest minority?
Ivan Leon
It is the largest, yes it is the largest minority. It was also the fastest minority up until –
Dr. Darrell Bock
Fastest growing?
Ivan Leon
Fastest growing, yeah, fastest growing. It has slowed down a little bit because people are now taking more precautions all right?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Ivan Leon
But still projected to be the largest minority by 2015, I mean 2050, I’m sorry 2050.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay, yeah.
Ivan Leon
So it’s still a really large pool of people with their own identities and attitudes and all of that stuff.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right, right and of course the other reality that’s sits behind this is that when you add all of the minorities that are here together the I don’t know what year it’s supposed to happen, but sometime in the next couple of, three decades the United States is supposed to become – the Anglo presence will become a minority and the conglomeration of others will become the majority in our own national population, which shows how much our country is changing and raises the issue why this conversation is so important.
Ivan Leon
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So Michael since you have a responsibility here at the seminary for thinking about this tell me how you view this change that we’re in the midst of?
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Well I think that the statistics are certainly there. What we’re trying to do at DTS en Espanol is really to try to understand what is happening in the Hispanic culture particularly with the local church and what is our role in terms of theological education and providing training for the church, for congregants, for other Hispanic that might be looking for a theological education.

We have the first generations folks that are here and for the most part for them they speak solely Spanish or primarily Spanish, but then you have the second and third generation that are here and they are wanting to shift more towards the English. So we’re trying to think through where do we really invest in as a seminary to make sure that we are offering the courses, the training, the programs that most Spanish speakers will need depending on what their primary language is and what they want to do.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Now I didn’t ask, I don’t think I asked this earlier, but how many – what percentage of the Hispanic population that’s here is predominately primary or exclusively Spanish speaking? Does anyone know what those numbers would look like?
Ivan Leon
Yes. Actually it’s kind of I wouldn’t say in millions you know I wouldn’t, but I would think that you know it’s probably kind of split at this point because of what I just said. That you know the majority of them already were born here and so they are already speaking English and they’re speaking some Spanish. Now the others have arrived and they obviously bring Spanish. They are learning English as they can, some of them never do.

So this is something that you know marketers, communicators really locked into very deeply to figure out what is the best way to create communication messages, whether it’s advertisement or you know positioning or anything? So it is a science and it is an art in that aspect as well.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm. I guess part of – I think the figure that I have heard, now I don’t want to get into the immigration discussion with this question, but is the amount of supposed – I don’t know, I’ve heard the number around 11 million, I don’t know whether that is an undocumented number or the number of immigrants per se.
Ivan Leon
That number is being thrown as the number of undocumented immigrants.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. So obviously most of those of people come in and they come in with Spanish certainly primarily.
Ivan Leon
Definitely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay, so. But on top of that we’ve got many Hispanics who are bilingual, okay second and third generation, et cetera. Then we’ve got some people who have been here awhile who’ve learned English, et cetera. So that number may be high in terms of the totality of people who are Spanish only. The reason I raise this is I was actually going to begin this broadcast by speaking what little Spanish I know and saying, “Buenos dias” to you guys.
Ivan Leon
Como esta? [Laughter]
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah well buenas tardes, exactly and it’s not quite buenas noches yet.
Ivan Leon
Right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And so to make a linguistic point and that is that one of the challenges in the churches here in the United States we’re thinking about how do you minister to this community is wrestling with the question like we have already on campus about all right do you do this in English only or do you think about if it’s an effort to each out do you have some Spanish only stuff or do you provide for translation, those kinds of questions.

Now Miguel my question for you is you work in a church that’s trying to sort this out how do you handle that question?

Pastor Miguel Lopez
That’s a great question. Well there are lots of models that can be implemented whether it’s simultaneous translation with technology or sometimes there are preachers that preach in Spanish and in English just taking turns. There are many, many methodologies and many of them seem to be effective. I don’t think the method matters – it’s the most important thing as much how it gets implemented. Have the support that he gets from the whole community for the church.

In our particular case we do have a Spanish-speaking service, because many of the people in the community that we’re trying to reach speak primarily Spanish and will not be learning English for many reasons or they prefer Spanish. So we do have a worship service in Spanish that happens at the same time as the English service. And our children and those who are bilingual are able to participate in any ministry of the church for the other ministries. So it works for us to have the Spanish service, we have the facilities, we have the resources to make it happen.

For other people that want to communicate in a different way a translated service might work or a bilingual service. It’s not the methodology is not the defining element I believe, it is the ethos of the church and how they get perceived and accepted that counts the most because it’s all about relationship.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Interesting. Now we got about a minute-and-a-half so this is a quick question for you Michael. How’s the seminary handling this? Are we doing any Spanish-speaking classes exclusively or is everything that we do in English?
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
No right now we’re doing everything in Spanish.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay.
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Even the literature that we are requiring the students to read and use for the courses that will all be in Spanish. The professors will be teaching in Spanish. The interaction between the students and between the students, the professor that will all be in Spanish.

Now our courses right now are online. We may move to some hybrid course and eventually we may even have courses on campus. But we made the decision early on that we were going to focus on the Spanish language and use that as our primary language to communicate and learn in and to teach.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Tell me what I as an Anglo don’t get about being Hispanic or Latino? What is it – if you had a chance to say something to me about how to think about understanding or relating to a culture that I’m not a part of what would you tell me? What advice would you give? Ivan I think I’ll start with you in terms of answering that question.
Ivan Leon
Yeah this is a question that we try to answer to all our clients and in the firm. We work with large ministries, publishers.
Dr. Darrell Bock
What’s the name of your organization?
Ivan Leon
It’s called “Kerux Group,” Kerux Group it’s from a Greek, not in Spanish, but it means “herald” and it means a “voice.”
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, yeah
Ivan Leon
And we want to be a voice for all these organizations, the Anglos, into a Hispanic community. So keruxgroup.com: K-E-R-U-Xgroup.com they can go there and find the information about us.

But that’s what we try to do to really open the eyes to the Anglo entities and you know how Hispanic thinks, what’s the way they communicate, what is the expectations also as their audience? So I mean one of the things I would say in terms of trying to understand the audience is that Hispanics are you know very visual, very they’re colorful, very emotional and all those aspects need to be included in your communication approach.

You know they can really spot something that is done not professionally, with shortcuts. You know when translations are done halfway we can really identify that and it goes to the heart of creditability. And when we’re dealing with the message, the gospel, it is really key that that is removed if you want to reach people really truly in an authentic way.

So that’s what we do and that would be my advice not to try to shortcut. The fact that somebody in your church or in your organization speaks Spanish and can do some translation does not mean it’s going to really connect with the audience that you are after, because there is an art and there is science to it.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Hmm, hmm. Miguel?
Pastor Miguel Lopez
You know there are two things that I think and I’m agreeing with Ivan also, but taking a step further the two things that I would want you to understand as an Anglo about a Hispanic person. The first one is that being a Hispanic person as some theologians have said is kind of living in the hyphen. It’s living in transition between cultures, it’s being in that journey that we haven’t quite arrived. For somebody that belongs to a particular context his journey may not make a lot of sense.

It’s kind of like the Israelites getting out of Egypt and going to the Promised Land. Well it takes them 40 years and that generation doesn’t make it. Well that journey of the 40 years is they becoming, it is living in that hyphen. So that’s one thing. The other thing is that Latin Americans, Hispanics, Latinos are mestizo people, which mean they are a contradiction of cultures put together in unity.

Dr. Darrell Bock
They’re already a mix.
Pastor Miguel Lopez
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So they’re a hyphen in a hyphen.
Pastor Miguel Lopez
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. [Laughs]
Pastor Miguel Lopez
But not only that. The culture is not one of compartmentalization where everything is neat and tight and it is a flow of relationship. So some of the things that don’t make sense from Hispanics, many times for Anglos come from the fact that for instance the manyana or the viva la vida, the live and enjoy life, right, it’s not that people are lazy or don’t have a good work ethic, there are values that may be driving this journey and there are some things that are more important than others and they’re doing as we share.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. I’ll give you one that comes up right away the moment I go to Latin America it’s called “tiempo.” [Laughter] Time and the handling of time. Talk a little bit about that?
Pastor Miguel Lopez
Well it’s all about relationship again. Being timely and getting things done is important, but not nearly as important as relationship and how you get it done.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Pastor Miguel Lopez
So starting and finishing a particular appointment is all the function of the person you’re meeting or the kind of things you want to get accomplished. It is more important for me to end-up my meeting well with you however long that takes, not to close the deal.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Pastor Miguel Lopez
So it is a different set of values, people matter, people matter to them.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So running long or starting late if it’s in a context in which relationships are being built, etcetera, it’s not that big a deal.
Pastor Miguel Lopez
It is a bigger deal, but not as big as a deal as making a good impression or being respected by that people.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Interesting.
Pastor Miguel Lopez
Mm-hmm.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Michael what do you have to add to this mix?
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
I think what they’ve said most of it. I would just concur with Miguel too in the sense that relationship building – you know when I go into a Spanish setting or a Hispanic church it’s a very different setting than a non-Hispanic church in the sense that people when they ask you, “How are you doing,” they really are asking you how are you doing?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, it’s not a form of greeting.
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Exactly. They want to enter into a discussion with you. They want to learn about you, they want to learn about your family. Not just here in the US, but when I travel overseas in Latin America, Cuba, other locations where there is mostly Hispanics in those locations they will always ask me, “How was your family?” “How are your children?” They really do mean it and they want to spend time understanding how are things going for you. It does force things to slow down a little bit, but you need to allow enough – if you’re going to interact with Hispanics you need to allow enough margin to be able to enter into those dialogues with them, because they really want to know.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay, now this transitions into a question that’s going to kind of have segments to it. The first is let’s think about the space that you create in your communities for Hispanics and the importance on the one hand of having them feel accepted and be assimilated versus the tension of allowing them to be Hispanics at the same time if I can pose it that way. It might not even be the best way to pose the question, but I think you know what I’m getting at. That oftentimes in communities there’s this tension between and particularly if you have oversight over a community how much do we try and homogenize everything and make everything the same and how much do we respect the fact that different groups be in part because of their differences need to have some space to be who they also are rather than to impose the majority culture on them? Help us negotiate that question.

What I have in mind here in the backdrop is a church that’s saying, “You know we recognize that we’ve got Hispanics living around us in our neighborhood. We’d like to reach out and figure out a way to do this.” What are some of the do’s and don’ts in that relationship to the question that I’m asking?

Michael how would you get started on that?

Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
I think first of all I think we’ve covered a little bit of it already in the sense that the Hispanic culture is not mono-cultural. So as a pastor or someone that wants to minister to Hispanics here in the US you need to be aware of who your audience really is, who the members are in that setting. They could be from various different countries that would bring with them different attitudes, even different terminologies sometimes. You know I’ve been in settings where I’ll use a certain term thinking that’s it’s a perfectly fine term to use and people are laughing at me. I’m wondering why you know?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
So we need to be careful with that and just be able to really begin to listen to what are their needs, where are they wanting to go?

The other aspect to keep in mind too is that we need to be thinking about the influence of the globalization movement even in local settings. You have parents that might not have as much of that influence in their lives, but they have their children and others that they’re interacting with that are starting to understand that there’s a world even outside of their immediate setting and how is that influencing them as well? So it’s a complex issue I think, but I think it starts with trying to understand and listen carefully.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Hmm. Ivan?
Ivan Leon
Yeah I would say to somebody who’s thinking about how to do a Hispanic ministry don’t be timid, don’t be timid. I mean one common denominator that I observe in a lot of organizations is that you know they think, “Okay we have Hispanics here so let’s try to do something,” almost like an experimental way. I mean like I said Hispanics will spot that as a really lack of authenticity, care, interest.

I mean the brands, corporations understand that and they’re making a big investments and long-term commitments because they see that you know in three decades this is where the major audience is going to be. . . So I think ministries need to be really serious about this if they are going to enter. Of course there are ways to mitigate risk and to be good stewards of you know the resources the Lord gives, but it goes to the attitude, right? You’ve got to show the same passion that you show for your youth ministry, of your men’s ministry, to Hispanic ministry.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Miguel?
Pastor Miguel Lopez
I think there are three things that we need to consider when we go into Hispanic ministries and churches. Churches are uniquely equipped. . . The first one has to do with replacing assimilation with integration. Assimilation is the world’s cookie cutter mechanism to bring people into the melting pot. I think the church is better than that. The church has a chance to bring all of God’s people into the full participation of God’s purpose is that’s integration. As we partner together to do the mission of God and dignify people in their context we can experience unity and diversity.

So integration how do we make that happen? Incarnation? Christ offers the perfect mold being God himself and becoming human to bridge the biggest possible gap of cultures if you will, God’s culture and human culture and he becomes, he doesn’t appear, he doesn’t just go and do some benevolence ministry, he becomes, so incarnation.

The third one has to do with mutuality. When you pile your leadership resources and welcome people and dignify them you bring them to be equal partners. It’s not a church that meets at 6:00 PM, it’s not the second class member of a church, it is a brother or sister in Christ so we effectively create a third culture. I’m no longer Jew or Gentile, I’m a Christian and that is a platform from which every ministry can grow and prosper.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Now that makes an observation that I think it reflects what sometimes can be a blind spot, this is actually true of all intercultural interactions and that’s almost a kind of patronizing that can take place, that even in some cases might not even be intended, but exists. So I want you to talk a little bit about that. What can come across as patronizing even though it might be well intended that actually ends up in some cases doing more harm or creating more distance than good?
Pastor Miguel Lopez
Well there’s a lot of that. For instance paternalism in churches. When well-intended churches want to plan the Hispanic church and they want to pile all their resources and dictate how every ministry should be led and they always want to control every single aspect of the new church plan because obviously they don’t know any better.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Pastor Miguel Lopez
It might be well intended for the church to grow and bring best practices, but they don’t give an equal partnership level to those who they are trying to help. Or just some well-intended questions as you say when people sometimes people ask me, “Well you’re Hispanic that means you’re not white, right?” When we make racial categories and we don’t understand that Hispanic is not a racial, that it’s a cultural one, so things like that sometimes create tensions that are unnecessary.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Hmm. Michael do you have anything to add to that mix in terms of what can be brought forward?
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Yeah sure. I mean I think when I’m thinking about theological education nexus where I’m mostly involved with right now in terms of the Hispanic culture it’s really being able to understand and enter into a dialogue with them about, “What is it that you really need?” “What are some of the areas that you need training in?” “What are some of the areas that you want to improve upon in terms of your understanding of theology and bible?” Try to address those needs, as opposed to going into that culture or that setting and presuming that you have the answers that they are looking for.

You might have the answers to the wrong questions. So you know I think that that’s something to keep in mind as well. We often want to approach and be cross-cultural and enter into different settings, different worlds, but sometimes we are eager to do so, but we’re not listening very carefully.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay I want to follow-up on this by kind of asking you a question, it might be a difficult question. That is are there areas of life or engagement or segments of theology that fit into a Hispanic culture more normally or naturally that tend not to be addressed if it’s a European or an Anglo-American who’s addressing the theological topic? I mean are there certain things where the Latino and Hispanic community have given attention to or have thought about certain issues in ways that everyone can learn from? I mean that’s a really bad way to ask the question, but you great what I’m getting at.
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Are you asking me?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Yeah I think one of the areas that stands out to me is just the concern with society, poverty, the oppression, violence, those are issues that come up often in the Hispanic setting, not just here in the US but certainly in Latin America as well. Keep in mind when we have Hispanics migrating into our country that’s their background, that’s what they bring with them and so that’s going to influence the way they see the world. And so in that setting oftentimes they will have a theological perspective that might address those topics more than we would here in the US.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Are there writings in this regard? You know I’ll be honest with you sometimes when I have these conversations particularly with international students they say, “You’re not asking me to read anything that’s written from the world I come out of,” you know that’s kind of the way it’s said and they’re right, okay? It’s not my world. You know in some cases I’m not even acquainted with the literature, that kind of thing. So are there things that fit into that kind of category that are of value to consider and even names of certain writers that might be of help to us?
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
I mean there are some, most of them would of course come from Latin America. There are some folks like Samuel Escobar. There’s another guy down in Argentina named, Noberto Saracco who have written on some of these topics. I know in some of my classes right now I’m trying to introduce some of these Latin American theologians and authors so that our students here even at DTS can begin to be exposed to a broader scope of writers and thinkers when it comes to theology, especially when we’re talking about cross-cultural issues.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm. Ivan?
Ivan Leon
I can actually add a little bit on that. I can say Rene Padilla and Arnold Sugura and in fact right now they are actually debating among themselves from the old generation of more of the integral mission, that’s what they would call it, “mission integral,” to more of a revisitation because of current events that have occurred with you know the recent the church in Columbia rejecting the deal with the FARC.
Dr. Darrell Bock
The peace agreement you’re talking about.
Ivan Leon
The peace agreement right and so many other things where the church opposing abortion and many other things that where the church seems to be very socially involved, but really not having that theological foundation or the theological understanding of why they need to be doing those things. I mean they have reached levels of political influence and so on, but you know the culture in general is not being affected as they were hoping you know 20 years ago when the Mission Integral idea was started. So there’s a whole dialogue in that aspect happening right now.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm. Go ahead, mm-hmm.
Pastor Miguel Lopez
There’s a layer of theological reflection that might be worth considering and not just from the Latin American authors, but also from the Hispanic authors in the United States and that second and third generation of new theologians that coming. Kristina Johnson at Princeton has some really good stuff. Also enter the denominational and traditional dialogue with the Catholic Church because they have done extensive theological reflection on Latin America that Protestants would do well in considering just where they’re coming from at their advantage points.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Interesting. I think it’s like I say it’s a whole area generally speaking that doesn’t come up and doesn’t get addressed very often and certainly I would say that the average Anglo, not just student, but even the average Anglo professor is not even aware of some of these conversations. If you’re going into the space you got to go into the space I mean it’s just that simple.

Let me – we’re rapidly running out of time here so let me ask one more key question and it goes like this: What are and you’ve alluded to some of this, but I’m going to give you time to develop it, what are some of the mistakes that are often made in reaching out to Hispanics and Latinos that should be avoided, even avoided like the plague? So what do you think goes into that? Then what are some things that you think that are done well, that seem to actually build the bridges the people are seeking to build? Ivan I’ll let you start since you brought this up.

Ivan Leon
Well I’m going to speak from my experience.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah right.
Ivan Leon
What I would say is you know oftentimes organizations are cautious of the opportunity you know but immediately they think, “Well how much is this going to cost me?” They assume that the cost will have to be absorbed by Anglo dollars, but in fact what we’re showing through our agency is that the Latino population is now at a point where they can actually contribute in a good way and actually in a way that could make that initiative self-sustaining. That’s what we do through strategy, messaging, and campaign activations and so on.

But that is then something that I think needs to be eliminated from the minds to change the paradigm. There is an opportunity there for good reasons because Hispanics are enthusiastic about supporting causes, specifically religions because it matters to them. So I think that needs to be a consideration.

What is done well? I think right now slowly the ministries are becoming more aware of you know the opportunity and they’re open to the conversation. They’re bringing people with experience to the table either in the church or through an agency or an education institute so that’s a good thing. I continue to encourage all of us at our job really to be the evangelists, right, to make the case for Hispanics.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Miguel?
Pastor Miguel Lopez
I think some definitely to avoid like the plague ethnocentrism whether on the Anglo or the Hispanic side the only one to be the Mexican church or the Spanish-speaking church that is absolutely untenable for the church. The church is the body of Christ and any ethnicity is welcomed, so ethnocentrism. I mentioned paternalism earlier and also just good intentions without counting the cost. A lot of churches want to start expanding ministry just to find out they don’t have what it takes to plan it the church, let alone a Hispanic church. So they need to count the cost, they need to do their homework, find out the best models they can get a hold of and then start once they have counted the cost.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Michael?
Dr. Michael A. Ortiz
Again just not to presume too much about the Hispanic culture and really be willing to enter into it with open eyes, open ears and willing to dialogue about where they are at, what their needs might be and how you might be able to serve them if you want to serve them and not presume as even Miguel just alluded to and I’ve mentioned it as well that we are not mono-cultural, we’re very diverse and we need to be sensitive to that and be aware of that.

I think what we are doing well and I’m thinking again about the theological education setting right now is that there are organizations and there are opportunities that we moving forward with concerning how do we engage the Hispanic culture? I was just in Princeton for a conference there that had to do with biblical institutes and other seminaries that have Spanish program and really critically beginning to think through what is that we can do to advance education and training and formation in the Hispanic culture and the Hispanic church? So there are some really positive things that are happening in that regard and it’s really an exciting time to be involved in Hispanic ministries.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Well I want to thank you all for coming in and talking about this. You know I think that one of the interesting things it’s true of anyone who moves into a cross-cultural space is that it’s to understand the difference isn’t necessarily a right or wrong category, it’s just different. And becoming acquainted with it, becoming familiar with it, understanding that different people live their lives by different rules and sometimes those rules are more a matter of choice and preference than they are a matter of right and wrong. It actually helps you to develop an attitude that is willing to learn from another culture, that’s willing to engage with another culture, that doesn’t you know kind of keep them at a distance because of those differences, that kind of thing.

So I thank you for taking the time with us to help us think through what some of those differences are and how it works and how it can work for the church, because ultimately as we have all said the church is transnational, it is a body of Christ made of many, many nations and many, many people and we thank you for helping us understand that.

We thank you for being a part of The Table. We discuss issues about God and culture and we hope you’ll be back again with us soon.

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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than 40 books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Ivan Leon
born originally in Argentina. His passion has always been to utilize media to reach Latinos. bachelor’s at Liberty University and masters degree from DTS. Leading Kerux Group, a marketing agency that is dedicated to help ministries, churches, publishers really engage the untapped Hispanic population in the US.
Michael A. Ortiz
Associate Professor World Missions and Intercultural Studies, Director of DTS en Español JD, Southern Methodist University, 1988; ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary, 2008; PhD, Seminario Teológico Centroamericano (SETECA), 2015.   Dr. Ortiz moved to Dallas from Sarasota, Florida with his wife, Kathy, in November 2015, but they are not strangers to Dallas as they lived here while he was getting his ThM from DTS in 2008. They have two children: Michael and Alyssa. He and Kathy have been married for over 30 years and now attend Northwest Bible Church. He is Cuban American with a passion for theological education in the Hispanic Community. He has had extensive ministry in Cuba related to leadership development and contextualization within the Cuban setting. He is also a practicing attorney and enjoys cycling, fishing, and photography.
Miguel Lopez
  Teaching pastor at the Heights Baptist Church, responsible for our Hispanic ministry
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