This summer I attend the Neglected Voices Series at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Charlotte, NC campus. Rev. Jorge Prado was the guest speaker who represented the Neglected Hispanic Voices. Rev. Prado is the pastor of Spanish & Caring Ministries at Calvary Church of Charlotte, NC. He is a native of Brazil and has pastored several multi-cultural churches.
Rev. Prado used the book, Hispanic Realities Impacting America: Implications for Evangelism and Missions by Dr. Daniel Sanchez as the foundation for his lecture.
Below are a few highlights from my dictated lecture notes:
The growth of the Hispanic population has exceeded even the boldest of demographic experts. The Census Bureau forecasts Hispanics will make up 25% of the U.S. population by 2050. The Hispanic population has spread throughout this country faster than any previous immigrant group. The first generation (Hispanic immigrants) has become the largest segment of the Hispanic population in America today.
All things considered, we need more Spanish speaking churches in America and more churches willing to be bridge builders with the Hispanic population in America. While use of the Spanish language has increased in America over the past two decades, we need more Spanish speaking Christians who are equipped to minister in the heart language of Hispanics.
The Ministry and Message
Hispanics are showing more receptivity to the evangelical message than ever before in the history of this country. Many Hispanics are Roman Catholic by name (association) or in their faith practices.
By-in-large, Hispanics are very conservative. Lower divorce rates are recorded among the Hispanic population. Hispanic Americans overwhelming vote or stand against homosexuality (66%) and abortion (69%). This reality could potentially change the political landscape in America.
Among people groups in America, Hispanic Americans have the largest percentage of children and young people. This presents an opportunity for the church to provide bilingual programs that set a vision for the future. Sometimes these children do not feel like they fit anywhere in the culture which leads to the temptation of joining gangs. On the other hand, they are quite open to the evangelistic message.
The Money and Contributions
Our previous interview with Pastor Daniel Gomez revealed the suspicion that many Hispanics are illegal immigrants of this country. Rev. Prado shared the same sentiment when stating, “Many see Hispanics as invisible workers.” Second and third generation Hispanics have made significant strides in education and financial success, though newly arrived Hispanics typically have the most difficulty.
What does all of this mean for the American Church? And for church leaders?
We must have a passion for the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). We must have a desire to reach all people and ethnic groups for Christ, beginning with our neighbors and those in surrounding communities. Leaders must be committed to a global vision, and not tunnel vision.
Rev. Prado provided several compelling examples of his personal experiences where churches became the beacon of God’s light in a community (Matt. 5:14-16). This process first happens in the heart of the church leadership. Multi-cultural churches must have multi-cultural staff members. Exercising biblical justice requires church leaders make a commitment to the communities in which they are called to serve. If possible, churches can offer Bible studies in several different languages. Offering a daycare or after school programs for kids is another way to share the gospel, while meeting the needs of the local community.
The bottom line requires church leaders to set an atmosphere in the congregation that is loving, loyal, and shows mutual respect for all people. Leaders should be grounded in God’s Word, and their convictions should come out of the truth found there. Biblical conviction leads to a deep commitment to the biblical doctrine of reconciliation. God (not personal interests) must be the center of worship. He must be edified. Finally, the spirit of humility is necessary if racial reconciliation is to become a reality in our hearts, homes, churches, and communities. We (Christians) are the church and as a result of the finished work of Christ on the cross, we now bear the responsibility of working together to draw those near to Christ who are now far off (Eph. 2:13, 2 Cor. 5:17-20).
I close this post with the most memorable story and I hope you can visualize it. Rev. Prado shared one experience he misses from his former church. On Easter Sundays, they would close the worship services singing “How Great Thou Art” in different languages—a small, joyous, worshipful glimpse of Heaven.