How can churches win the Hispanics that are living within reach of their ministry? How does a pastor begin to lead his church to meet the spiritual needs of those who are from a different country and who speak a different language?
There are currently over 35 million Hispanics living in the United States. Latinos make up more than 13% of our total population and were declared the largest minority in the census of 2000. Because of birth rates and continued immigration, the people group continues to grow faster than any other minority in the country. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States next to English. While people from Mexico make up more than 67% of the U.S. Latino population, there are large pockets of immigrants from several countries. For decades, immigrants have come from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Peru, and virtually every other Central and South American country. God is bringing the mission field to our own backyard and He desires that our churches do local missions work.
Often I encounter pastors and lay people who share with me about the influx of Hispanics in their own community. These church leaders are usually overwhelmed by the massive need and their own inadequacy to be able to meet it. Unfortunately, there is not much material available for these church leaders to equip them to have an effective ministry with or to Latin Americans. This lack of “how to” material may be because there are no two Spanish ministries that look alike. The U.S. Hispanic community contains such a wide variety of cultures, worldviews, regional accents, economic statuses, and legal statuses that it makes it impossible to reach them with a fixed standard or methodology. Thus, even the most well-meaning church leaders are quickly overwhelmed and discouraged when it comes to getting the gospel out to their Hispanic neighborhoods.
Let me encourage you that there is hope! There are many churches launching effective Hispanic ministries. While the methods have been different in each case, some similarities have been present in all of them. These similarities are the same truths that are vital and foundational for any church seeking to reach Hispanics. Getting a grasp on these foundational truths will jumpstart any church to begin reaching the mission field in their own backyard. The following paragraphs contain these similarities found in churches with effective Spanish ministries.
- At the dinner table a Hispanic hostess will fill your plate before she places it in front of you. You will offend her if you do not eat all the food on the plate. Unfortunately, if you eat it all she often will insist on serving you more. You will, again, chance offending her if you do not accept the seconds! An incarnational ministry first involves being willing to go out of your comfort zone to simply visit the homes of Hispanics. Then it may involve being willing to eat two or three helpings of food that you might not care for.
- Hispanics are notorious for not being governed by time or schedules. If you are invited to a birthday party at a Latin American’s house and show up on time, you may be the only one there! Therefore, it requires patience when beginning a Spanish Bible study or a church service. Very few will get there on time. The encouraging aspect comes in that no one will be in a hurry to leave either.