“I didn’t go into the ministry to be a megachurch pastor. I went into the ministry to do something mega for God.”
So you’re a pastor of Hispanic descent, with a mission to reach all ethnic groups. What does that look like?
So you know what the theme is? It’s the rise of the new Latino in America. He comes from parents who were immigrants. He grew up in a culture that marginalized Hispanics, but has pressed through and has become the emerging Hispanic—who owns multiple properties, whose children go to universities.
That’s the new reality. I made it. And I didn’t just make it for me. I did it—I’m doing it—for every young guy in the neighborhood right now, for every kid in the high school, for every guy in jail right now. For them to say, if Sergio De La Mora—who grew up in poverty, whose parents didn’t even speak English, could get out of drugs and get out of gangs and become entrepreneurial and start a landscaping company, who buys houses and apartments and becomes a pastor and loves God and never forgets where he came from—it can be done. I am the new American Latino.
Sammy Rodriguez [president of NHCLC] gave me for the first time a lens to see the new Hispanic leader. And the reason that was so pivotal for me, for my life, was that he showed me the lens through which the new Hispanic leader sees America.
What Sammy taught me is that [these emerging Hispanic leaders] are spiritually inclined and politically but also relationally committed to the communities. So there’s a spiritual component and a social component.
He taught me that the new Hispanic leader is both Billy Graham and Martin Luther King Jr. Billy Graham because of the Christian beliefs, but Martin Luther King because we’re an ethnic group and we have a social responsibility to our people, fighting injustices.
What the NHCLC showed me was that Pastor Sergio, as a young Hispanic leader, not only has to be spiritually inclined but he has to be politically inclined, and educationally inclined. Sammy inspired me to get my kids into universities, to inspire people in my church to go into politics, to recapture my business component and go and see that the new Hispanic has a broad lens.
How is your message from the pulpit and your media platform shaped by your being Hispanic?
Here’s what we teach people: For you to have a successful life—whether you’re Hispanic, African-American, Caucasian, Asian, it doesn’t matter—there are three things you must do.
Number one: Turn your heart back to your family. Because if your family structure is out, then you cannot be the cure for our culture. Number two: You must develop your God-given potential, so that you win in every area of your life. You’re not called to win at church and have a cool spiritual life, but lose at work, or lose in your family, or lose in your physical health. Or in your business. You’ve got to develop who you are as a disciple [in all areas of life]. And then you must advance the kingdom of God, first to your circle of influence, then to the nations. It starts with turning your heart back to God, and to your family.
The future of America in not in the heart of youth. That’s a fallacy. The future of America is in the heart of parents who are raising those youths—that’s where the future is. So we promote the strength of families. Because that’s where kids learn their identity. That’s where men discover their significance, and women their security. When you have a healthy family, it doesn’t matter where they are in society; they’ll thrive.
That sounds biblical, traditional, panethnic.
The future church will be multiethnic. At this point if you’re going to be a pastor and a preacher, you have to become multiethnic in your heart. In other words, you can no longer say, I have a suburban church, i.e., Caucasian, because you have Latins moving up into those upper [economic] regions.
So God told me, “Be the pastor the community needs you to be.” Now he’s telling me, “Be the pastor the nations need you to be.”
You now have a number of satellite locations, including the affluent community of La Jolla and two campuses in Mexico.
Our church is in National City. That shouldn’t stop me from reaching La Jolla. Because the same issues that are going on in that ZIP code are the issues going on in this ZIP code.
That’s when God told me to put Cornerstone in every part of the San Diego region, because La Jolla needs it. Go to the north, the south, the east and west. So we went to La Jolla. We went to Tijuana, and we’re about to go to [San Diego’s] East County.
God told me, “What you’re learning as a Hispanic leader is that your passion for me and the passion for the lost is what I want to see in all of America.” And he told me, “Go beyond your borders, go beyond your heart. Go beyond what is normal to you, beyond your comfort zone. I want to reach the world, Sergio, and the gospel can do it.”
CORNERSTONE CHURCH OF SAN DIEGO
National City, California
Senior Pastor: Sergio De La Mora