Academic journal article Baptist History and Heritage

Shared Church Facilities: A Study of Three Anglo-Ethnic Arrangements (1)

Academic journal article Baptist History and Heritage

Shared Church Facilities: A Study of Three Anglo-Ethnic Arrangements (1)

Article excerpt

Imagine being the pastor of First Baptist Church, Beaverton, Oregon. You have agreed to house a Spanish-language Bible study group that meets on a weeknight.

You think you have communicated to the Spanish-language church planter that you will approach your church's missions committee bout sponsoring a mission church as the Bible study grows, and then you hear the same church planter announce at a public meeting that there IS a new Hispanic mission at your church. Nonetheless, all that exists so far is a Bible study.

Then one day, the minister of education of your church asks if you have met the new Hispanic family that has just arrived from Texas. You indicate that you have not. Your associate informs you: "He (the husband and father) introduced himself as the new pastor of our Hispanic mission." To which you reply, "Well, I guess I had better go meet them then." (2)

General Observations on Ethnic Work

English-speaking congregations develop relationships with language groups in many ways, usually with a little more planning than in this true story of how First Baptist of Beaverton began its relationship with Mision Hispana El Buen Pastor. Each story is unique; while some generalizations may be offered, they must be painted in broad strokes. Accurately describing the state of ethnic work among Baptists at any one time is difficult. Vince Inzerillo, language strategist for the Northwest Baptist Convention, observed about his semi-successful attempts to gather information from directors of missions in the Northwest on the ethnic work in their associations: "There are several inherent challenges among 'autonomous' bodies, especially when we choose to cooperate 'voluntarily.'" Among these challenges, he included convincing churches to report on their work, much less report on ethnic work. In the Northwest, at least, Southern Baptist and non-Southern Baptist churches and missions often share buildings, and either one of the two might be an English-speaking or language congregation-yet the work that these churches do is seldom officially reported. (3)

In the absence of comprehensive statistics, since only those groups receiving financial support from associational, state, or national sources are required to submit reports, telling the stories of specific congregations becomes more important as a way to get a glimpse of what is happening in ethnic congregations. This paper takes a brief look at three West Coast English-speaking Southern Baptist congregations and the different kinds of relationships they have with ethnic congregations with whom they are sharing their facilities. The commonalities among these stories include the origins of the English-language congregations in the 1940s, 1950s, and even 1960s, in church-planting efforts designed to reach transplanted southerners in major metropolitan areas, and the beginning of the ethnic works in the early 1990s, often due to requests made by the local Southern Baptist associations.

While one of the churches still receives significant transplant growth, many West Coast Southern Baptist churches that were started in the mid-twentieth century saw their growth stagnating by the 1980s. This decline resulted when second- and third-generation transplants left the Southern Baptist denomination for other denominations, rejecting Southern Baptist conflicts, and when the younger people simply dropped out of church altogether, joining many others in the region who are believers but were not connected to a church. (4) Churches unwilling or unable to shift their focus to reaching indigenous westerners faced the real danger of dying. One path for churches to "do missions," and to reach more responsive populations, was and is to begin ethnic or language work.

The Heart of the Valley Baptist Church, San Jose, California

The Heart of the Valley Baptist Church of San Jose, California, founded in 1945 and mother or grandmother to many of the Southern Baptist congregations in the Silicon Valley, has been at its present location since 1955. …

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