Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Raul Burgos from Comunidad Cristiana in New Jersey.
Raul grew up in the Dominican Republic and emigrated to the US when he was in his 20s. He’s spent the second half of his life immersed in American culture and has helped plant both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking churches, giving him a unique perspective on the differences between the two.
Today Raul is with us to talk about how to build bridges between Anglo and Hispanic churches so we can learn from each other and partner together in reaching more people with the Gospel.
- Recognize differences. // English cultures and Hispanic cultures look at the same situation completely differently and this is why it can be so challenging for them to work with each other. In English culture, for example, one will probably approach a lunch meeting with another church leader with an agenda and have a direction they want the conversation to go in. Meanwhile in Spanish culture, the focus will be on getting to know the other person and just seeing where the conversation takes them. An English speaker might see that meeting as a waste of time whereas a Spanish speaker sees the meeting as an opportunity for relationship-building and trust-building. Acknowledge the difference between cultures and make space for the other person.
- Lead with relationship first. // Whether you’re an Anglo church leader or a Hispanic church leader, real conversations start with asking questions. Acknowledge that there are different lenses through which you see the world. Ask about things you might not understand. Don’t stereotype or assume that you know where the other party is coming from. Be ready to listen and learn from the other person. This is how relationships begin.
- Recognize the power dynamics. // The US is often viewed as the most powerful country in the world. In the mind of a Hispanic church leader, they may be asking themselves “How much is an Anglo leader willing to share?” As the more “powerful” party, Anglo church leaders have to let the other party know that they’re not there to impose their views and they don’t want to assume things. In order for Anglo and Hispanic churches to work well together, they have to recognize that they can both learn from each other. One church doesn’t have all the answers; they can both give and receive help. How can you be enriched by the other culture? Take a posture of humility and be teachable.
- Don’t treat them as another ministry. // In a few years the US is going to be a country of minorities with Hispanics being the largest minority. If the church in America is going to continue to thrive and grow, Raul believes it must learn how to reach Hispanic communities. The church needs to learn to work with first generation, second generation and third generation Hispanic immigrants. Give the culture a space within your church. Whether it’s providing sermon translation or making space for their leadership, give them a place at the table.
- Love your neighbor. // There are a lot of issues today that are viewed solely as political issues rather than issues of biblical justice, especially involving immigration. This is a mislabeling and misunderstanding. Our job as followers of Christ is to care for strangers in our midst. Believers have to come around immigrants and love them. Acknowledge that they are neighbors and ask how you can help. This doesn’t mean giving a handout – that’s a colonialism way of thinking. How can we be present? See their pain? Learn from them? We will receive love back.
- Find an outside voice to help you see things clearly. // If your church is interested in reaching out to the Hispanic community, Raul suggests finding someone who can serve as a connection between the church and the community. Find a bridge builder from the outside who will tell you the truth about what your church might need to change. Sitting at the table with people of another culture and asking questions will help you design a map of how to move forward.
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