The religious history of Iowa begins with the animistic spirituality of the Native Americans who lived in the area at the time of the first European settlers. Native Americans who still live in Iowa often retain their original beliefs. One example is the Mesquakie Settlement in Tama County where language and religious practices continue to this day.
In the early 1800s European settlers from France, Spain and England brought with them their Roman Catholic and Anglican religious understanding and practices. Father Jacques Marquette conducted the first known religious worship service in June 1673. By the 1830s Dubuque became a religious center for both Roman Catholics and Methodist Episcopal congregations. As settlers continued to arrive and new towns were founded, other denominations began to plant churches including the Baptists, Congregationalists, and Disciples of Christ. Lutheran Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Germans settled in the mid 1800s and established churches in their own languages.
After establishing a few settlements in the 1830s, the next decade many Mormons passed through Iowa in their migration to Utah and points west. In the late 1800s Jewish and Muslims settled in the state establishing Synagogues and Mosques. By the early 20th century the Dutch Reformed, Quakers and Eastern Orthodox made Iowa their home. During the late 20th century refugees from Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia and other Asian countries settled bringing Buddhism and Hinduism with them. Other refugees came from the Sudan, Somalia, Bosnia, and other parts of the world bringing various world religions with them.
Current Religious Environment in Iowa
While some in the state may be “religious,” however, this does not tell the whole story. Reflect on the following points:
8.41% of Iowa households attend an evangelical church at least once a month
66.23% of Iowa’s households do not have even one person who professes to be an evangelical Believer
42.20% of Iowa’s households would classify themselves as both non-evangelical and not interested in religious or spiritual matters
These factors become even more acute when you also consider the following religious indicators for Iowa households:
51.95% of Iowa households have an evangelical heritage (some kind of family experience or connection to an evangelical church)
22.61% of Iowa households have a mainline protestant heritage
10.88% of Iowa households have some other world religion heritage
Yes, most Iowans are familiar with religion, however many do not have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. They may know a lot about it, yet they knowingly choose not to be a follower of Jesus. More than 91% of Iowans choose not to attend an evangelical church at least one Sunday per month.
What Can We Do About This?
Here are some suggestions for you to consider:
Commit to frequent individual and group prayer for God to awaken your concern for unreached people in Iowa.
Commit to frequent individual and group prayer for the various lifestyle groups listed on this site to help you begin to understand the faces and needs of Iowa’s unreached people.
Identify a small group of other Christ Followers who are also praying and seeking God’s direction and meet with them periodically to pray for specific lifestyle groups you feel led to and for God’s direction for how He wants you to respond to these people.
Using the missions information provided by this site, examine the types of lifestyle groups in your community (county, zip code or town) and other communities that God may be calling you to reach.
Compare the lifestyle groups in your community to the people in your outreach group. Determine how much effort it might require to get to know them and have them trust you.
Commit to pray and ask God to reveal which lifestyle group or groups He wants you to reach.
Develop plans to understand more about the lifestyle group God leads you to and begin considering ways to regularly be around them in your community and preferably to help them deal with problems and challenges they are experiencing.
Pray and ask God for continued direction for ways to meet their needs and share your personal experience with Jesus.
When people place their faith in Jesus for their salvation, find ways to engage them in effective discipleship processes, including regular Bible reading and application, serving others and telling others about Jesus.
Seek God’s direction to add more and more people to this evangelism and discipleship strategy, challenging some to pursue reaching other lifestyle groups in your community using this process.
This site is provided to give anyone a place to start this journey that Jesus commissioned all of His follower to do when He said in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”