It is a joy to have Brother Matt Bixby contribute to www.reachinghispanics.org. Matt Bixby is the Director of Universidad Cristiana de las Américas in Monterrey, Mexico. He recently shared the following ideas on how to minister to the Hispanics who might be in your neighborhood, on your “doorstep” . . . in your mission field.
“Almost everywhere we go in the United States, people tell us that many Hispanics live in their area. Many believers have a desire to reach out to these people but are not sure exactly how to do this. Let me offer a few suggestions.
1. Take advantage of the relational culture.
If you want to effectively minister to Hispanics, you must develop relationships with them. They will respond very well to an Anglo that shows interest in them, especially since many of them are far from home and the extended family network that is such a part of their social and cultural structure. Be careful that you are not rude to them or shame them in any way, especially in front of others. If they feel they have been slighted, they will distance themselves from you, though they will never acknowledge it to your face.
2. Guard against pressuring them to “accept Christ.”
Remember that they will respond to pressure, but those responses may not be the result of God’s Spirit working in their hearts. As you develop relationships, you will have multiple opportunities to share and clarify the Gospel, ensuring that they truly understand. Remember that their Catholic religion* uses much of the same “jargon” that we use when sharing the Gospel.
3. Look for a place where families have put down roots.
Many cities in the United States have a large contingent of Hispanics living there, yet the Hispanic population is primarily made up of migrant workers. Migrant workers move often, following the jobs. They also take off if they hear that immigration officers are coming through. This demographic group needs to hear the Gospel but is not conducive to planting a church.
4. Don’t get discouraged when . . .
. . . people promise and don’t follow through. They will often say “yes” to an invitation to church because they know that is what you want to hear and because they prefer to avoid the “mini-confrontation” that saying “no” requires. In their culture, it is more appropriate to lie than to say “no”.
. . . Hispanics drift off, never to be seen again. Remember that without the mooring of family they can be unstable, especially if they are involved in migrant work.
. . . Hispanics find it difficult to integrate into an Anglo church. Typical American culture is so different that Hispanics naturally gravitate back to a church with a culture more similar to their own. This is true even when they speak English well.”
Without a doubt the mission field has come to America. We trust that perhaps these ideas as well as others that have been previously shared here in our online magazine, will assist you in “Reaching Hispanics: Our Neighbors.”
Contributing article by Matthew Bixby (Director of Universidad Cristiana de las Américas in Monterrey, Mexico; email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
In 1998, Universidad Cristiana de las Americas(UCLA) was established in Monterrey, Mexico. Under the leadership of Dr. Carl Herbster, Dr. Sam Horn, and Pastor Julio Montes, UCLA has been training Spanish speaking Christians to reach the Hispanic World. The University started with sixteen students and has a current enrollment of over 160. Since UCLA’s establishment, seven pastors and six assistant pastors have been trained and are now in local Baptist churches all over Mexico. Others have graduated and are serving in their local church ministries. Two couples have graduated and are serving the Lord as missionaries to French Guyana and Ecuador.
* According to the Pew Hispanic survey, 83% of Hispanics claim a religious affiliation, a share slightly higher than that seen among the general public (80%). Among Latinos, most are Catholic—more than three-in-five (62%) say this is their religious affiliation. Meanwhile, one-in-five (19%) Latino adults say they are Protestant, and 14% say they are unaffiliated with any religion. For further information, visit http://www.pewhispanic.org/2012/04/04/v-politics-values-and-religion/.