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Samuel Rodriguez

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Preaching, Vertically and Horizontally: An Interview with Samuel Rodriquez

How to preach about salvation and justice at the same time

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Dr. Samuel Rodriguez is senior pastor of New Season Christian Worship Center, a multiethnic congregation in Sacramento, California, and president of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which represents over 40,000 member churches in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. PreachingToday.com's managing editor Matt Woodley caught up with Sam to talk preaching, the challenges of "The Lamb's Agenda," and the vital role of the Latino church in American Christianity.

You preached a message called "The Lamb's Agenda" on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. That's also the title of your new book. Tell us about your big idea.

When we look at the cross, Christianity's central, universal symbol, it reminds us that we humans are both vertical and horizontal beings. As followers of Christ, the cross impacts us both vertically and horizontally. Vertically, it speaks to the fact that we stand connected to God and to divine truth—his kingdom, his glory. Horizontally, we also stand connected to family, culture, and society. Our community. Our lives are lived both vertically and horizontally, and the cross reflects that.

That's what the Lamb's Agenda is all about. It's about reconciling the vertical and the horizontal in our faith. It's about wedding sanctification with service, holiness with humility, orthodoxy with orthopraxy, righteousness with justice. To set it in an American context, it's about reconciling Billy Graham's message with Dr. King's march.

There is nothing more transformative, more catalytic than a prophetic voice issuing a clarion call of righteousness and justice.

In the twentieth century, American evangelicalism was divided between two different segments. Stereotypically, followers of Billy Graham were on one end of the spectrum and the followers of Dr. King were at the other. There were emphasizing spiritual evangelism as their primary message, and then there were those who were committed to transforming their communities. But this separation isn't natural. It doesn't have to be either or. Why can't we embrace both the vertical and the horizontal?

So my mission in life is simple. God's calling upon my life is to reconcile Billy Graham's message with Dr. King's march. It is to reconcile the vertical with the horizontal, righteousness with justice. And the nexus of that where those realities intersect is what I call the Lamb's Agenda. Why the Lamb's Agenda? Because nations stand polarized by politics, and I do believe the only agenda that can save America is not the donkeys or the elephants; it's only the agenda of the Lamb.

How does that agenda influence your preaching?

Every good sermon engages three different elements in the listener—the head, the heart, and the hands. Preachers need to speak to each of these, to communicate information, inspiration, and also practical impartation. When this happens, the vertical and the horizontal elements are naturally in alignment. The truth comes through, and so does the impact for your community. We are prompted to respond in worship on Sunday, but also stretch out our hands in compassion Monday through Saturday. We learn to live the gospel, to live out Matthew 25, the Good Samaritan parable. We learn to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ, doing true religion every single day. It's incarnational. It's missional. It broadens the optics of our faith to make sure we don't suffer from any sort of spiritual or cultural myopia. It redeems the Christian narrative, making it completely holistic without sacrificing biblical truth on the altar of political expediency. All of our messages must be both vertical and horizontal. It should prompt us to get closer to God, but it should also prompt us to do something for your fellow man in the name of Jesus. I try to preach this every time I get up to speak.

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Mika Goosic

June 20, 2014  8:18am

Amazing! I have been a Christian for over 70 years - and I have NEVER heard Christianity defined as clearly as Rev. Rodriquez has defined it. I'm grateful that I lived long enough to hear the horizontal and vertical truths of being a Christian. Thank you Rev. Rodriguez - thank you!

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