The Rise of Evangélicos

The story of both churches repeats itself across America and is our cover story this week

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TIME Magazine Cover, April 15, 2013
Cover Photograph by Marco Grob for TIME

One Sunday late last summer, I saw a sign on the side of the road in Adelphi, Md. It was small, wedged between dozens of presidential campaign signs, and it was in Spanish: Iglesia de Dios del Evangelio Completo. Down the road I found another sign: Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Maryland. Soon I started seeing signs for Protestant Latino churches everywhere. There was even one right behind my apartment in Virginia. And so I decided to visit two of the largest Latino Protestant churches in the area—La Roca de la Eternidad in Adelphi and Iglesia Cuadrangular el Calvario in nearby Silver Spring.

What I discovered signaled a Latino Reformation. Both churches were doubling in size every few years. Many of the congregants were Catholic converts, and even more may have been undocumented. All were fervent believers—they sang with hands high, danced during worship, and often brought their own tambourines and flags to Sunday services. They were charismatic and believed in miracles. They told me their stories over tamales and café con leche—how they converted, how God healed their physical illnesses, and how their churches became refuges from hunger and homelessness. To the mainstream American culture, and even other white evangelical churches, they were invisible. But they were hiding in plain sight.

(MORE: Does Pope Francis’ Outreach to Non-Catholics Signal Deeper Reform?)

The story of both churches repeats itself across America and is our cover story this week (available to subscribers here).  Latino evangelicals are one of the fastest growing segments of America’s churchgoing millions. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, more than two-thirds of the 52-million-plus Latinos in the US are Catholic; by 2030, that percentage could be closer to half, and many are joining evangelical Protestant ranks. It is difficult to track the numbers of the groundswell of these new Protestants. They often meet in storefronts or living rooms, and language barriers complicate the census process.

But there are also rising evangelical Latino megachurches. I met Pastor Wilfredo De Jesús, who leads the 17,000-strong New Life Covenant Church in Chicago. In 2000, just 100 people attended, and all were Spanish-speakers. Now it is the largest Assemblies of God church in the nation. The church has four campuses and nine of its 11 services are in English. Like the churches in Maryland, New Life is charismatic, but it has crossed the great divide into the American mainstream.

(MORE: TIME’s New Cover Story on The Latino Reformation)

The rise of the Latino Protestants—the evangélicos, as they are called—is a challenge for both the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical denomination in the US. Richard Land, former president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, challenged his pastors four years ago to ignore the Latino reformation at their peril. “Because if you left [Washington, DC], and drove all the way to LA, and you took the southern route, there wouldn’t be one town you’d pass that doesn’t have a Baptist church with an iglesia bautista attached to it.” Land estimates that 40 percent of Latino Southern Baptists are undocumented, and that is something his brethren cannot ignore. “They came here to work, we’re evangelistic, we shared the gospel with them, they became Baptist.”

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback church in California and of Purpose Driven Life fame, put the Latino church growth best. “The greatest growth of all is coming in the Pentecostal or charismatic churches,” he said. “It is the untold story.”

VIDEO: Rick Warren on The Daniel Plan Fitness Program

13 comments
DeaconBillG
DeaconBillG

First of all, the problem of evangelicals "snatching" Catholic Immigrants is not a new problem. The difficulties faced by the Latinos are not different problems than faced by immigrant predecessors. In the 1920's the evangelicals used violence and discrimination by Irish against Italians as a "motivator" to say that the Church was blind to them, when in actuality, Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore worked extensively with Archbishop Bolzano, the Apostolic Delegate to break the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment and commissioned ethnic priests to serve ethnic communities. The MO of the evangelicals was gentle coercive evangelization, offering money and relief while talking down the Catholic Church, in spite of the real efforts made in their favor. These priests commissioned by Cardinal Gibbons paved the way for much of the Church's immigration work today. Like the Italians, the Hispanics are dealing with language and cultural differentials. The Catholic Church in the Washington Archdiocese, first under Cardinal McCarrick and now under Cardinal Wuerl, have made monumental efforts to serve the Hispanic population in the DC area, which comprises approximately 55% of the Catholic faith community. The big difference between what the Italians compared with the Hispanics, is the the numbers game. The Italians in DC in the 1920's were about 30,000; the Hispanics in DC today number over 250,000 within DC's borders alone. More live in the surrounding suburbs. The Washington Archdiocese has made a more than critical effort to promote diaconal and presbyteral vocations within the Hispanic community. All clergy are encouraged to wear clericals while working on Church business and to be involved in all aspects of social ministry, making the presence of the Church more visible. Mass is celebrated in Spanish at most parishes, and priests and deacons are encouraged to purchase at subsidized rate and to use Rosetta Stone to learn the language. Many parishes have liturgical ministry specifically geared to the Hispanic cultural nuances. Additionally, Catholic Charities does not discriminate on the basis of religious profession to anyone to provide services, nor does it use coercive evangelization as a criterion for services received; it provides GED instruction, drug and alcohol counselling, immigration counselling, pregnancy and family assistance and counselling, among a host of other services. Admittedly, not all dioceses are as pro-active as Washington, but still the efforts to meet the needs of Hispanics is more intense and far-reaching than was for any other ethnicity. Yet of some, to much is not enough. Some Italians in 1920 were lured from the Church by evangelicals also, but often they were takers who took from the Catholic Church, and then when the Catholic resources were spread thin, they took from the Baptists. Many of the ones I know who did so have not been big contributors to the American experience. My grandparents got on their feet somewhat thanks to the Catholic Church and in turn gave back by helping others to immigrate legally and find respectable jobs. My grandparents could not read nor write in any language, but they raised 7 Catholic children, had 24 grandchildren (many of whom are teachers, lawyers, social justice activists, and business owners, and religious vocations) all who remain faithful to the Church even today, bought three houses in their lifetime, and when each passed away, the funeral lines were each over 2 miles long for the immigrant Italian families who owed their starts in this country to their influence.  Certainly the numbers of Hispanics going over to the evangelicals is significant, given the numbers residing in our country commensurate with the 300,000,000 that live in the US, whereas the US population in the 1920's was less than 150,000,000. But statistics are as good as the person interpreting them. Perhaps more could have been included on what the Church is actually doing to minister to the largest immigration wave in the history of any country the world has ever seen. Perhaps more could have been said about what some within the population are doing for themselves and for each other. the evangelicals might be handing out jobs and money, but the Church and its faithful are providing the services needed to learn how to truly survive here. The real story fo the Hispanic success needs to be told, and the Hispanics themselves need to understand that their situation is no different than what other groups have faced, except for the numbers, and that the successes of other groups are good reference points for their own sense of accomplishment. Time Magazine could also learn from that as well.

crewtech3
crewtech3

What is more shocking is that 24% of third-generation Latinos are/will be unaffiliated. Thus while Latino Catholics will fall to 40% of all Latinos in the US by 2050, only 21% of Latinos will be Protestant/Evangelical, thus making the secord largest block after "Latino Catholicism,"  "Latino unaffiliated."  Is that something for Christianity (both Catholic and Protestant) to celebrate? Thatreported  "rise" of the unaffiliated is even more dramatic than its rise in the US in general. (According to Pew Report, 48% of the US population is Protestant/Evangelical, 24% Catholic, 6% other (Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, etc) and 20% unaffiliated. In this context, the unaffiliated come in third, not second!) 

PaulFDavis
PaulFDavis

Evangelicos y charismaticos - revival for America from and through whosoever God chooses to use! God loves the world and uses people with pure, hungry and obedient hearts - skin color and ethnicity is not a priority. Dios te bendiga mi familia en Cristo!

http://www.PaulFDavis.com/supernatural-power

SergioMarcano
SergioMarcano

Protestantism leads to atheism.

Just see what is USA, the  UK, the Netherlands etc. now, where abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, the end of the family, atheism, hate to God and christianity is so commun.

Protestantism is good because is zionists itself so promote tolerance to jewish people. However, protestants nations/ civilisation are dying despite their good economy and political system. So they need immigration to survive and this immigration is ironically catholic and muslim.

banales83
banales83

Heard a prominent American speaker compare the US to Samson and how once he lost his hair is power was gone and one day he woke up from his sleep thinking God was still with God had departed from him.  His point was that one day America would find out its power was gone because their abandonment of God's word.  What came to my mind was that Samson's hair grew once more and he regained his strength at the end for a final comeback, could it be that the hair is growing once more through the latino community? We are growing not only in numbers but in evangelical churches. Its no coincidence that illegal latino immigrants are trying to be driven out of the country, a lot of them are in evangelical churches.  We might have a latino runner up for president in the next elections, we have latinos in office, we are no longer a minority. God, let us bring back your strength to this country.

Bruno_Mat1as
Bruno_Mat1as

I'm a Mexican Pentecostal myself and I must say my church was born due to the work of one of those Catholic immigrants converted to Protestantism in Louisiana back in the 30's. What a story to be told!

CrossWinds
CrossWinds

..........Acts 2:18.............

And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy..........

........Proverbs 1:23...........

Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.

waybeyondsoccermom
waybeyondsoccermom

@crewtech3 I was shocked, too.  How could Time magazine, the reporter and the editors ignore such an obvious problem with this story.  More and more Catholics are becoming atheists, not converting to another form of religion.  Protestant/Evangelical converts made the cover, but not real story, the rise of atheists in the US?  Time, go look at your graphs in your own article.

goldfish93712
goldfish93712

@banales83 aint that the truth, atheism makes me sick, I'm Pentecostal been that way for a while and I will never abandon the word of God, though I may struggle with it I will never abandon it. So not all Americans will turn away from God, a huge amount has, I am waging a war on Satan and doing what I can to lead people out of the darkness so that they may open their eyes and see the Light

Gilgoredh
Gilgoredh

@waybeyondsoccermom @crewtech3

Is atheism really on the rise? Or is the non-religious category on the rise? This distinction is very important. I don't think there is any statistical support for the rise of atheism. Though there is a rise of people who claim to be  spiritual, not religious (perhaps "non-affiliated" to use the term above). In either case the story was, clearly, not on the rise of "secularism" (whatever that word might mean), but the rise of a segment of the church which is generally not taken into account. In other words, though many people think the Church is shrinking, really the Church is actually growing in other segments and taking on a new face. What they really mean is that the white American mainstream church is shrinking. Regarding 20 to 30 years projections, they are hardly accurate as they depend on current trends and can't account for any number of factors that could drastically change the predictions, like spiritual revivals, war, natural disasters, scientific breakthroughs, etc. 

yukarihime
yukarihime

@goldfish93712 @banales83 Your religion make me sick.

yukarihime
yukarihime

@goldfish93712 

-How xenophobic religion is.

-How misogynist religion is.

-How homophobic religion is.

-How much fear and lies religion brings. 

-The fact that religion denies basic science principles.  


goldfish93712
goldfish93712

what's that make you then? I believe in a God that's alive, not a piece of metal built by a person, or some "prophet" who believes people should die. I believe in a God that loves everyone no matter what they say or do. A God who can heal. Work wonders. Now tell me, if God isn't real then how did the sky get there? how did we get here? If we came from monkeys there wouldn't be any monkeys and we'd live in cities built in tree tops, if we came from a primeval star where did that star come from? something had to create it. The creator is God, he who was, who is and is yet to come. Tell me then how my pastor recorded a video of somebodies leg growing six inches! Only God can grant somebody the gift of performing miracles. One touch of the hand and a few words and the leg grows! tell me there's no God. God doesn't see any gain in people dying because somebody said to do it. God doesn't see anything in stealing! Which is punishable by death! Satanics are sick demented morons with no lives. They are power hungry greedy hate filled people who only wish to destroy anybody's hope of a good life. I get the HOLY GHOST and speak in tongues which is a gift of God, does it harm anybody? no, it's simply prayer in the language that God speaks! Now I'm not saying you're any of those, I'm simply wondering how our religion makes you sick.

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