Where are the least reached cities in the United States? The answer to this question is that it seems to depend on to whom you are speaking. What I have found to be the case is that anyone serving in an urban context believes his or her city is the most unreached. Now, while I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder (and maybe my city is the least reached–when it comes to the number of lost people per capita who live in green two-story houses with pink fences and on streets that have four vowels in their names), here is an amazing secret: the reality is… that some places… are less Evangelical than others. And since Evangelicals claim a born-again experience (John 3:16) in order to be members of the Kingdom, as a starting point, I prefer to understand reached and unreached areas/peoples/population segments based on the numbers of Evangelicals present.
While we can debate the minisucle points of the issue (such as evaluating lostness based on people living in green two story houses), what we do know is that in the year 2000 the best research on Evangelicals in the United States was conducted. While this data from The Association of Religion Data Archives is a decade old (and includes some groups that I would not consider Evangelical), it is still the best data we have to date. The good news is that during this year, another such study is being conducted which will provide us with a more-up-to-date perspective.
At the beginning of this year, I compiled the decade old data from The ARDA and did a few calculations to determine the concentrations of Evangelicals in the United States (and also used data from Outreach Canada to look to our northern neighbor). The results are found in my report HERE and a very large PowerPoint presentation HERE. In the four months since releasing these findings, I am pleased that many individuals and groups have been using them in their missionary strategy development.
Since I am writing about urban matters this week, I wanted to bring the matter of the U.S. cities and their Evangelical concentrations to your attentions. The following is a chart of the U.S. Metro areas with a 5% or less Evangelical make-up as of the year 2000.
U. S. METRO AREA
TOTAL EVANGELICAL PERCENTAGE
EVANGELICAL CHURCH TO POPULATION RATIO
|Providence-Warwick-Pawtucket, Rhode Island||1.7%||1:8230|
|New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-CT-PA||2.3%||1:8517|
|Salt Lake City-Ogden, Utah||2.3%||1:9808|
|New London-Norwich, Connecticut||2.5%||1:6477|
|Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York||2.7%||1:5837|
|Glens Falls, New York||3.1%||1:4288|
|Utica-Rome, New York||3.4%||1:4837|
|Philadelphia-Wilmington-Atlantic City, PA-NJ-DE||3.6%||1:5704|
|Syracuse, New York||3.7%||1:5049|
|Rochester, New York||4.1%||1:5084|
|Binghamton, New York||4.4%||1:3504|
Now, I want to draw your attention to a few matters:
1) No, that is not a typo in the row for the Provo-Orem, Utah area. Yes, 0.6% is the correct number, with one Evangelical church for every 18,000+ people.
2) Aside from the two areas in Utah, the metro areas of the U.S. with a 3% or less Evangelical concentration are all found in the Northeastern part of the country.
3) Dubuque, Iowa is just over 3% Evangelical….Dubuque??? Where in the world is Dubuque? The point: even in the nation’s heartland, there are places where Evangelicals are rare.
4) Yes, Laredo, Texas came in at 3.9%. But I thought Texas was a Big Five-Pointed (no reference to Calvinism) Star Buckle in the Bible Belt? Hummm….Interesting.
Are you looking for a U.S. urban place to spend your life, making an impact for the Kingdom? Are you wanting to lead your church to be involved in urban work in the States? If so, I would encourage you to consider looking first to the major U.S. Metro areas with low percentages of Evangelicals.
What are your thoughts? What do you see when you look over the table posted here? What are the implications on how you will live as a Kingdom Citizen?