The face of Oklahoma is changing every day as more and more people from other parts of the world discover opportunity in the Heartland. No ethnic group has embraced what is right with Oklahoma more than the Hispanic community. In every way, the world is before us. The potential for eternal impact has never been closer to our front door. What will we do with the spiritual harvest the Lord has put before us?
A recent study by the Pew Research Center indicates Hispanics are highly receptive to the Gospel. About one-third of all Catholics in the United States now are Latinos, the Pew study reported; the Hispanic population in this country now exceeds 42 million, or roughly 14 percent of the population-with projections to keep growing at an energetic rate.
Bob Sena, director of the field services team in the North American Mission Board’s church planting group says 23 percent of the Hispanic population now identifies with either evangelical or Protestant churches.
“The Hispanic field is white unto the harvest,” Sena said. “My prayer is that the Lord will give us a passion to lead untold numbers of Hispanics to Christ and to start churches in the hundreds of communities across North America where Hispanics now live.”
Southern Baptists planted 1,592 Hispanic churches during the past five years, Sena reported, which averages 318 per year.
“They are searching for an experience that connects them more closely to God than they find in their traditional forms of worship,” said Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions and director of the Scarborough Institute for Church Planting and Growth at Southwestern Seminary. “Evangelical Christians can be a blessing to them if they genuinely love them, establish meaningful relationships with them, focus on what is essential for salvation and include them in spirit-filled Bible studies and warm Christian fellowship.”
While predominantly white churches are attempting to reach out to Latinos through Hispanic ministries, the Pew study found that two-thirds of Latino worshipers attend churches with Latino clergy where services are offered in Spanish. Ethnic churches are prevalent even among English-speaking Latinos.
According to Edwin Hernandez, a Latino expert at the University of Notre Dame, religion matters greatly to the Hispanic identity and ethnic churches tend to affirm cultural roots and strengthen families and communities while helping people integrate into society by providing job training, social services and intergenerational connections.
God has provided Oklahoma Baptists with an unprecedented opportunity to reach our Spanish speaking friends with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the Hispanic population continues to grow across our state.
Oklahoma Baptists have responded by planting many new Hispanics churches, providing leadership training to Hispanic church leaders and by now offering PowerUp Sunday School materials in Spanish. To learn more about supporting church planting among Hispanics or to utilize resources especially designed to grow disciples among Hispanics, contact the Church Planting Team or the Church and Family Equipping Team of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma at 405/942-3800.