News item: The Battle For Latino Souls

News item: The Battle For Latino Souls

Uploaded on March 6, 2005 by D LeRoy

An item from the March 21 issue of Newsweek popped up on my radar: “The Battle For Latino Souls.” Subitled, “Pentecostal churches are using savvy marketing to attract traditionally Catholic Hispanics. A holy struggle in Chicago”.

I found this quote interesting:

Latinos remain the Catholic church’s fastest-growing ethnic bloc, but they are also one of the fastest-growing segments among Mormons, Methodists and most other denominations. The result: all faiths are courting Hispanics with a marketing savvy more often associated with corporate America. These churches “have plans to grow, and they’re aggressive,” says Edwin Hernandez of the University of Notre Dame. “The competition is rampant.”

The dark-side of evangelistic economics? Or language from a skewed perspective? The picture’s a little clearer as we begin the next graf and we see that we Pentecostals are “aggressive” proselytizers—code for flock-raiders? Yes, because people aren’t just converting from Catholicism, they’re “defecting.”


That’s especially true among Pentecostals. With their cathartic, music-filled worship style and aggressive proselytizing, they’ve made deep inroads in Hispanic communities.

Later, we learn that churches range from “storefront outfits” to “warehouse operations,” and it begins to sound downright organized, if not criminal. One can almost hear the knives stropped and the Glocks strapped when we read that while “the leaders tolerate one another, rivalries simmer close to the surface.”

The article briefly details “savvy marketing tactics” like — get this — direct mail (this is news? How many church fliers have I received in the mail in my lifetime?), a Warren-inspired “40 Days of Purpose” campaign (Duh. Like anybody reading the current best-seller list wouldn’t grok the sense behind that.), and a youth center with games and computers (If your family could afford it, wouldn’t you provide that?).

The benevolent ministries alluded to (shelters, a drug-recovery farm, a prison ministry) are overshadowed by the language. Freddy Santiago is quoted for a menacingly commercial slant:

“People are looking for service… It’s like a business.”

But we should note it was Freddy’s disgruntled and suspicious wife who said,

When people leave, they go to orgies, to movies, to dances!”

Authoritative sources quoted for local color? Or just the right neighborhood grump to help spin the perspective?

The truth behind the article’s bias is: ethnic minorities are coming into the Evangelical church at an alarming pace. But alarming to who?

Depends, I guess, on whether you’re fer it or agin’ it. .

[tags]BlogRodent, Assemblies-of-God, Assembly-of-God, Religion, belief, church, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Evangelical, church-growth, evangelism, bad-press, hispanics, latinos[/tags]

2 thoughts on “News item: The Battle For Latino Souls

  1. Jennifer Post author

    and a youth center with games and computers (If your family could afford it, wouldn’t you provide that?).

    Speaking as someone who has a child who loves computer games and as someone who can afford them, maybe I should provide them. But, I don’t. If someone else is willing to put the games on computers, then why should I bog down my already overburdened computer with Old Maid? And non-computer games? Socialization for the child if he or she goes to a church-sponsered game event would be wonderful. I can take much fewer hours of Candyland or Hide-n-seek or Chutes and Ladders than a four-year-old.


  2. Rich Post author

    Ha. Yeah. You’re right, the socialization is a plus factor. And that only makes my point that churches providing these kinds of game centers for kids aren’t merely doing “savvy marketing” tricks: this is a valuable service that adds value beyond even what your family can do.

    On the other hand, remember what John LaRue told us when we were over for dinner? They were hoping to build a rec room for their kids so that all their friends would enjoy coming over and hanging out at their house.

    Not a bad plan, whether it’s on a family level or a local church level. If my kids aren’t hanging out at our house playing games, let’s hope they love hanging out at God’s house just as much.


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