Latinos will determine the future of American evangelicalism

Latino outreach isn’t just an opportunity for churches—it’s a potential life raft. Increased religiosity among Latino Protestants is a crosscurrent: All over the country, the fastest-growing religious-identity group is what social scientists call the “nones,” those who don’t identify with a religion. Also expanding is the share of Americans who claim to have a religious preference but who don’t belong to a religious congregation. When we talked, Arellano repeated common wisdom among evangelicals that people unaffiliated with a church—the very people church planters most want to bring into the fold—are more willing to accept an invitation to a new church than a long-established one, one reason multiplying churches is a central goal.

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference says it represents more than 40,000 churches, and Rodriguez told me it aims to plant another 25,000 before 2030. That goal includes independent churches as well as those connected to major Protestant denominations, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, which plans to help plant 1,000 new Hispanic-led churches in the next four years. Unlike during most of American history, when Christianity spread through a white-missionary model, the current effort is Latino-driven, according to Rodriguez. “We have the fortitude, the wherewithal, the drive,” he said. “We even have the financial resources … It’s coming via the conduit of megachurches.”