Hispanics in U.S. need to hear Gospel
Missouri Baptists are reaching out with ‘Good News’
JEFFERSON CITY—With Spanish being the second most common language spoken in the United States, and legal immigration from Mexico or other Spanish speaking countries rising from a mere 800,000 in 1970 to a whopping 8 million in 2000, there would appear to be a great opportunity to reach many souls for the kingdom.
Why go to another country to reach people who come from a different culture when there are so many people coming from very different cultures who might live right down the street or in some apartments that we pass driving home?
Recently, there has been much debate and conflict within people of the many various races, mainly those of Hispanic or Latino descent, and Anglo-Americans. Combined, these various races make up a large portion of the population of the United States, but did you know that although news of illegal immigration floods our televisions, millions of legal immigrants, most of Hispanic descent, live right across the street or on the other side of town?
These people in the year 2003 made up 13.9 percent of the population of the entire United States, and 2.3 percent of the state of Missouri.
“La Familia,” or the family, is very important in the Spanish culture, and is the main unit in the Hispanic community. The family comes before church, political parties, or anything else in life. Desiring the very best for their family makes education essential in the Hispanic culture, which is one of the main reasons for immigrating to this country. Many first-generation immigrants to the U.S. do not have a good educations, but want the best for their children and are willing to sacrifice to ensure that happens. Although the education level of Hispanics has considerably improved throughout the years, it still remains below that of non-Hispanics.
The need for possessions is important in the Spanish culture, as in every culture. Basic needs bring many to the United States. With the salary being higher in the U.S. than in Mexico or other Hispanic countries, families are able to attain employment where they are able to provide for their loved ones.
Another important aspect that is hard for the “typical” working Anglo-American to grasp is the way a person of Latino origin views time. To an Anglo-American, “time is money” and the clock “runs,” but to the Hispanic “time is life” and the clock walks. There is a strong sense of pride among Hispanics, and although they leave their individual countries for political or economic reasons, they retain a strong sense of pride in their homeland.
Recent polls estimate that the Spanish language is being used in 80 percent of the U.S. Spanish households. It is very important to Spanish immigrants that their children do not forget their native language. Despite this estimate, there are different levels of Spanish language usage among Hispanic communities. There are those who speak just enough to get by, those who use Spanish as their primary language, those who are bilingual, and those who know only Spanish. Very small percentages know only English; this is because of a strong sense of pride Hispanics have in their culture.
Some 70 percent of Hispanics are Roman Catholic, but they don’t hold on to Catholicism so much for the religious beliefs. Roman Catholicism has become so much a part of the Hispanic culture that to leave the Catholic Church would be much like leaving their culture. This is why leaving the Catholic Church is no easy matter for a Hispanic person.
While many Hispanics are realigning themselves with Protestant churches, they are not attracted to churches that often appeal to non-Hispanics. Baptist churches attract 20 percent of the non-Hispanic adult population, and other mainline churches—Episcopal, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Presbyterian, and Evangelical Lutheran—draw another 20 percent, yet only one percent of all Hispanic adults attend either a Baptist or mainline church.
Being very relational, and emotional people, it appears that there is a tendency for those of the Hispanic culture to be drawn to charismatic and Pentecostal churches if they are not dedicated Roman Catholics. No single Protestant denomination has a grip on Hispanics. Why?
Bob Sena, director of the field services team in the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) church planting group, said, “Hispanics are now more receptive to the Gospel than ever before in the history of this country. The Hispanic field is white unto the harvest.” He continued, “My prayer is that the Lord will give us a passion to lead untold numbers of Hispanics to Christ.”
According to the Multicultural Initiative Report of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) in 2002, our purpose is to address the developmental needs unique to Language/Ethnic churches and to address needs related to permanent residents, refugee/immigration issues, and migrant ministries. Hispanics are growing six times the rate of the U.S. as a whole, and by the year 2050 will add the largest number of people to the population, if the Lord doesn’t come back.
George Barna served as the director of a research project called “The Faith of Hispanics is Shifting.” The results for religious activity differences between Hispanics and non-Hispanics were much the same, but one topic was significantly different between the two—the reading of their Bible during the week.
“Missouri Baptists need to reach the multi-cultural masses, no matter which language they speak, which country they represent because many of them never have the opportunity to hear the Gospel,” said MBC Multicultural Church Planting Strategist Mauricio Vargas. “With Hispanics they probably have heard the Gospel but don’t have a personal relationship with the Lord. They need to walk with the Lord. That would be my prayer.”
In Acts 1:8, Jesus gave us the commission to “be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We have been blessed to be citizens of a nation where you don’t have to travel to the “ends of the earth” to reach people from all over the world. Becoming aware of our surroundings and the people the Lord places in our lives every day, we can allow the Lord to use us to help break the trap of religious habit that has ensnared millions of Hispanic-Americans.