Keynote: Vital and Multicultural Congregations
Rev. Dr. Ruben Saenz passionately shares insight and ideas with leaders on how to become more culturally competent to integrate all people into the life of the church.
Bishop Huie describes conference keynote speaker Dr. Ruben Saenz as a teacher and bridge builder with a track record of fruitfulness in God’s kingdom. As Director of Connectional Ministries and Missions for the Rio Texas Conference, she says, “Ruben thinks adaptively in terms of connections and he’s been a great help to our conference in developing vital new Hispanic ministries.”
Regardless of the challenge, Ruben said, addressing the conference delegates, “Texans are naturally just determined to figure it out.” He shared his personal story, insight on the current tensions and realities related to diversity and strategies to move forward in God’s vision to integrate all people God brings to communities across Texas. “I would first ask churches to look around and see who your neighbors are, and pursue relationships of engagement to share gifts and graces that are beneficial to make you better together than apart,” he shares. “These ideas are transferrable best practices to all people but Texas in particular has a rapidly growing Hispanic sector that is projected to become 57% of the population here in just four years.”
How Can Our Churches Look More Like our Communities?
“I celebrate the Texas Conference Hispanic Pastor Apprentice program and other missional strategies that express the Kingdom of God,” he adds. “You can accelerate this reality by deeply imbedding this priority in your planning and in your hearts at all levels, knowing that the UMC ranks 25 out of 29 when it comes to multicultural diversity as a denomination.” By definition, he explains, multicultural congregations have at least 20% of a cultural blend, an influence that will impact adaptive changes accordingly. “Only 2.5% of our United Methodist churches fit that definition which is demographically unsustainable. We can no longer afford to ignore this opportunity to expand the kingdom of God with these people we work with, live next to and share life with.” Adds Ruben, “We cannot punt this responsibility to a committee because Pentecost is at our doorstep.”
Ruben reminded leaders:
- We have incredible doctrinal gifts to offer the world.
- We need to have honest conversations about immigration and how we are to be a Biblical witness to those God brings our way.
- We need to intentionally befriend others who are not like us by eating with them, serving them, sharing our faith and listening to them.
- We need to expedite credentialing of bi-vocational pastors and deploy them to the mission field.
- We need to start new faith communities, large and small.
- We need to leverage the incredible leaders within the Methodist denomination who run companies and solve problems on a daily basis.