Al Guerra was born in Cuba in 1955 and came to the United States in 1968. He grew up in New York City and attended Southern Connecticut State University. He attended the Emmaus Bible School, and after marrying Mónica, a native of Argentina, began studying at Talbot Theological Seminary in southern California. In 1986 Al began to pastor a Southern Baptist Church made up of only seven families. During the next ten years, the church grew to 350 people. In 1995, Guerra also began teaching part time at a Southern Baptist Seminary. In 1996, the Association of Southern Baptist Churches asked him to serve as a consultant for 84 Hispanic Churches in the Houston area, which he did as part of a denominational team of leaders. Beginning in June of 1998 he became lead pastor of the Hispanic Congregation of Wheaton Bible Church which has grown from 150 people to over 500 people today under his leadership.
Pastor Guerra proposes structuring a Hispanic church along a one body – two arms model. Meaning: One church, with a ministry to Spanish-speaking folk within the church. The children of Hispanics may naturally get enfolded into the English speaking service (or “arm” of this “one body”). Guerra is the senior pastor of the Hispanic arm of Wheaton Bible Church, and another man is the senior pastor of the Anglo branch.
KNOWING THE HISPANIC PHENOMENON
In 2003, Hispanics surpassed African-Americans as the biggest minority in the U.S. It is estimated that about 30% of these are illegal. In Chicago, the birth rate of Hispanics to Caucasians is about 5:1. By 2010 there will be 56 million Hispanic-Americans in the U.S., most of whom will have been born in the U.S.
(Guerra likens the situation to the Israelites in Egypt, “multiplying, and becoming a concern to the Egyptians.”)
Latino Issues: Undocumentation/Illegality, Housing, Education, Law Enforcement, Employment.
So now the looming question: Are we, the Anglo church, going to minister to the illegal immigrants?
Why do Latinos risk the illegal status? They have the same desires as others, which become idols. They are willing to break the law to get their idols (money, freedom). Guerra tells them, “You are here to meet Jesus.”
THE HISPANIC CHALLENGE
“The health of the American Church will depend upon its ability to attract minorities to Jesus Christ, and to equip and activate them for ministry.”
3 Keys: Attract, Equip, Activate.
How: Paving the way for successful minority ministry.
STRUCTURING THE HISPANIC MINISTRY
1. Know your demographics. Don’t plant a Hispanic church unless there is a sizable local Spanish-speaking community. That said, the “one body, two arms” can be extended to “one body, eight arms” (Hispanics, Chinese, Korean, etc..). Can be multiple services inside or outside the church.
2. Lead by Sound Theology Christ has died for sinners from every nation and tribe. Particular redemption is a motivating influence.
3. Assess the Elders’ Hearts
4. Choose a Fitting Model
5. Follow a Strategic Process
6. Secure a Bi-cultural Leader
7. Implement a Plan
8. Encourage the Leader’s Heart
9. Evaluate and Adjust
Next Guerra went into more detail on SOUND THEOLOGY.
1. By whose authority are we seeking a “multi-arm” church? (Matt 28:18-19)
2. What model?
“That they may be one JUST AS the Father and I are one.” (John 17:21-23)
Two purpose (HINA) clauses in the Greek in this passage. “That they might be one IN ORDER THAT the world may know that you sent me.” and “that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
3. What power? (Eph. 2:14-22)
A great passage for Hispanics. Jesus Christ gave Hispanics reconciliation with God. Guerra once told a large group of Hispanics, “Your struggle is the struggle that God had with humanity. We were all illegal and we broke the law. God could have given us justice — expelled all of us and sent us to the back of the line….all the way to hell itself. Or, God could have given us mercy — amnesty. You can stay. But what did God do? He did both. He took the weight of our sin and law-breaking upon himself.”
4. What vision? (Rev. 7:9)
Guerra believes that we will all worship in different languages in heaven, but that we will all understand each other.
5. Culture Counterfeits
*Homogeneous Principle – a true social principle. McGavern recognized that people come to Christ when there are fewer cultural barriers. What that created in the church growth mentality — let’s just create a market, and go after it.
– Prejudice (James 2)
– Earthly wisdom (James 3:13-18)
– Fleshly idols (Gal. 5:19-20)
– National pride (Is. 56:6-7) – when one people doesn’t want to reach another people.
6. Assessing the Heart
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
1. What does my heart say? “O God, and know my heart”
2. What am I afraid of? “anxious thoughts”
Guerra’s church is congregational-led (with elders). It is sometimes hard to get people to come to the annual meeting. Consequently some are concerned that Hispanics could rock the vote at an annual meeting, and pass some measures that the Anglo congregation did not fully support.
3. What do I need to change? “any grievous way in me”
4. Can I trust Him? “lead me”
1. Host (rental) [the minority church rents from the Anglo church]
2. Department (Sunday School for the Hispanic ministry)
3. Multi-cultural (distinct worship)
Bill Hybels came to observe the WBC model, but did not like it. It would break up their people. But the Hispanics loved it, because there would be a service in Spanish with good preaching, and they could still go to the other things they like in the larger Anglo church. Hybels eventually went to Guerra’s model, because video-projecting his sermon (with Spanish translation) was not working very well at engaging Hispanics. Anglos are going for the video, multi-site deal, but Hispanics find it far less winsome. Hybels called a gifted, energetic speaker from Mexico, and now they have about 300 Hispanics in just two years.
A woman asked: Doesn’t this model encourage segregation? However, by having two arms, Spanish-speaking gifted Christians have an ability to lead and serve without the high language barrier. It is not uncommon for former engineers or other professionals to have menial jobs in the US because they never overcame the language barrier. Folks like this can function at a higher level if the language is not a barrier.
4. Multi-ethnic (translation)
5. Multi-church (self-governance)
6. Outreach (church plant)
7. Partnership (existing)
8. Adoption (resource)
For Guerra, the Hispanic church supports the Spanish-speaking portion of the church. The facilities are all shared. The Hispanic body has a $360,000 annual budget and is now self-sustaining. (The overall church budget is about $7MM.)
— First answer Why, then How
How Long do We Proceed?
*Based on Ministry Philosophy (Theology)
*Based on Results — check back in three years and see how the worker is doing
If at 0-50 people — reconsider initiative (termination?)
(Not every guy has the planting gifts; the guy may be a pastor but not a planter)
If at 100-200 — renew ministry
If at 200-300 — invest in the ministry
There are different levels of giftedness.
CELEBRATE THE ONENESS
Ordinances (baptisms or Lord’s supper)
Special Dates (Thanksgiving)
— from the start of the planning, include both groups
Calls for Repentance
Times of Need
KEY ELEMENTS IN COORDINATION
Planning is done with diversity in mind
Diversity is acknowledged; oneness is affirmed
Parts of service can be done in original language (one song/one prayer, translated)