In my last “profile” post, I wrote about Carl Lentz, one of the 2017 Rise Conference’s three speakers (see here for that post). In this latest one, I write about Samuel Rodriguez (another one of the conference’s speakers) and how his teachings/words line up with Scripture.
Rodriguez is the Senior Pastor at New Seasons Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, California. He has authored no less than three books. Fox News and CNN refer to him as “America’s most influential Latino Evangelical leader.” His profile on the New Seasons Christian Worship Center website lists more information about him here. That weblink also shows the plethora of media outlets that quote him. Clearly, he has some influence. Despite that, not many recent critical articles solely about him exist (although I did find this one from the late Ken Silva of apprising.org). As a result, this article should do more than either simply mention his name in passing as an N.A.R. (New Apostolic Reformation) affiliate or show how he partners with or approves of those who are deemed false teachers (see here for how his name is mentioned in passing; see here for some info on the N.A.R); it should shed some light on how Mr. Rodriguez’s teachings/words square with Scripture. Furthermore, it will shed more light on whether or not it would be beneficial for one to attend the “Rise Conference” in Modesto, CA.
Before I look at any sermon of his, I cannot help but notice the statement of faith on his church website. Unlike The House in Modesto, CA, New Seasons Christian Worship Center actually has a statement of faith (which is good). However, this one lacks Scripture. You will not find a single Bible verse on this church’s statement of faith.
Is this a problem, you ask? I originally thought it was. In my opinion (and I have NO Scriptural backing for this statement), a good, solid, Bible-believing church should have a statement of faith that has properly cited Scripture. The following three churches local to my area represent good examples of biblically-grounded statements of faith:
As you can see, each statement has strong Scriptural backing. While it is not a requirement to have Scriptures cited in a statement of faith (during my research I actually found two churches pastored by good pastors that actually did not have Scriptural citations on its statement of faith), it certainly helps all the more to back up what you believe with Scripture. New Seasons does not do that, thus resulting in my original thinking that this looked bad for Sammy Rodriguez. It does not. Instead, it looks incomplete and prone to easy refutation.
What DOES look bad, however, is his handling of Scripture. Here, I briefly look at two sermons from him and I compare what he says to what God’s Word says.
Here, Rodriguez preaches “I’m On My Way to Rome” during the third evening worship service of the Perfecting Fellowship International Holy Convocation 2017 on May 24, 2017 at Perfecting Church in Detroit, MI. The church bishop introduces him at about the 1:06 mark. Rodriguez talks quite a bit before getting into the text (Acts 27) at about the 6:52 mark. He admits he is going to “jump around some verses” as he reads this. In fact, he jumps from verse 1 to verse 14 followed by a jump to verse 17 (but just “the latter part”). After reading verse 17, he says the following:
I want to speak to you briefly tonight on this subject. Come hell or high water, I’m on my way to Rome.
Rodriguez then tells his audience to tell each other, “Come hell or high water, I’m on my way to Rome.” He essentially stirs them up into a frenzy as he gets them to start repeating both this phrase and affirmations of it. This is a problem because nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to go to Rome. More relevantly, the passage he reads has nothing to do with us. In order to best understand this passage, one needs to employ the three sound rules for biblical exegesis; they are context, context and context. Instead of playing Bible hopscotch in reading a verse here and a verse there (or even PART of a verse here or there) like Rodriguez does, it is best to read this passage on the whole. Acts 27 (the book itself is written by Luke) comes after Acts 26, a chapter about the apostle Paul’s defense before King Agrippa (in chapter 26, Paul gives his testimony). Paul is a prisoner at this time. Acts 27:1-26 (New American Standard Bible) reads as follows (I bolded what Rodriguez did NOT read):
“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius.
And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica.
The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care.
From there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus because the winds were contrary.
When we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia.
There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it. When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.
When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them, and said to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”
But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than what was being said by Paul.
Because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.
When a moderate south wind came up, supposing they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore.
But before very long there rushed from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along.
Running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control.
After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along.
The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.
Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.
When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, “Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss. Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
“For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’
Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told.
“But we must run aground on a certain island.”
This chapter has 44 verses. I only went to verse 26 just to show that even at that point, the text (as well as what follows) has nothing to do with us. Rather than rightly exegete the text, Rodriguez plays Bible hop-scotch and then he crafts a statement so asinine as he stirs the crowd into a frenzy. We learn nothing about our going to Rome in this passage. This is not about us; instead, it is about Paul and his own adventurous journey to Rome.
While Rodriguez makes an effort to recover in this sermon after the aforementioned frenzy-stirring, he flatlines at the 12:45 mark. Here, he says, “Let me tell you what God told me to tell you.” At this point, what we should be expecting to come from Rodriguez’s mouth is something completely congruent with God’s Word. Unfortunately, we do not get that. Here is what he says:
In your life, it may look like the enemy is winning right now. It may look like the enemy is winning with your children and your children and your children. It may look like hell is about to celebrate. It may look like you’re never gonna come out of where you’re going through, but perception is not reality. God is turning it around in your favor, and when it’s all said and done, what looked like your worst defeat will actually emerge as your greatest victory.
This is absolute nonsense. For the believer, how can it look like the enemy is winning when Jesus Christ, the infinite God-man and only way by which mankind may be saved (John 1:1, 14; 14:6; Acts 4:12), already won by dying on the cross and rising from the dead to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase a place in heaven for us (Isaiah 53:6; 1 Timothy 1:15)? For the non-believer, how can God turn ANYTHING in his/her favor when the un-believer cannot even understand the things of the Spirit of God since they are foolishness to him/her (1 Corinthians 2:14)? Notice also the amount of times Rodriguez uses some form of the word “you.” He already narcigeted Acts 27 with his “I’m on my way to Rome” war cry despite the fact the passage is not even about us. Now, in his “let me tell you what God told me to tell you” spat, he spews out a bunch of nonsense that totally contradicts what God’s Word says while at the same time pointing to the individual instead of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Any person who claims to speak for God should be saying stuff that is congruent with what God’s Word says. If what the person says does not agree with God’s Word, then it is obvious that the person speaking is speaking falsely. This is a serious matter. In fact, doing such a thing in Old Testament times could get one killed (see Deuteronomy 13 & 18). While death may not be the present-day penalty, leading others astray (as Rodriguez does by putting the audience’s eyes on themselves rather than Christ) is a serious consequence nonetheless because it takes the eyes off the Savior of the world and it puts them on man, a sinner who cannot save himself (Romans 3:23).
At this point, Rodriguez has lost credibility with both his narcigesis and his falsely claiming to speak for God. Shortly after his falsely claiming to speak for God, his “sermon” continues to implode with his ripping of Jeremiah 29:11 (an often abused verse), 1 Corinthians 2:9 and Isaiah 14:27 all out of context. Even if Rodriguez nailed it the rest of the way, he has already proven himself to be one who both makes the Bible about him and falsely claims to speak from God, thus breaking any trust in him as possibly being a reliable, accurate handler of God’s Word.
Here, Rodriguez speaks at the Men’s Summit 2017 conference. At about the 2:10 mark, he says the following:
I’m believing in the name of Jesus that before this is over, you’re gonna go from a plow to a mantle, and you’re gonna walk out of an anointing that will enable you to change your life for the glory of Jesus.
After saying this, he tells his audience members to tell those sitting next to them, “There’s a mantle coming your way.” Once again, Rodriguez gets all the eyes focused on the individual rather than Christ. Did Jesus die so a mantle can come our way? I think not (Matthew 18:11; 1 Timothy 1:15).
Rodriguez speaks often of “pushing the plow, breaking the ground and sowing the seed” for about the first 10 minutes of his message as he speaks on 1 Kings 19:19. However, like the first sermon, his death blow comes in the shape of a “God told me to tell you” spat, albeit dressed differently this time as a “message from heaven” (I don’t cover his Bible twisting of 1 Kings 19:19 since the alleged “message from heaven” is bad enough). This message is for those who have “pushed the plow, and have broke the ground, and have sowed the seed.” To these people, Rodriguez says the following:
I want you to put a smile on your face because I’m coming here with a message from heaven to tell you that the next thing coming your way is nothing less than a mantle of a double-portion. What God is about to place upon you, what God is about to pour upon you will change your life forevermore. Somebody shout, “There’s a mantle coming my way.”
Is that really a message from heaven, where Jesus Christ reigns? Am I really going from a plow to a mantle (the aforementioned goal of Rodriguez’s message, believed upon by Rodriguez “in the name of Jesus”) by hearing an alleged “message from heaven” telling me that what God is about to place and pour upon me will change my life forevermore? The answer is no. God already changed my life forevermore by sending His Son, one who knew no sin, to become sin for both me and many others who are trusting in Him alone for the free gift of salvation instead of their works, head knowledge or anything else (2 Corinthians 5:21; James 2:19; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). Furthermore, why is his “message from heaven” only for those who are pushing the plow, breaking the ground and sowing the seed? It sounds like I better be doing a lot of stuff in order to get this “double portion” (whatever that double portion is). Rodriguez places quite a burden on his audience in the first ten minutes alone. Furthermore, he deals his own death blow with a “message from heaven” that, ironically, does not agree with God’s Word. Once again, Rodriguez destroys his credibility so badly that I have no interest in what he has to say in the rest of his message.
As mentioned earlier, Rodriguez has much influence. As a result, both his extreme narcigesis and his various types of “God told me to tell you” spats are very dangerous for the Bible-believing/defending Christian. Furthermore, one must understand that the Bible is about Jesus and not the individual. Unfortunately, Rodriguez often points to the individual with his asinine statements such as “I’m on my way to Rome” or “There’s a mantle coming by way” that result from his gross narcigesis of biblical text. Furthermore, his “God told me to tell you” spats place all the eyes on the individual rather than on Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
At this point, the Rise Conference is shaping up to be an event that will lean heavily on narcigesis based on the examinations of Carl Lentz and Sammy Rodriguez. This will be a full-blown narcigetical event if the conference’s third speaker, Jabin Chavez, is also found to be narcigetical in his handling of God’s Word. Like Lentz and Rodriguez, one needs to examine Chavez’s teachings against Scripture to see if they are congruent with God’s Word (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). As for Rodriguez, Christians really need to check what he says against God’s Word. In doing so, they will find that his teachings are dangerous. As a result, he is not one who can be trusted with accurately handling God’s Word given his constant pointing to the individual instead of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.