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 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.
Political stability and a steady shift toward democratic structures, and away from the military regimes of the past, are profound blessings. The end of the Cold War, which made Latin America a contested area between the USA and USSR, and the leftward swing of national politics have been crucial in the early formation of government by and for the people.
The Catholic Church is experiencing significant new vitality, through new readings of Scripture, through higher profile evangelical teaching outside of Catholicism, through the Alpha Course and through the more charismatic faith of Hispanic and Latin American Catholics. Much of this is a reaction to the dynamic growth of evangelicals, especially in South America. Millions have been impacted by personal encounters with the Lord Jesus. Many have become fervent evangelical believers, both within the Catholic Church and, increasingly, outside it.
The positive spiritual impact of North America, and especially the USA, on the world. Praise God for:
- Great evangelists and missionary statesmen who touched the world (Finney, Moody, Billy Graham and others).
- The immeasurable effects of writers, speakers, pastors and trainers on the global body of Christ, through training, teaching, discipling and empowering.
- Unstinting generosity in giving financially to good causes - especially mission advances. Pray that godly North Americans might continue to engage with the needs of the world in a humble, passionate and informed way. Hollywood’s portrayal of American life is a perversion of the values that made the USA a great nation.
Pentecostals demonstrate the greatest vigour and are now the largest component of evangelicals in Latin America with over 66 million affiliates and 12.1% of the population. The Americas represent 50% of the world's Pentecostals, despite having less than 14% of the world's population. Their greatest success is among the poor. Growth is weakened by multiple splits, inadequate discipling of converts and often exaggerated claims of growth.
Praise God for the divinely ordered convergence in Latin America of spiritual, economic and social conditions that allows evangelicals to have a great impact. They now wield notable influence in many nations where they were previously marginalized as dangerous sects. Today, political, police and civic leaders court evangelicals, not just for the formidable numbers of votes to be won, but also for the transforming effect that evangelical ministries offer to society. Often, Christian ministries are the only effective solution to otherwise intractable troubles. Numerical growth continues, but evangelicals have also notably grown in stature and maturity.
The Bible translation achievements of WBT, SIL and UBS are remarkable. The pioneer work of WBT and SIL in providing NTs in indigenous languages has sparked ingatherings of peoples into churches across the Americas. Among hundreds of primarily oral languages, audio translations are underway, as are productions of new modern translations and children's versions of the Bible story.
The impact of the media is significant all over the New World. Widespread use by Christians of local, national and international radio and television networks as well as the Internet has a massive influence. The influence of the medium of television - for both spreading the good news and for proliferating ungodly values - cannot be understated. The multiplication of local television and radio stations and broadcasts as well as countless thousands of Christian and evangelistic websites, mobile phone applications and other digital tools further widen the opportunities for proclamation of the gospel.
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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.