POVs on People, Places & Planting
Going to a NaLEC conference and Exponential was essentially my return to church or church-like experiences since the pandemic started in 2020 and it was an interesting experience to say the least. NaLEC, which stands for National Latino Evangelical Coalition, gathered to talk about the important part Latino evangelicals play for the future of the church. It was a great event that I found myself enjoying very much. The host, Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, was a great speaker and really instilled in me the importance of the Latino community not only in evangelicalism but also in the country. In the first night service, something he spoke about really resonated with me and it was how politics and misinformation often gets in the way of our better sense. We are so much more divided by politics now, especially because of the misinformation on social media.
Misinformation has been a thorn in the side of many people these past few years thanks to the ease of which it can spread through social media. In his message, he called for us to not simply pass on everything we see online as the truth but to authenticate it on our own before spreading it to those who follow us. Not only does spreading misinformation make us and those who follow us ignorant, but the arguments with others that follow it puts our community in a negative light to outsiders looking in. Overall, I had a great time at the NaLEC conference, but it was only possible because the event was bilingual. Although I am Latino, I do not speak very much Spanish. I’m not sure how prevalent Latinos like me are but I’m sure I’m not the only one out there. This event being bilingual helped me understand everything that was being talked about and in turn, a better appreciation for it overall. Additionally, I found myself saying things in Spanish when the event was over as I had been surrounded by both English and Spanish most of those days. It brought out what I had inside. I also enjoyed how familial it felt. Latinos are all about family and being at this event felt like being part of a big Latino family. Everyone hugging and being genuinely happy to see each other.
At Exponential, I felt like I was at something akin to Universal Studios or Disney World and not just because it took place in Orlando. The church it was held at was huge and the worship team was amazing. It was definitely a fun experience, and I learned a lot from people. One of them was Daniel Yang in the Unprepared: Trends for 2050 You Can’t Avoid workshop. What Daniel Yang talked about was very interesting to me because he talked about how a lot of young people are becoming part of the “spiritual but not religious” crowd. He stated that a lot of religious terminology being used today has been removed from its religious context. I can understand that younger people are not as thrilled to label themselves as religious. Especially now with the issues such as those facing the LGBTQ community, many younger people want to distance themselves from organized religions that they believe spout hate and intolerance. However, these young people are still looking for a spiritual connection to or from something. This kind of spiritual connection is more of a personal one for them that doesn’t involve a god per se. I found it interesting because the common perception is that younger people are not spiritual and are more atheistic or don’t consider spirituality in their personal lives. Yet, the truth is that they are quite spiritual whether that be through things such as new age ideologies or other pseudo-spiritual perspectives on life and the universe. Why is it that my generation is not finding what they need in the church? A question for another post.
Another interesting thing I took away from Exponential is the importance of church planting and how it can impact communities positively. Churches are much more than simply places to worship God. They are supposed to impact their communities in a positive way through helping the poor and those in need, at least that’s what the Bible I’ve read says. I appreciate Exponential because, by equipping pastors with what they need to plant churches, it helps suffering communities get the help and care they need.
As one in the Gen Z population, I left these events thinking about how my generation is going to impact not only the church world but the world in general. Gen Z's are the future and I appreciated that the people speaking at these events took the time to learn about the importance of understanding my generation and were teaching others on how to impact us today so we can feel part of what God wants to do tomorrow.
Samuel E. Rios currently serves as Operations Assistant at Passion2Plant. He is a cum laude graduate of Southeastern University with a B.S. in Psychology and minor in Religion. Sam will be sharing his thoughts via Gen Z POV posts.