The Hispanic population continues to grow in the U.S. What Hispanic values are shared by the community and how do those values impact evangelism?
By Angel Jordan
In his book Evangelism Through the Early Church, theologian Michael Green shows the explosive growth of early Christianity “was actually achieved through informal missionaries.” That is, lay Christians, not preachers and evangelists by profession, who carried out the mission of the church “not through formal preaching, but through informal conversations … in homes and stores, on walks and in market stalls … they did it naturally, with enthusiasm. … Having found a treasure, they intended to share it with others, to the best of their ability.”
The New Testament and other historical documents clearly show us that the main centers of evangelism were in the oikos—that is, the home. A person’s strongest relationships are within the home. For that reason, when a person became a Christian, it happened in the home. If the head of the family became a believer, the whole house became a center of ministry where the gospel was taught to family members and neighbors.“In the early church, if the head of the family became a believer, the whole house became a center of ministry where the gospel was taught to family members and neighbors.” — @AngeelJordan Click To Tweet
Home evangelism was very important in the early church. Simple friendships were one of the main carriers of the gospel. We see this in John 1 when Philip passes on his knowledge of Jesus to his friend Nathanael. Without a doubt, relationships are key in connecting and sharing our faith.
Understanding Hispanic values
Lifeway Research recently conducted a study of Hispanic churches in the United States. Hispanics are a cultural group that highly values personal relationships. Even in their business relationships, many try to establish a personal relationship before making a purchase or hiring someone to provide a service. This is even more important when it comes to spiritual matters.
The study reveals a picture of Hispanic churches that are newer and younger than other churches. And the way Hispanic churches share the gospel and reach people seems to be effective. Nearly half (47%) say 10 or more people have indicated they have given their lives to Christ in the past year, including 24% who have seen 20 or more people give their lives to Christ. Fewer than 1 in 10 (9%) report that no one has given their life to Christ.
As the U.S. population has become more diverse, Hispanics have become the largest minority in the country. And the importance and contribution of the Hispanic community in society, culture, religion, and politics will increase as the country moves into the future. So, what are some values we can learn from the Hispanic community? What does it take to reach out with the gospel to a diverse and vibrant people who come from 26 countries and are a mixture of races?
It is a difficult task to attempt to construct a worldview of the Hispanic community. However, since Hispanics are a cultural and ethnic group and not a race, common values are the fabric that holds them together. Here are eight Hispanic values that impact ministry.
1. The family
The Hispanic community is concerned with family unity, harmony, and smooth and pleasant social interactions. They like courtesy and good manners. Family doesn’t only imply individuals united exclusively by blood or legal relationships. But it also refers to a group with a special affinity with each other. The family structure has important implications for evangelism since many Hispanics make important decisions in family consensus. Many times, encouraging a Hispanic to make an individual decision to follow Christ can be counterproductive and cause us to miss the opportunity to win an entire family for Jesus.“Many times, encouraging a Hispanic to make an individual decision to follow Christ can be counterproductive and cause us to miss the opportunity to win an entire family for Jesus.” — @AngeelJordan Click To Tweet
Being respectful and courteous is an important characteristic in a culture where people come first. Family and close friends play an important role in sharing Jesus with someone, as they are often the ones who bring a person to the feet of Jesus. Personal relationships are far more important than any other means of evangelism.
3. Generosity and sharing
The saying “Mi casa es tu casa” or “My house is your house” is the first commandment of generosity. It sums up the way of sharing and implies that what I have is yours. Hispanic people take pleasure in sharing and giving. Celebrations are a clear example of hospitality. Everyone who attends brings something to share. The food keeps coming and coming. Often by the end of the celebration, there is much more food than there was at the beginning.
Hispanics value everyone and believe they should be treated with dignity and courtesy regardless of their social status. Generally, when someone is treated with respect, they respond in the same way. A person has value because of who they are, not because of what they have. This is similar to what Genesis 1:26 teaches us. The value of human beings lies in the fact that God created human beings in His image and likeness. The value of human beings does not depend on their skin color, social position, political party, ability or talent, or even level of spirituality.
Hispanics don’t do business in a transactional way but in a relational way. Honesty is the most important ingredient that determines a person’s credibility because it builds trust.“Honesty is the most important ingredient that determines a person's credibility because it builds trust.” — @AngeelJordan Click To Tweet
For Hispanics, work is not just a way to earn a living. It is a symbol of taking care of family. Since family is the most important value, work has meaning and dignity. People will do anything as long as they can feed their families. They will feel good and honorable.
7. Serving and helping others
The essence of collectivist cultures such as the Hispanic culture is the common good. This is evident when you greet someone, who may respond with, “a sus órdenes” or ”at your service.” When something is requested, a Hispanic may respond with “para servirle” or ”to serve you.” And a more direct response is “mande,” which literally means “tell me what you want me to do.” And if the person is nice, it means “if this makes you happy, I will do my best to do it.”
8. Faith and hope
The values of service, compassion, responsibility for all, and generosity are based on their spiritual beliefs. The spirituality of the Hispanic community is centered on relationships and responsibility for all. Faith has inspired courage in Hispanics and gives hope for a better future.
Treating people like family, being generous, having respect for everyone regardless of their situation or position, keeping your word, and serving are the pillars of Hispanics. By being nice, friendly, and approachable, an outsider can become part of the extended family. Maintaining a positive and friendly relationship is the best way to reach out and establish meaningful relationships in ministry.
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Angel is the director of the Hispanic initiatives ministry at Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.