With America’s Hispanic population growing ahead of U.S. Census Bureau projections, one of the biggest benefits is American church attendance.

America’s churches are growing — and many new members are Hispanic.

More than 50 percent of all Catholics in the United States under age 25 are of Hispanic heritage, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which also notes that Hispanics have contributed 71 percent of the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States since 1960.

 Although the final tally is not yet in, the 2010 Census has counted almost 600,000 more Hispanics than the Census Bureau had estimated in the 33 states for which data have been released so far.

“No tradition has been more impacted in recent years than the Catholic Church, which has become more Latino,” reports a study by Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Without Hispanic immigration, “Catholicism would have lost, rather than maintained” members, according to the study.

Other denominations are also being impacted. America’s largest Assemblies of God congregation is Hispanic — the 11,000-member New Life Covenant Church in Chicago.

One prominent evangelical believes Hispanics will be the “lifeguards for Christianity in America in the 21st century.” The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, made the comment to the Christian Post after the release of the latest U.S. Census Bureau report. The Bureau says that Hispanic population growth accounted for over half of the 27.3 million increase in the total U.S. population and that there has been a 43 percent increase in the Hispanic population since 2000, The Hispanic population now totals 50.5 million, or roughly 1 in 6 Americans. On the other hand, the non-Hispanic population grew only about 5 percent.

The change is forcing traditional churches to expand their outreach into the Hispanic communities, said Rodriguez. “Previously, the Anglo-Saxon church was able to survive by reaching out exclusively to its own people, but now it can no longer do so.”

He noted that much of the growth in the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, Churches of God and the United Methodist Church has come through Hispanics. Rodriguez predicted that Hispanics will help revive the evangelical Christian movement in the United States.

“The future growth of the evangelical church in America will come from blended congregations,” said local pastor Nestor Rivera, who leads a 100-member Southern Baptist congregation in rural Arkansas. He said his church’s growth has come largely from second-generation Hispanics who speak both English and Spanish at home. Many are blended families — one Hispanic parent and one Anglo.

“Fifteen years ago, I shared with our denomination’s church planning strategist that the wave of the future would be bilingual,” said Rivera. “He didn’t think so. Now the planner has learned Spanish.”

Rivera described what he called the “mosaic” church. “It’s a church where people from all sorts of different backgrounds feel comfortable. They have one common denominator, they love Jesus and second, everybody speaks English whether they speak it at home or not.” Such congregations often include Asian and African immigrants as well as newcomers from Latin America.  “They identify with each other,” he said, “because the face the same struggle that they aren’t traditional American churchgoers.”

The Rev. Mauricio Elizondo, senior pastor of Walnut Park Assembly of God in Garland, Texas, said the “message of the Hispanic community is about becoming ‘one’ and crying out, bringing America back to its core values that this great country was founded on. We are going to be the reconciling voices for the people who have been impoverished, the voices for the unborn, and the voices for people who have been marginalized. It is our time to rise up and shine – 50 million voices shouting together for the sake of our Lord, for the sake of humanity and for the sake of America, bringing our country back to revival.”

Rivera agreed. “One thing that many people do not realize is the intense patriotism that many Hispanic immigrants feel toward America. They have fought hard to get here — to the land of opportunity. The vast majority are ambitious and hard-working. They are saving money. Their kids are more important to them than almost anything. Their strong values of country, faith and family will only strengthen our churches as well as America.”

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