|% Urban:||81.5 %|
|% Christian:||86.3 %|
|% Evangelical:||20.2 %|
|% Largest Religion:||86.3 %|
The growth of evangelicals in Latin America in the last century, especially the last generation, is spectacular. In 1900, evangelicals numbered about 700,000, or 1% of the population (only about 200,000 of these being in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries). They have now surpassed 100 million, or 16.8% of the population. Most of this growth was fuelled by the steady, faithful proclamation and witness of tens of thousands of laymen and pastors planting small churches out of a passion for the gospel – praise God for such growth and pray that it might continue! The New World is home to over 35% of the world’s evangelicals.
People movements are growing among the Amerindians, who have long been resistant or indifferent to the gospel – understandable given that Christianity mostly followed in the wake of the devastation of disease, conquest, and colonialism. Church growth is occurring among Quechua and Aymara churches in the Andes, Mayan peoples in Central America and, increasingly, native peoples in North America. Also notable is the increasing indigenization of the gospel, centuries after it should have originally happened! Pray that Christians from majority groups might learn from, esteem, and honour fellow believers from amongst indigenous groups.
Missions vision has rapidly grown and matured in Latin America. The 1987 COMIBAM (Cooperacion Misionera Iberoamericana) conference in São Paulo, Brazil, generated continent-wide interest and sparked numerous initiatives to reach the unreached. At that time, there were around 60 agencies with 1,600 missionaries. Today, there are over 400 agencies representing more than 10,000 missionaries! In 2020, The Send Brazil (a mission mobilization event) saw 140,000 gather in three stadia in one day. Of these, 10,000 committed themselves to serving in mission. An increasing proportion serve outside Latin America and in the unevangelized world. Major sending nations are Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Peru, but missionary sending structures are developing in most lands. Quite apart from this are the thousands who serve God abroad as economic migrants or deliberate tentmakers. Pray for consistent, loving, fruitful witness of these servants of God to their host cultures.
We are witnessing the resurgence of indigenous peoples and their fight for recognition, greater autonomy and self-determination. From Arctic to tropics to Antarctic, natives were routinely exterminated, subjugated and swindled out of their lands and rights. In many regions this struggle took on violent overtones – Guatemala, Peru, Mexico – while in others it has been chiefly legal and political. Such trends also foster growth in the pre-Christian religions and superstitions once held by these peoples. Additionally, the legacy and progeny of the 11 million African slaves brought to the New World are issues that likewise demand repentance, reconciliation, and arguably, reparations from the European colonizers. It was chiefly Christians who fought to end the slave trade and evangelize the native peoples of the Americas; it should be Christians who lead the way in walking out the path of full reconciliation. Pray that God would create humble hearts in His people. May we be willing to truly listen to one another and do whatever it takes to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph 4:3)
Pray for willingness in the Church to confront social and economic injustices in a biblical way. One of the main benchmarks of evangelical effectiveness in the 21st Century will be how churches and ministries share and live out the gospel in contexts of systemic injustice. The potential role of Christians in societal transformation is limitless, but addressing needs positively must accompany recognition of previous failures – including slavery, genocide and Christianization done with cruelty and insensitivity. A humble approach to reconciliation and reparation for sins of the past will empower believers to minister into the present day. Evangelical Christianity is an easy target for critics of religion in the Americas today. But, in the face of opposition, when the Church truly embraces Christlikeness and adopts the character and priorities of the one it calls Lord, critics are silenced, enemies become sisters and brothers, and above all, God is glorified.
The urban poor. In North America, they usually live in the decaying hearts of major cities; in Latin America, they live in huge slums that ring or even permeate the major cities. Churches have a great role to play and are well positioned to do so. Pray for the light of Jesus to shine through Christian ministry, effecting urban renewal with a reduction in crime, violence and substance abuse and a growth in education, employment and, most importantly, the winning of lives into the Kingdom.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.