What Evangelical Churches Can Learn from the Diversity In America’s Latino Population

Ángel Cantero / Iglesia en Valladolid / Flickr
Ángel Cantero / Iglesia en Valladolid / Flickr

I know a pastor who leads a vibrant, growing multicultural church in the southeastern United States. His congregation includes people from more than ten countries, and most of them are bilingual. Members are black, brown, and white. In an age when many evangelical churches strive to break down racial barriers and become “multicultural,” they may be surprised to learn that this diverse body is actually a Latino church, led by a Puerto Rican pastor.

His church is one example of how white evangelicals can learn a lot from the diversity in America’s Latino population. No longer confined to certain areas of the country, US-born Hispanics and Latino immigrants live everywhere from Oregon to rural Wisconsin, from South Bend to Birmingham. Since 1980, the Hispanic population has more than tripled, from 14.8 million to 54 million. Now, more than 1 in 6 Americans is Hispanic.

While the majority of Latino immigrants come from Mexico, the United States increasingly welcomes populations from countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, and Colombia. Despite a (mostly) shared language and some common history, these immigrants—even those from the same country—bring widely different experiences and cultures.

Most Hispanics speak English, but the expectation of a language barrier still prevents many white families from making friends with Latino families. Segregated cities mean some don’t cross paths with Latinos. They may even believe there are no Latinos in their community… even though Hispanic grocery stores, restaurants, and businesses tell another story. And so does the church landscape. Protestant Latino congregations are thriving in our backyards, if only we’d take time to notice.

Some Latino immigrants come to the United States with a background in evangelical or other Protestant churches. Many leave their Catholic upbringing to join such churches. Currently,22 percent of Latino adults in this country identify as Protestant.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Mandy Rodgers-Gates

 

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