Posts Tagged ‘Homogeneous’


Reaching the Nations Among Us: Part 1 A Nation of Immigrants

Monday, February 16, 2009

1952, East Los Angles, CA  – “Look Mijo”, she said to me in Spanish, “See that big building? That’s where your daddy is going to work!” I was four years old as I sat on my mother’s lap looking out the window into East Los Angeles. As the train slowed down through the community of Boyle Heights for its arrival into Union Station, I looked in awe at the massive building my mother pointed out – the Los Angeles County General Hospital.

My mother’s words expressed the hope of my stepfather, Roberto Serrano, affectionately referred to as “Bobby” by the doctors and medical staff at his retirement as a surgical technician from Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina. But in 1952, he was an immigrant from Mexico with a new wife, a son, little money, a sixth grade education, yet full of hope and a dream for a better life.

 The next decade my dad would work toward achieving his dream. During that time my mom’s brothers would cross the border one by one, housed by my parents until they got a job and were able to rent a place of their own.

 The story of my family is similar to that of many immigrants that have come to America in search of hope and the opportunity to achieve their dream. America is a nation comprised of immigrants and their descendents. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Remember, remember always, that all of us… are descended from immigrants…”

The present reality is that the majority of descendents of immigrants is shifting. Demographers tell us that by 2042: 

  • Whites will be less than 50% of the U.S. population.
  • Hispanics will be over one in four.
  • African-Americans will be 12%.
  • Asians and Pacific Islanders will more than double their 2006 population to 28.3 million.

A more staggering figure by the Pew Hispanic Center is that new immigrants arriving after 2005 and their descendents will account for 82% of the U.S. population growth between 2005 and 2050 as a result of natural increase (the excess of births over death).

Children under the age of 18 are expected to reach majority-minority status of just over 50% of the population by 2023 and 62% of all children by 2050, mostly due to the growth in immigrant children. 

The demographical changes in the next forty-nine years are shocking, but what is the demographic reality of today? According to a 2005 report by the U.S.Census Bureau, Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas are majority-minority state, along with the District of Columbia. States on their way to becoming majority-minority are Maryland, Mississippi, Georgia, New York and Arizona. 2007 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show that about 10% (302) of the country’s 3,141 counties are already majority minority counties. Another 218 counties are at the “tipping point” and in the next few years will become majority-minority counties.

So what is the pathological impact of these demographical changes on the local church?  It’s deadly. Dr. Peter Wager in his book Your Church Can Grow identifies the disease as “Ethnikitis.” The symptom is that the people in the pew no longer reflect the people in the community. The diagnosis is that the church will eventually die.  When we take into account the exodus of baby boomers from more densely populated to less densely populated areas when they retire, minorities will fill the housing vacancies but not necessarily the pews.

The churches in greatest danger of dying are homogenous churches that have predominately targeted a white middle class population. That is because their demographic is in decline. The options for survival are: (1) sell or give the facilities to a homogenous ethnic congregation and relocate to where your constituency has relocated. (2) Become a multi-cultural congregation ministering to multiple congregations in their language and cultural context. These multi-cultural congregations may be one church with multiple language departments, or multiple congregations sharing one facility. (3) Transition to a multi-ethnic congregation where the church has a diversity of English speaking ethnic groups. This list of options is by no means extensive. If you know of other options please submit those options in the comment box for the benefit of our readers.

If the homogenous church is to survive and thrive the people in the pews must reflect the people in the community.  The question now, is how? We will begin to address this question in our series, Reaching the Nations Among Us. 

That’s my opinion. I welcome yours.


The Ideal Model for An Ethnically Diverse Church

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Michael Wilson from Australia asked, “Is there one right or ideal church model? If so, what is the biblical and theological basis for this?  


         I have yet to meet a pastor of a multi-ethnic or a homogeneous church for that matter, who doesn’t feel that his approach to ministry is the right-if not best-approach. We can gather them all in one room and discover that they are for the most part basing their ministry on the same biblical principles and mandates.  What differs is the methodology, the manner in which they carry out the ministry of the church.  This personal guideline for ministry is called a Philosophy of Ministry. For instance, there are some pastors of English speaking congregations in the United States who see the need for providing homogeneous immigrant services in the language and cultural context of the ethnic group they desire to reach, while others refuse to provide such services insisting that immigrants must learn English and attend the English speaking services.

         The Bible clearly instructs the church what it is that she must do, but falls short of explicitly telling us how to do it.  The how is mostly based upon one’s philosophy of ministry.  For a guide on how to develop a biblical philosophy of ministry click here.  

         The ideal model, from my perspective, is a church that will, in the case of the United States, reach out to the English and non-English speaking members of her ethnically diverse community. I don’t see where the Great Commission restricts the proclamation of the Gospel only to those who speak our heart language. On the contrary in Acts 1:8 the church is to proclaim the Gospel across cultures.  Doesn’t this mandate hold true if those cultures come to our neighborhoods? That is why I believe that the local church in an ethnically diverse community is to minister to the native and foreign born 1.0, 1.5, and naturalized generations of ethnics in her community.  With that in mind lets consider a few models. Please keep in mind that this is by no means an inclusive list. But for the sake of our discussion I will address four.

         The Renter/Rentee Model.  This church rents its facilities to an ethnic congregation. The Pros, it provides the host church with additional income, an opportunity to indirectly reach an ethnic community it is unable (or unwilling) to reach and it gives the immigrant church a facility in which to meet. The Cons are that the churches continue to be segregated and there is little opportunity for the 1.5 and 2.0 extended family members of the immigrant church to be reached by the renter church.

         The Mission Church Model. This church sponsors an ethnic mission church plant of its denomination. Providing its resources, usually facilities and utilities, until the mission church is self-sufficient.  The Pros, it provides the host church with a mission outreach opportunity and it provides the ethnic church plant with resources that lowers their initial expenses while working toward self-sufficiency. The Cons are that the churches are still segregated and there is little initiative for the sponsor church to reached the 1.5 and 2.0 extended family members of the immigrant church.

         The Multi-ethnic Church Model.  This is a church that intentionally transitions from the original homogeneous congregation to a multi-ethnic one that reflects the diversity of its community. The Pros, integration is in process among all ethnic groups that have proficiency in the dominant language group. Members are learning to worship together, serve together, and love one another. The Con is that the immigrant community is still unreached.

         The Hehogeneous Church Model.  Don’t bother to Google “hehogeneous” I coined the term. This church is heterogeneous (multi-ethnic) in the dominant language service and homogeneous (multi-cultural) in the various immigrant services conducted in their respective language and cultural context. The Pros, integration is in process among all ethnic groups that have proficiency in the dominant language group. Members are learning to worship together, serve together, love one another, and all levels of assimilation among ethnic groups are reachable. The Cons? I don’t see any but then again I am biased.

         The local church should strive to reach not only the diversity of ethnic groups within her community but all levels of assimilation among them as well.

That’s my opinion I welcome yours.


For further reading on models for multi-ethnic churches and immigrant outreach see:

Eldin Villafañe, “Seek the Peace of the City: Reflections on Urban Ministry,” Eerdmanns, 1995

Manuel Ortiz, The Hispanic Challenge: Opportunities Confronting the Church,” Inter Varsity Press, 1993 and “One New People: Models for Developing A Multi-ethnic Church”, Inter Varsity Press, 1996