Leadership Focus: Rev. Samuel Rodriguez

For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to republish a series of Q&As with major leaders in the Pentecostal / Charismatic church world. These are leaders that I met personally at a meeting in San Diego. I believe that hearing where they started gives you a snippet of how they got to where they are.

Sometimes I feel like there is a lot of disrespect, especially from younger Christians, towards leaders of movements. Maybe the leader isn’t doing it all right or up to par with what you think they should be doing, but walk a mile in their shoes before judging. I recently heard an 18-year-old criticize a leader and I told them don’t ever do that until you’ve paid the same price, experienced the same criticism and judgment as that leader. 

I believe disrespect and dishonor is rampant in the church. So with this end this is my tiny way to build honor where honor is due. My first installment is Dr. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference. I got to hear his testimony and of how he overcame racism and prejudice.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Director of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Dr. Rodriguez was the only Hispanic in his school in Pennsylvania. Every day he was bullied and called names because of his race. He was a whiz in math yet his high school teacher tried to direct him towards a vocational education.

He went to the University of Pennsylvania majoring in math. Although he was doing well academically, the college counselor suggested he not teach because he could negatively affect them with his accent. He ignored that counselor’s advice and taught at the school where he was bullied. He eventually became the principal of the school.

Dr. Rodriguez also revealed the racism in the church against Hispanics. In a meeting of Evangelical leaders, he was asked what percentage of the people in his church were undocumented. He told them 30%. The leaders told him they weren’t saved if they were living here illegally.

He said, “My mission is to blend Billy Graham’s message with Dr. King’s march.” The church is divided between those with Billy Graham and those with Dr. King. At the end of the day, he asked God to direct him to the message that our vertical identity must become our horizontal reality. We must become Christians foremost rather than our racial identity.

Recently he was invited to Ebenezer Baptist Church for the annual Martin Luther King event. Returning from preaching at T.D. Jakes church, God told him to begin a church in Sacramento. He said he wanted a church which is an expression of multi-cultural ethnicity. The church is now only 1 ½ to 2% Latino and predominantly African American. He informed the group of leaders’ meeting that I attended that a younger generation want a church representative of our demographics.

He has also been very instrumental in mobilizing Hispanics for immigration reform with political leaders at the White House, Congress and U.S. Senate.

Favorite scripture: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God,” Romans 8

One piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to go into the ministry: “If we lift our hands towards heaven and refuse to extend our hands across towards those in need, then all we are doing is grasping for air.”

First job: newspaper delivery boy

What are you reading right now? “Bonhoffer” by Eric Metaxas

Favorite author: Philip Yancey

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