The reality in metropolitan areas such as Houston and Dallas – Fort Worth is that there are English-speaking churches dying for lack of change. As funeral services to members continue, the list of church funerals also grows. Texas and other states like California and Florida have many cities where Latinos are a majority. It’s in these cities where churches are dying for a lack of change.
There are two reasons these churches are dying. One reason is that the membership is homogeneous and monolingual. The second reason is that the demographic has changed around the church building into a growing Latino community. Sadly, the leadership of these churches usually chooses not to adapt but rather to run away from a mission field sent to them.
Many times the leadership of these churches lacks vision in missions. As the Latinos move into their communities, instead of church members getting to know their neighbors, they often move away. When this happens the church is relocated, which is actually not as bad as churches who choose to stay but not adapt, and eventually die. But in both scenarios, when the church relocates or when the church dies, a mission field is left behind.
A leader of one of these churches where the Latino population is 40% and the Anglo is 27% said to me; “We are not going to do any specific ministry for Latinos. If we do it for them, we would need to do it for other ethnic groups.” What is very interesting is that some of these churches send teens and members on short-term mission trips to Latino countries. Yet, when these teens and members come back, they have to sit and wait for the next mission trip. For these churches, a mission is something done far from home where they send money and people, it is not reaching out towards their new neighbors from different ethnic backgrounds who are moving into their neighborhoods.
Yet, in these churches the doors of their buildings are open to anyone on Sunday morning. Even more interesting, some of these churches have around them an English-speaking Latino community. It is a fact that 62% of Latinos in the USA were born and went to school or are going to school at the present time in the USA. This means they are English-speaking and language is not an issue.
This same factor is present in our Christian universities. Although they have their doors open to any ethnic group, the percentage of Latino students in their state or the nation is not reflected on campus. Yet, when I have talked to recruiters and administrators of these institutions, they reply, “We welcome Latinos.”
So, how is it that we are not meeting each other in our neighborhoods, our churches, and our universities?
Samaria was conquered by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17) and consequently became a mixed people of other ethnic groups that resulted in the Jews rejecting them. The quickest way to Galilee was through the valley in Samaria. However, most Jews crossed east over the Jordan and traveled around Samaria, which was in fact, a much longer route. It was the route, however, that avoided the racial tension that came with traveling through Samaria.
Jesus changed that tension by going through Samaria. He not only went through Samaria but talked to a woman and many others. As a result of his conversations, He ended up staying in Samaria for two days. Later, Jesus commanded the disciples to witness about Him to the Samaritans (Acts 1:8).
Latinos likewise are a mixture of different races due to conquests by the Europeans. Also, because of culture and in some cases language, Latinos are not eager to walk through the open doors of church buildings on Sunday mornings. Neither are the churches willing to go to them, mainly due to the cultural differences. As a result, the white members move out from these communities and cities, and the church leadership looks to sell the church building and relocate, or the church does not change and dies. Consequently, many church buildings are becoming empty and for sale, and a mission field ready to reap is left behind.
The Latinos in the US are not a small number to ignore; there are 55 million Latinos. The USA has the second largest Latino population after Mexico and the number is growing faster than any other ethnic group. According to the present Latino growth, it’s expected that by the year 2050 Latinos will account for 30% of the total US population, or about 130 million people.
It is time to pay attention to our own Samaritans, a mission field sent by God to our own backyards. Running away from the mission field does not reflect the spirit of Jesus, which was to go to all people.