Spain was considered one of the most Catholic countries, but today less than 17% of Spanish people attend mass. The Catholic feasts or rituals no longer have spiritual meaning for most young people. In the 16th century (during the Inquisition), leaders tortured or killed thousands suspected of heresy, and forced hundreds of thousands of Jews, Muslims, and Protestants to either convert or leave. Pray for full repentance, and that the shame on Christianity may be lifted. Pray for renewal that breathes new life into the Catholic Church.
Spain's modern transformation is not all positive. Secular materialism brought religious freedom and economic advancement, but it has also struck a crushing blow to traditional foundations of society and created a spiritual vacuum that is being filled with many dangerous elements.
- Drugs are a blight on Spain, one of the world's heaviest users of cocaine, heroin and marijuana. Around two million take drugs, most of them young people. Cocaine dominates the drug trade, but heroin wreaks particular havoc on the health of users. As yet, there are no signs of drug abuse or addiction abating.
- Gambling addiction remains a problem for the nation as well. It is estimated that 15% of net household income is spent on betting, possibly one of the highest proportions of any nation in the world. Bookmakers and gambling companies press in harder on the lucrative Spanish market, well aware of the breadth of addiction.
Evangelical numbers have grown, but not as fast or in the ways hoped for. Many evangelical churches are concentrated in Catalonia (especially Barcelona), along the east coast, in Andalucía and in the areas around Madrid.
There is a considerable increase in missionaries and agencies since 1978, probably numbering over 1,000 today. But some areas remain largely unreached. Proliferation of agencies and lack of coordination are issues for concern.
Latin Americans are present in great numbers. Careful and conservative estimates state that 48% (others suggest up to 80%) of all new churches are planted by Latinos - missionaries, tentmakers and economic migrants. This claim is contested by others, but there is no denying the massive missional impact of Latinos upon Spain.Some larger missions are AoG, WEC, YWAM, CB, ECM, OM, TEAM, GEM, ABWE, OMS and WH.
The evangelistic challenges facing Spain are enormous, including:
- Unreached cities. There is no evangelical church in 345 cities and towns of over 5,000 people. Many smaller towns, villages and districts have no witness whatsoever. Of 8,112 municipalities, only around 650 have an evangelical church.
- Of the 17 regions, Galicia and Asturias are less than 0.2% evangelical, and Extremadura and Navarre are less than 0.1%.
- Of the 50 provinces, Soria and Avila have less than one evangelical for every 1,000 people, and 28 provinces have less than 1,000 members of evangelical churches.
- While religious liberty exists on paper, difficulties and discrimination are still widespread for evangelicals, especially for obtaining licences to broadcast and to open new churches.
- Evangelical congregations are small and dependent on foreign resources, with poor facilities in less than ideal locations. Pray for wisdom in knowing how to be more effective in outreach and balanced in testimony.
The Canary Islands form an archipelago of seven larger islands off Africa's northwest coast. Among the two million inhabitants, at least 10,000 are evangelical - most live on the two larger islands and over half belong to Assemblies of God. Evangelicals may be stronger in the Canaries than in most of Spain; with strong churches among both nationals and immigrants. Even so, more ministry is needed on the smaller islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro, and more teaching is needed for the scattered groups of believers. Illegal immigrants from Morocco, Senegal and other parts of Africa are a challenge to the government, but an opportunity for Christian ministry.
Ceuta and Melilla (70,000 each) are two city enclaves on Morocco's north coast. Approximately half of the population are Muslim, half speaking Cherja, a Berber language. There are four evangelical churches in Ceuta and seven in Melilla. Betel, REMAR and The Bible Society have ministries in both enclaves. Pray for these cities to be effective means of bringing the gospel to North Africa.
Mission sending. Spaniards have had a miniscule legacy of sending missionaries, largely because of a tiny evangelical population focused mostly on its own nation. But now, more than 20 Protestant groups send out missionaries, including REMAR, RETO, Betel, AoG, Foursquare, Open Bible, CMA, Brethren, Baptists and others.
Key groups for outreach. Pray for these:
- The Basques are an ancient and proud people without a single Euskera-speaking Protestant church. The Basque ETA movement terrorizes and polarizes society in the Basque region. There are fewer than 100 evangelical churches in the four provinces where Basques live (Guipuzcoa, Vizcaya, Alava and Navarra) and all of these are Spanish-speaking. The few Basque-speaking evangelicals there find it difficult to worship or witness in their own language. Only now are Christian resources in Euskera appearing. The differing dialects in an already difficult language complicate the task. Pray for those involved in ministry, including AoG, YWAM, WEC and OM. Pray that centuries-old suspicions and fears, and the reserve of the Basque people, may be broken down.
- Muslims may number over two million and are growing rapidly. The Moors ruled much of Spain for 700 years, and Muslims long to win back what they lost. The vast majority are immigrants from Morocco, but from many other African nations as well. South Spain is a key base area for many agencies committed to evangelizing Muslims in North Africa and in Spain; very few have been won to Christ. Pray for the Malaga Media Centre and the Ibero-American Institute of Islamic Studies (PMI). Pray for Muslim hearts to be opened and for believers in Spain to reach out in love.
- Chinese numbers have increased to over 100,000. COCM, CMA and OMF work among them. There are now over 30 churches among the Chinese, who still number only 2% Christian.
- Young people need the gospel, having given themselves over to postmodern materialism and hedonism. They distrust organized religion. Their lifestyle is based on experience. Ministry to them must be highly relational and authentic. The IFES-linked student movement, Federación de Grupos BÍblicos Universitarios de España, has 35 university groups with 400 students - a tiny drop in the bucket of over one million students. Alongside GBU(IFES), AGAPE(Cru) also works among students in several universities. Contra Corriente, an indigenous Spanish ministry to young people and students, possibly has the greatest impact. A growing number of alternative and underground ministries among young people are proving effective.
- The elderly and retirees. This is a growing segment of the population, both among Spaniards and immigrants which will only get larger in the future. Some ministries are already proving quite effective in outreach to this generation; Doukonia is one such example.
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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.