R E L I G I O N
Religion is a serious matter in the Hispanic community. Church attendance is more common among Hispanics than among native-born Americans, and substantially higher than among other immigrant groups. The family's religious beliefs and traditions are considered the second most important element which should be preserved by Hispanics. Part of that tradition is the works-based theology ascribed to by the vast majority of Hispanic adults and fostered by the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism is a strong bond among Hispanics that crosses all lines of national origins and levels of assimilation. Some 70 % of Hispanics are Roman Catholic.
The strength of the influence of Catholicism upon the Hispanic is not so much or even primarily based on religious belief. It has more to do with how much it has become a part of the culture. A person does not leave the Catholic Church without also leaving the culture and a way of life. Every aspect of life is incorporated and integrated into the religion. Births, marriages, rites of puberty, holidays, even names involve religion. Thus, it is no easy matter for a person to leave the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, many have become part of faith communities of Protestant denominations.
The religious background of the Hispanic community has significant implications for the ministry models and strategies that need to be employed. Even though a large percentage of Hispanics are not actively involved in the Roman Catholic Church, they often experience pressures from their families and friends when they become involved in evangelical outreach activities. They may also go through periods of doubts and confusion when they begin to compare what they are learning from the Bible that may disagree with some of their religious traditions.
Our ministry efforts to lead Hispanics to a personal faith in Christ need to be accompanied by much prayer, love, and patience. Often even after a person has indicated a desire to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, it may take months or even years for him or her to make the decision to become a member of an Protestant church or faith community. This fact needs to be taken into account in establishing time lines for church planting efforts in the Hispanic community.