The ethnic church is leading a reformation that is reconciling Catholics, diversifying worship and reclaiming biblical orthodoxy.
To say that the Latino Pentecostal community is impacting America would be an understatement. But the ethnic church, particularly the Hispanic segment, is not interested in revival, which involves capturing a former glory and reviving old models. Instead, Latinos seek reformation, an abrupt change to the status quo. To do this they're presenting a distinctive brand of Christianity. Here are the major characteristics of this new brand of 21st-century reformation:
Worship Reformation with Sabor
"I do not lose my culture when I come to Christ, I incorporate it," says Saturnino González, pastor of a 4,000-member Hispanic church in Orlando, Fla.
Accordingly, Pastor Nino believes that worship is the key to ministering to and attracting Hispanics. He also believes the Latino community is transforming how America worships.
"We are adding sabor, or flavor, to the songs we sing and how we praise," he says. Recent findings from the Pew Research Center validate González's point. According to the research, Pentecostal and charismatic expressions are a key attribute of Hipanics from all major denominational traditions. That is not the case with non-Latinos.
Catholic Reformation with Tongues
When Martin Luther posted his grievances on the doors in Wittenberg, Germany, the Protestant Reformation began. Today, Latinos lead a new reformation, not by opposing the Catholic Church but by injecting it with a charismatic thread. This is evidenced by the fact that 54 percent of Hispanic Catholics are charismatic.
"As a Latino Pentecostal, I grew up believing that Catholics were doomed to hell because of their idolatry and prayers to Mary," explains Israel Bermúdez, associate pastor of a church in Puerto Rico. "Now I understand that the majority of those same Latino Catholics pray in tongues like I do, worship with the same enthusiasm and desire the same personal distinctive relationship with Christ we all long for."
According to Bermúdez, this phenomenon facilitates the bridging of the gap between Catholics and evangelicals. In the Latino community, evangelicals and Catholics are charismatic brothers.
Biblical Reformation with Orthodoxy
As more Latinos become dedicated members of American churches, the distinguishing characteristic of all of them is biblical orthodoxy.
"Hispanic Christians believe that the word of God is the final authority. Any deviation is deemed as heretical and unacceptable," says Ángel Núñez, senior pastor of a multicultural congregation in Baltimore.
Núñez added that while the Anglo church debates whether miracles, healings and Pentecostal experiences exist today, the Latino church sees these arguments as futile because they exist in the daily narrative of the Hispanic believer.
Today, across America, the ethnic church approaches the Wittenberg doors of America's religious institutions and posts its demands: worship that will lift the soul, experiences that will empower the Spirit and a biblical journey that will catapult a life. While the non-ethnic church seeks to revive the old, the ethnic church arises and declares "'Behold, I will do a new thing'" (Is. 43:19, NKJV). n
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is the President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the Hispanic NAE, serving 15 million Latino born-again Christians and 18,000 churches.