A study of missionary activity focusing on the peoples of North America can properly begin with ethnic Americans, because they are the oldest and newest inhabitants. They include the earliest immigrants (the Native Americans), the Hispanics (who preceded the Puritans by at least a century and who in 2006 became the largest ethnic group), and the Blacks, who were the largest ethnic group. Others from the Old World came by the millions from dozens of backgrounds making America truly a nation of immigrants welcomed by the Statue of Liberty gracing New York harbor. Most of the old newcomers brought some form of Christianity and ultimately more or less learned English and made an effort to merge into mainstream society. Thus, America is becoming more and more an ethnically diverse society, which is becoming less integrated into a mythical American. More like a pot of stew which is flavored by many imported cultures, foods, music and religions.
About 1965, most immigrants began coming to North America from the so-called ‘Pacific Rim’ countries and Latin America, primarily entering via the state of California. During the 1980s Latins and Asians made up 85% of all immigrants. By 1990, 9% of the population was foreign born and 40% of all foreign-born were Hispanics while 23% were Asians. During the era 1980 to 1992 the overall population of the US grew by 12.5%. However, note that while the Non-Hispanic white population grew by only 5.5%, the minority population grew by 40%. Within the minority growth it can be noted that the Hispanic population grew by 65% but the Asian population grew by 124%. These trends show no sign of diminishing for legal immigration will continue at about a million per year, twice that many may enter illegally and 400,000 ‘unauthorized migrants or undocumented’ will settle here annually. In 1900, one in eight was a person of color. By 1994 it was one in four. In 1970, 5% of the population was foreign born, but by 2003 the figure is 34 million foreign-born, 52% from Latin America [30% from Mexico, 27% from Asia, 14% from Europe, 3% from Africa, 3% from Canada. Eighty-three percent are not citizens and 20% speak other than English. One in five of these entered between 1990 and 1995. California as 27% foreign-born, followed by NY 21% and NJ with 19%. William O’Hare wrote in Population Today [No 4, 1993] ,
The United States is going through a historic transition from a predominantly white society rooted in Western culture to a global society composed of diverse racial and ethnic minorities...who make up one-fourth of the US population, but by the middle of the 21st century, they will comprise nearly one-half of all Americans.
There are about 12 million legal immigrants, but only one in three choose to become a citizen. However, as of 1995 many have moved to become citizens, for Green Card holders perceive that the political climate indicates that they are about to loose a number of government programs.
In 2016 the US population passed 324 million, and numerous projections were made by demographers about the future. It is believed that the US will continue to become ethnically diverse, suggesting that the Asians will become 8%, the Blacks 15% and Hispanics 24% of society. This trend may well impact the political scene and will clearly provide a larger international mission field here at home. Socially the scene will become more multiracial as young people intermarry. Our society will continue to age, nearly doubling the number of those over 65 from 12.4%, and the number of those over 85 will nearly quadruple to 6 million, as of the 2000 census.
As the world's peoples come to us in unprecedented numbers, it is becoming increasingly apparent acording to Jerry Wiles of International Orality Network, that since "Over 70% of people learn orally by necessity or preference. And these oral learners aren't just found outside Canada or the United States " Christian workers should prepare themselves to use orality evangelistic techiques to communicate the Good News in a comprehendable medium. “When we think about the North American context, the United States for example, there are more unreached people groups in the United States than any other single country in the Western Hemisphere. So we think of the U.S. being a sending place, but we need a more focused, intentional outreach to the unreached people groups, [and] also just unreached people in the U.S. and the North American context.” He continues, "The truth is, in the modern Western world, many of the intellectual phrases and terminology we use can be a barrier to others. Though we need the written Word and we need scholars, we have to be careful we’re not imposing our modern-Western world on others when God’s Word can better be shared with our mouths.[Orality & Rethinking North American Outreach, by Julie Bourdon in Mission Nework News, 6 October 2016].
ILLEGAL ALIENS—One of the thorny issues of immigration is the presence of illegal aliens. There seems to be no way of controlling the entrance of illegals with the porosity of our borders and little governmental incentive to catch and deport these illegals, primarily due to the lobby of business persons who hire the illegals at less than minimum wages. One effective way of catching illegals is to require employers to demand identity of all they hire, however, they do not want to hinder the ability to hire cheap labor. In the year 2006 many illegals were demonstrating in the streets concerning government plans to curb the number of illegal aliens entering the country. Estimates indicate that nearly a million illegals enter the country each year and have done so since 1995. Currently there may be as many as 11 million illegals here. It is also noted that 165,000 return home, another 165,000 become legal, another 50,000 are deported and 25,000 die; with a net gain each year. Part of the scenario is the number who overstay their visa and get absorbed into the masses. Another problem became obvious that the current administration had no desire to deport illigals and permitted the establishment of Sanctuary Cities, where even those convicted of crimes were protected. This phenomenon seemed to smell of vote buying.
Ethnics are those who did not want to lose their cultural identity in the "melting pot" of the day, thus creating a pluralistic society. The ethnics are culturally identifiable people groups "who perceive themselves to have a common affinity for one another." They tend to congregate in homogeneous groups, often in the inner or central cities where they maintain their Old Country ways. Most noteworthy is their native language, religion and culture. It should be noted that their cultural distance from the majority is at best not understood and at worst gives rise to prejudice, animosity, and outright discrimination. The census bureau reports that one in seven families speaks other than English in the home using over 430 languages. Truly North America is a multicultural pan-world nation of nations, reflecting 500 ethnic groups, making it the most demographically diverse nation in world history. Tragically, millions of Americans can barely speak English. This is called the ‘browning of America’. Pop culture blends music and fashion from different world cultural traditions. Our government is committed to universalism. It is estimated that less than 1% of ethnic peoples living here is evangelical.
One clearly misunderstood circumstance of why many Muslim do not culturally assimulate involves a clearer understanding of their escatology. The ultimate goal of Islam is to rule the world in a universal Caliphate. This involves a Muslim Culture, not an American Culture. Democracy is incompatible with Sharia Law. Some Muslim come here to obtain the American Dream. They probably do not frequent the Mosques which have been built with Saudi Arabian funds and staffed by Wahabbi trained clerics.
There is a wide median income difference between ethnic groups as compared to the non-Hispanic White, at mid-decade. The Asian American receives [$40,500]. The non-Hispanic White receives [$35,100]. The Hispanic American receives [$23,000] and the African American [$21,000]. Even with the wide disparity in economic income here in the US, one of the major driving forces bringing people to America is the world poverty rate of 21%, which means this group lives on less than $1.00 per day, according to World Bank figures.
It should also be noted that the current newcomers are bringing with them their Asian Non-Christian religions and doting the countryside with their temples and shrines. This subject is addressed in chapter 8, entitled, Non-Christian Religions.
Although federal laws have sought to force the enculturation of the immigrants and coerce the majority society not to discriminate, social integration has been extremely slow. Jobs available to them are insecure and usually for unskilled laborers. Primary and secondary education continues to be of inferior quality and college remains beyond the reach of many. That locks at least one-third of all ethnics into a cycle of poverty, forcing them to live on income below the poverty line. However, many ethnics have a strong family orientation and backing, have a strong work ethic, pursue higher education and have entered various professions. They have some of the highest incomes in the nation.
As the number of ethnics increases and as more and more second generation ethnics intermarry, to the frustration of their elders, a problem concerning their identity emerges. The chief of the Census Bureau’s Racial Statistics branch notes that it is a problem for the multiracial person to identify himself. One answer involves using the ancestry of the mother, for according to the department, the mother is always known, but the father may not be. In his book, "Racialization of America", author Yehudi Webster argues for the absurdity of racial classification, but bemoans the fact that it is here to stay.
Some evangelistic concern has been generated by the evangelical church as evidenced by foreign language churches that have existed for years as a functional part of denominational home mission work. But ethnics remain a large and growing segment of American society, usually unevangelized. Efforts put forth have been meager at best and usually poorly funded. Evangelism has frequently involved enculturation, that is, to be saved meant that the ethnic had to dress and act like the majority culture. Even today many of the churches established in the ethnic community are pastored by "outsiders," for only minimal effort has been made to train ethnic leaders to reach their own groups for Christ. It is to be noted that growing interest in National Missions is being observed in some churches and Bible colleges. North America is being recognized as a bona fide mission field in missions conferences.
The successful evangelization of the ethnic will usually involve what Ralph Winters calls "E-2" or "E-3" evangelism. This means that because the ethnic speaks another language and/or does not fully understand the American culture, a missionary will need to be prepared for this cross-cultural ministry beyond the normal evangelistic ability of the average Christian. This will require the expertise and oversight of mission societies to assist local churches in efficiently planting churches in their communities. Some home mission boards are already effectively functioning in language church planting. Other foreign mission agencies, whose primary ministry is working overseas among similar language and cultural groups, have established ministries here at home. It is to be desired that other missions will consider establishing North American departments. These agencies are already well established with experienced executive leadership and seasoned missionaries who for various reasons may not be able to return to the foreign field but who could continue an effective and desperately needed ministry here at home. It is also to be noted that there are those called of God to minister to internationals living in North America. Let us not fall into the trap of thinking that missionary work in North America is the ‘easy way in missions’. Just check out life in our North American ‘cement or asphalt jungles’, so-called. The ‘easy way’ concept is totally naive and dishonoring to the Lord of the harvest.
Let us be reminded that every born again Christian should be prepared to give his testimony: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" [I Peter 3:15]. To be prepared, write out your personal testimony [your story]. Ask some one their "story" and then ask if you can share "yours". That is universally accurate... you don't need to know anything more. Let the Holy Spirit do HIS work.
Foreign missions already have deputation departments and other agencies through which effective communication could be channeled to the church at large, helping her to realize the importance of eliminating a home and foreign mission dichotomy. The field is the world, and the "regions beyond" start in the region just beyond where "I" am. Why is it that fundamental churches can have a burden for the Blacks in Africa but be totally oblivious to the spiritual needs of the Blacks of their own city? Or, how can a fundamental church within only a few miles of an Indian reservation not feel some spiritual responsibility? Perhaps the simplest answer is ignorance of the need or outright spiritual indolence.
The ministry to ethnics is complex and urgent.
It is complex in that some of the older ethnics are the children of immigrants who have been here for several generations. Others are immigrants themselves. Then there are the recent children of immigrants who as youthful citizens are demanding their rights through militant political power. Finally, there were millions of refugees in the world, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. As Europe sought to close its borders, millions of refugees became recent arrivals here. They are not only a problem to the country but also to some of the resident ethnics, who perceive them to be competition in the job market. The earlier immigrants came here looking for jobs--any job was better than starving to death. Our developing country not only welcomed them but also sought them as abundant cheap labor for our farms, railroads, and mines. The more recent arrivals, however, face a markedly different milieu. Thousands in 1983 sought political asylum. Although many have skills, all must compete for scarce jobs in a highly competitive market. Housing is tight, often resulting in overcrowding in ghetto apartments of the central city as immigrants move in with relatives.
It is to be recognized that these new arrivals are of a radically different stripe. As guests in a new country, they are impatient with the system. Those who have no relatives or sponsors are detained for extended periods. Some riot in the processing centers and demand assumed rights. Other thousands of illegal aliens blatantly reside and work here openly violating the law. A few who become disillusioned choose bizarre ways of returning home. Another part of the complex picture is the changing attitude of the government. It has begun to abandon its mandated English for bilingualism in education and government offices. This has added to the serious problem of functional illiteracy, which has mushroomed to 20 percent of all adults. Functional illiteracy is defined as inability to read the Bible or newspaper or fill out a job application. Illiteracy worldwide in 1970 was 37%, in 2007 for those over 15 it is 18%. The evangelical church will need to recognize that the foreign mission field has come to North America as evidenced by the fact that 14 percent of the populace uses a language other than English. The Los Angeles police department uses forty-two languages in its work.
Finally, ethnic community composition is constantly changing. Although a community may be predominantly of one ethnic majority, it is usually also mixed and changing. The church then faces a fluid situation for which it is ill-prepared and obviously incapable of coping. They just move out. James Davis and Woodie White from their six-year study Racial Transition in the Church, have documented this phenomenon copiously.
The ministry is urgent, first, for the ethnic is tired of waiting to be treated like any other American and is now on the move politically. Second, many ethnics have a Roman Catholic religious veneer but have found that their church is basically unresponsive to their spiritual needs; therefore, they feel neglected and adrift in a humanistic and secular society. Third, especially those coming from the Latin world, come out of an atmosphere where religion is being infused with an incipient Marxism taught under the guise of the ‘theology of liberation’. According to that school of thought, the villain, of course, is the American businessman who has ostensibly exploited his country and now offers him no job in this country. Fourth, it is urgent for the sheer numbers are mushrooming.
The growing number of immigrant populations tend to accumulate in certain states. The U.S. Census Bureau now speaks of "majority-minority" populations. This is the designation for any location where the combined minority [non-White or Hispanic population is greater than the White population. There are four states with this designation in 20005: Texas, New Mexico, Hawaii and California. Further projections indicate that by mid-century the entire country will have this designation.
Fifth, it is urgent that they feel the Christian community does care--enough to tell them the truth about salvation in Christ Jesus before they become settled ethnics and far less receptive to the gospel.
Sixth, the longer a newcomer lives here, the more entrenched in his ethnic community he becomes and more difficult to reach with the Gospel. That may be as soon as one year after arrival. This becomes more obvious when they have their own shopping centers, malls and expensive foreign-looking religious shrines.
The ministry to ethnics is urgent, because they may turn Violent.
USNWR article 3/13/06, reports 'Europe's sorry record on immigration, with its attendant woes, contrasts sharply with that of America". Author, Suarez-Orozco has researched who was involved in the terrible riots in Europe resulting from among other incidents, the Danish caricatures of Mohammed, such as the torching of cars in France, the bombings in London, the killing of the Dutch filmmaker and note, several of the 9/11 hijackers had studied in Germany. The author's conclusion was that the participants in these atrocities were primarily disenchanted, unemployed, second generation immigrants, who felt marginalized as second rate citizens. They had not been encouraged to learn the host country's language because they were considered as only living in temporary asylum in Europe...which turned out to be long-term. Whereas in America, one born here is considered a citizen. Legal immigration here has been linked with the needs of our economy or 'family reunification'. Though there is economic discrimination, at least many have jobs and some very high positions. Most of the children of immigrants are in school, such as in NYC where half the students are children of immigrants from 190 nations. It is also noteworthy that American ethnic diversity is further blurred by widespread intermarriage, whereas in Europe marriages are normally within ethnic bounds and traditions.
Certain religously oriented immigrants are encourage not to become Americanized or enculturated, but to creat their own communities, become politcally active and strongly influence the American way of life. Some are radicalized [often by social media] and do violence as evidenced in numerous countris besides our own. The 21st C is indellibly scarred with Radical Islamic Terrists, spawned by the Islamic State [IS, ISIS, ISIL DAESH] who have been ordered to commit the horror of driving vehicles over unsuspecting shoppers. They are sometimes called, 'self radicalized', but this is 'false news' for they are encouraged by such as Al Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed Caliph of Daesh or their publication, or the Mosque they attend.
At least one major denomination has fielded a thousand "language missionaries", ministering in 210 languages, including 98 Indian languages. Their mandated policy is to establish ethnic congregations. The total goal is to plant four to five hundred churches per year, over half of which will be ethnic. At the present time, one in six Southern Baptist churches is a language church. Those 9000 churches were planted among 103 ethnic groups. The SBC publishes materials in twenty languages. They have produced a manual listing several methods of "cross-cultural outreach." Even so, the leadership laments, "We have reached less than 1% of America’s ethnics". In their research, they have created a database of 334 Ethnolinguistic Peoples US, and would be happy to share that information. It would be well if every evangelical church would be so concerned.
The concerned Christian who wishes to read about reaching ethnics for Christ may wish to consult missiologist Alan Tippett's Bibliography for Cross-cultural Workers.
He may also wish to be prepared to provide the written scriptures in the different languages of those whom he meets or obtain audio Scriptures so that the Bible may be heard or read in various languages. A Gospel witness is available from Gospel Recordings in many different languages.
Many languages are avialable to download as Apps on Smart Phones.
See chapter 21 for sources for language Bibles and chapter 6 for sources for other language literature.
Sources for information are listed at the end of chapter 6.