Hispanic Churches vs. American Churches

A month and a half ago, I hugged my family goodbye. With tears of sadness and joy, I took a plane from El Salvador to come and study here at Southern.

It was my first time ever coming to the United States, and the cultural shock has been greater than I expected. In fact, I am still getting used to it.

My first Sabbath here I attended a Hispanic Church, but since then I have visited seven churches total. It has been a great blessing to see and learn from the different styles of worship.

As a pastor’s kid, I’ve spent time in all kinds of churches; from ones with many resources and hundreds or thousands of members, to churches with twenty members that meet “in the middle of nowhere” and are struggling economically.

There are churches that do not have enough resources to buy a computer, a microphone or speakers, and there are others that have air conditioning, multi-colored lights and the latest technology to worship God. Either way, both are rich in their eagerness to know Christ and share His message.

One of the biggest differences between the churches in the U.S. and Latin American churches, is that Latin American services are more conservative than the ones here. I could even say that the level of reverence is greater. And while the same program is almost always followed in all churches, it is still enjoyable.

Another difference is that in Hispanic churches you dedicate most of the Sabbath day at the church. After lunch, which tends to be a potluck, members get together to review the lesson or study the Bible. Usually, they also stay longer for choir practice or “sociedad de jóvenes.”, and even after that is done there tends to be some sort of game night.
With American churches, on the other hand, it seems like most members leave right after the main church service or the church potluck is done. There is not a lot of after-church-activities, and if there is then it is probably something like a hike or picnic, which happens outside of the church building and only a few stay for it.

Still, something incredible about all of this is that Adventist churches in Latin America and in the U.S. have more similarities than differences. When I think about this, two things come to mind: First, our worship style or the conditions of the church location do not matter. The sincerity of our hearts in seeking God is more important than anything. If we turn to God with a spirit of surrender, then our worship will be pleasing to Him.

Jesus expressed it very well in Luke 18:9-14. In this short story, two types of worshipers are compared: the Pharisee wanting to exalt himself while praying and the publican who did not even want to raise his eyes and hit his chest while begging for mercy. In the end, we all know who really pleased God.

The second thing that comes to mind is that despite there being more than 20 million Adventists worldwide, we all enjoy the Sabbath and we all worship the same Creator. In addition, we all have the same great mission entrusted to us by Jesus before He left this planet, and with God’s help we will accomplish it soon.