Today in many places in Africa, South America and Asia, the church is growing at great speed. Evangelists find people eager to hear the gospel and the prayers of mission workers are answered almost as soon as they are asked.
Is God wanting to provoke a rightful envy in Europe and North America, where few seem interested in Christianity? This relative disparity in the success of the gospel can cause us to repent of our worldliness and look to the Lord for a fresh awakening of his Holy Spirit upon lands that once shone with the light of Christ.
On the other hand, in some Western European countries like Portugal, the church has never shone brightly. Evangelical churches are seen as a religion of foreigners for foreigners, in a country religiously dominated by Roman Catholicism.
Biblical churches are seen as a religion of foreigners for foreigners.
The Portuguese look at these ‘weird churches’ that meet in shops, warehouses and cellars, as something foreigners need in order to maintain their religious habits. It is theirs and for them. Evangelicals, despite having organised communities in the country for almost two centuries, are only 2% of the population1.
In spite of the difficulties there are opportunities in Portugal.
In spite of the difficulties, however, there are opportunities. Although the ‘Concordat’ with the State favours the Roman Church in various dimensions of social life, the Portuguese constitution does guarantee religious freedom and equality.
People are open to talking about their spirituality (not necessarily Christian spirituality). Most have a positive opinion of Christ and many would be receptive to an invitation to an informal conversation about the Bible. There is room for creativity and new ideas. There are healthy churches in the main regions of the country, and the smaller churches – some without workers and with scarce financial resources – are faithful and persistent in proclaiming the gospel.
Portugal needs new mission workers. But they need to come with an awareness that their work is best done in cooperation with the national churches, a willingness to root themselves in the culture and build friendships with the Portuguese, the capacity to deal with frustrations, and the humility to learn.
How did we arrive in Portugal?
We were members of a church in Vila Velha, Brazil. I was settled as an elder and taught at a theological seminary in the city, yet we were challenged to leave Brazil to serve in Portugal. At that time, Ana was recovering from a heart problem and our children, Pedro and Lavinia, were small. The challenge was great, but God was leading us to long-term mission.
After nine years in Portugal, and three years in Wales in study and ministerial redirection, we returned to Portugal in 2020, at the invitation of the Baptist Church in Sete Rios, Lisbon, with the support of Tabor Church, Llantrisant and UFM Worldwide. We are so glad to be part of one of Portugal’s healthy national churches that are preaching the gospel.
New mission workers need to come with a willingness to root themselves in the culture, build friendships, and have the humility to learn.
The church is growing and we do not have space to gather all the believers on the Lord’s Day. We have an expansion project planned for the summer, but not enough resources. However, we trust in God’s providence and in the generosity of his people. Please pray, contribute, or come along and join us on this mission!
- 1. 2021 Census
- Leonardo & Ana Moraes work in pastoral ministry in Lisbon, Portugal