I just received a prayer focus newsletter from a colleague who works in Germany. She shared it with me because we had recently been together for a week and we had spent much time discussing the context of working in Spain, as well as her context in Germany, and the context of other peers who work in other areas of Europe. I wanted to share the prayer letter with you because I felt that it is a very good depiction of what the current 'religious climate' looks like here:
Europe Focus on Spain
The church – the key to the nation
“Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” I Kings 18:44
A Brief Historical overview of the Spanish Church
There has been a Christian testimony in Spain since the early days of the Apostolic Church and the following centuries of the developing Roman Church, up until the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. The Church continued to grow during the Visigoth era, surviving and remaining faithful even during seven centuries of the Islamic Caliphate, which began in 722 and ended in 1492. Seven centuries of Islamic domination had forged in the Spanish Church, not only longsuffering, but also a defiant and militant spirit that jealously guarded Christ’s testimony in Spain. During the early years of the struggle between the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformation in Europe, the Spanish Church was at the forefront in protecting the ‘Spanish’ Expression of the Roman Catholic Church on the Iberian Peninsula.
The abuses of the Spanish Inquisition and the fate of the Reformed Church in Spain are well known. The Spanish Inquisition virtually drove out the Jewish and Islamic communities from Spain and also extinguished the Reformation-Evangelical testimony within the Spanish Church. The courts and trials of the Inquisition were not officially ended until 1834. A Protestant and Evangelical expression of the faith was not ‘legal’ and consequently almost non-existent until the Law of Religious Liberty was passed in 1967. The modern freedom of religion and the open expression and creation of Protestant-Evangelical Churches and public evangelization in Spain really did not begin until after the death of Franco in 1975.
“For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice….” Zechariah 4:10
The Protestant-Evangelical Spanish Church in1975 consisted of approximately 30,000 Christians who represented less than one tenth of one percent of Spain’s population. Today after 40 years of religious liberty there are approximately 500,000 Evangelical Christians or a little more than 1% of Spain’s 47 million population, a ten fold increase in the Evangelical witness. While this is an extraordinary increase, one must soberly note that it is still a minute minority in a nominally Catholic and secular nation and has not really affected the mainstream of the Spanish nation or culture.
Furthermore all the growth in the Evangelical Church has come from three marginalized people groups: The Philadelphia Gypsy Church (during their 1970’s and 1980’s explosive revival), the Heroin addicts (resulting from the explosive growth of the REMAR, RETO, and BETEL rehab communities and churches during the three decades from 1980 to the present), and finally from the massive immigration of Latin Americans and Eastern Europeans from 2000 until the present where in a ten year period Spain’s population increased from 40 to 47 million.) In the last decade almost all the growth in the Spanish Church has been among the marginalized and already converted Latin American Evangelicals.
Sadly, working class, middle class, the professional and upper class Spaniards have remained unreached and uninterested in the Gospel. Even the Roman Catholics have lost millions of nominal Christians as Spain has grown ever more secular. (In a survey in ‘El Pais’, one of the leading Spanish newspapers, 59% of Spanish men claiming to be Catholic also claimed to be atheists. Incongruous.)
Please pray that:
Senior Pastor of Betel Madrid
International Director of Betel International
Please join us in praying for Spain and for ministry initiatives in all of Europe.
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!