The Relational Power of Latinx Leadership: A Praxis of Cultivating Multicultural Missional Churches

“How Latinx pastors in diverse Los Angeles churches are re-imagining relational leadership and what we can learn from them about paying attention to God and celebrating difference in our own contexts. ”

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About this first book grant for scholars of color

Since God is the primary agent of mission and churches are by nature participants in God’s mission, missional leadership’s purpose is to help the church identify what God is already doing in its context and improvise its way into participation with God. Increasingly, missional leadership must also take into account the dynamics of pluralism and its cultural hybridizations (or mestizaje in Latinx studies).

The central argument of this Latinx contribution to North America’s missional church conversation is that cultural hybridity hails a relational turn in missional leadership praxis. Rooted in dialogical views of personhood, relational theories of leadership deviate from leader-centric paradigms that usually portray leaders as strong, directive, and charismatic initiators or heroic visionaries. Instead, they focus on leadership that facilitates dialogue, learning, advocacy, reflection, and experimentation. Narratives of twenty Latinx pastors in multicultural communities provide the argument’s ethnographic thread. Their practical experiences enrich understandings of relational leadership and stimulate fresh ideas on the benefits of pluralism for a missional learning community.

Together, Gloria Anzaldúa’s borderlands theory and Mikhail Bakhtin’s philosophy of dialogue create the argument’s epistemic thread for understanding Latinx identity and for engaging social constructionism. This late-modern metatheory of knowledge draws attention to significant reductionisms in modernist approaches to culture and leadership.

Entwined, the two argumentative threads create an agency- and difference-affirming vision of relational leadership whose emphasis is leadership practices that cultivate wakefulness to God and celebration of difference. A Latinx practitioner and scholar myself, I interlace personal anecdotes from nearly 20 years of pastoral experience in cross-cultural contexts.