A Church Growth Study of the Zuni IndiansRalph Bruce Terry
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People movement possibility. What kind of results could a missionary expect in Zuni if he were to implement these suggestions with prayer and hard work? It is hard to say. Perhaps the social structure is too strong against Christianity to expect any better results than those that the present missions have gotten. On the other hand, the social structure could well serve as the bridge over which most of the people could pass into Christianity in what is termed a people movement. A people movement to Christ is not a group conversion in the sense of "majority rule" or "going along with the crowd," but it is one in the sense of a series of multi-individual, mutually interdependent conversions. The group decision comes about only to the extent of individual participation in the decision.58 If a people movement should occur in Zuni it would not be the immediate sort of thing which Figueredo experienced in 1629. There is too much variation within the culture to allow a repeat of this sort. The possibility of a people movement does exist, however, and is made stronger by the extent of change that Zuni is experiencing. It has been said that a high suicide rate among youth accompanies a severe generational conflict.59 In 1970 the suicide rate in Zuni was eleven times the national average, and was increasing significantly in 1971.60 A society such as Zuni which is experiencing cultural change is much more open to Christianity than one which is not. In fact, a society which is experiencing change of any sort is much easier to direct and to further change than one which is more or less in equilibrium.61 It must be remembered, however, that material change occurs much more rapidly than religious change.

While the social structure of Zuni increases the chances for a people movement, there are at least two factors which make a wide-spread people movement unlikely. For one thing, there is so much dissension within the village that the ties between groups may well be effectively broken down. Thus, a people movement might have problems starting. Another factor to consider is that the Zuni religion offers a haven of stability in a time of change. As material change increases, people may cling more tightly to the Zuni religion to preserve some of the old traditions.

Conclusions. Thus, the possibility for Zuni to become a ripe mission field in the near future does exist;62 however, the possibility for a people movement much larger than several families is slim. Conversions will more likely continue to be in units of individuals and households. They will increase as the culture breaks down. People who have adopted a neolocal residence pattern in the now houses and people who work in Gallup might be prime prospects since they are surrounded by culture change.

On one hand, opposition to Christianity is still strong. The article in Appendix C opposing Christian missionaries recently appeared in the Zuni Tribal Newsletter and people who followed the Zuni religion generally agreed with it.. Protestant attendance has been decreasing while the Catholics have switched to promoting Christo-paganism. On the other hand, the New Testament is now being translated into Zuni and the culture is undergoing significant change. While Zuni is not yet ripe, it may soon be. If it does not ripen to Christianity soon, it will fast become secularized.

58McGavran, op. cit., pp. 302-304. [return]

59Lewis S. Feuer, The Conflict of Generations (New York: Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, 1969), pp. 5, 6. [return]

60Field Notes, personal communication with E, March 1971. [return]

61Nida, Message and Mission, op. cit., p, 144. [return]

62Cf. Leighton and Adair, op. Cit., P. 203. [return]

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