The Brazil Model - Oswald Prado
Brazil has become known as the land of soccer. We have already become World Champions four times. But our country is also known for other peculiar characteristics:
Will Brazil always be synonymous with soccer, Carnival, and social injustice? Certainly not! In fact, there are truths about Brazil that remain hidden to many outside its borders:
- Who has not heard of the way in which our nation bows to the lusts of the flesh at the annual festival of Carnival?
- Who has not also noticed the incredible contrast in the standards of living of our people? In a single neighborhood one can find homeless, hungry children walking the same streets in which wealthy and powerful businessmen and industrialists live in beautiful mansions. This is a desperate example of the social injustice that still dominates Brazil. The apex of our social pyramid is reached by very few. The vast majority remain at its lower levels their entire lives.
- As a result of this social disequilibrium, education is a commodity for the privileged few. Only 12.9% of those children who enter primary school make it to secondary school; only 1.5% go on to college.
You may be asking yourself why, then, is the Brazilian delegation the fourth largest in this gathering? Why has so much been said about the growth of evangelicals in Brazil?
- Within Brazil God has united the various races of the world. Portuguese (arriving in the 16th century) and Africans from Angola and West Africa intermarried creating a new race: the mulattos. Asians began emigrating to Brazil at the beginning of this century, beginning with the Japanese and, more recently, Koreans. And even with their decreasing numbers, due to the advance of the colonizers, illness, and shrinking territorial limits, the indigenous peoples of Brazil still present an enormous challenge for evangelization and the full translation of God's Word into their languages.
- The mineral wealth of Brazil represents an enormous holding.
- Brazil possesses soil that is extremely fertile, and supplies a tremendous variety of foods to world markets.
- Brazil possesses a unique natural beauty, including the spectacular beaches and the five million square kilometers of the Amazon.
- Growth and progress of the past decades have also reached the great urban centers of Brazil. Sao Paulo, with its 21 million inhabitants, has become the third largest metropolis in the world, and projections for the year 2000 indicate it will soon be second. Technological advances are reflected in Brazil's industrial production.
- For nearly a year Brazil has been living with a manageable inflation of approximately 1 to 2% a month. This has bestowed a new sense of security to our people, as well as to our nation's businessmen.
- Religious syncretism is prevalent in Brazil. With our extremely diversified religious heritage, borrowing from medieval Catholicism, and African and indigenous religions, Brazil is considered a religious amalgam. Although officially identified as a predominantly Catholic nation, reality demonstrates otherwise. Catholicism has experienced substantial losses in membership in the past few years, while spiritism in its varied forms, including Umbanda and Macumba, has experienced surprising growth. There now exist numerous spiritist centers scattered throughout our cities. The recent growth of esoteric movements such as New Age has particularly touched the highest strata of the Brazilian social structure. The principle means of both written and spoken communication are dominated by the dissemination of esoteric principles.
There are always two sides to every coin. The evangelical population of Brazil is growing as it has never grown in any other moment in our history. In 1890 we numbered 143,000. In 1950: 1.7 million. In 1960: 2.8 million. In 1970: 4.8 million. In 1980: 7.9 million. And finally, at the beginning of our present decade, we numbered in excess of 17 million. If we continue to grow at this present rate, by the year 2014 we evangelicals will constitute 50% of the entire population of Brazil.
In addition to our numerical growth, the Brazilian church has also matured in its understanding of its missionary role in the world. After having received the gospel approximately 150 years ago, principally through North American missionaries, the Brazilian church and its missions movement received a strong impetus at the 1987 COMIBAM Missions Congress. Three thousand delegates, together with numerous international observers, convened in Sao Paulo, representing Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries throughout the world. As a result of this event, churches, denominational boards, and interdenominational mission agencies began to receive a new vision for reaching the unreached, within Brazil and beyond.
Through this awakening, the Brazilian church came to experience an unprecedented moment in its history: for decades it essentially existed for itself with little concern for world evangelization. In the past few years, however, local churches, denominational boards, interdenominational agencies, theological institutions, publishing houses, radio and television, etc. have thrown themselves body and soul into the missionary task. Resident within a country of continental dimensions, the evangelical church of Brazil has become conscious of its enormous responsibility to evangelize those areas in which the yet-unreached are located.
How can we close our eyes to the many indigenous tribes that have not yet heard the gospel? Is it possible to ignore the pressing needs of the draught-ridden backlands of the northeast, a section of Brazil in which spiritual and economic poverty reign? Millions of Brazilian souls continue without the knowledge of Christ! The task within is great! Yet to refrain from looking outward at other unreached peoples would not only be egotistical, but would also demonstrate a lack of commitment to the Word of God.
Although not as vigorous as we would like it to be, cross-cultural missions is a reality in Brazil. There are Brazilian missionary families working in all of the inhabitable continents of the world today. Two thousand Brazilians have left their families, churches, and countries to be sent overseas.
What then are the dreams of the Brazilian evangelical church for the end of this millennium?
The Brazilian delegation, by its presence here, is making a commitment to God and with History: We will get on God's team, we will enter into the conflict against the enemy, and we will fight as never before in this final century, so that the name of Jesus will be known and victorious, to the ends of the earth!
- Mobilize each local church to maintain an active missions vision such that each city and populace within Brazil receives the gospel and possesses a witnessing church. Simultaneously, these same churches should be training and sending missionaries to other peoples, especially those within the 10/40 window.
- Establish an immediate commitment to unity within the evangelical population of Brazil. This will only be possible as the Holy Spirit moves us to maintain the salvation of souls as our priority.
- Assume a commitment to thoroughly reach the indigenous tribes of Brazil, principally through translation of the Bible into all dialects.
- Lead each Brazilian evangelical to demonstrate a commitment to the whole gospel, meaning that we work toward the end that justice and a Christian ethic be ever more present in the life of Brazilian society.
- Use correctly the resources that God has placed in our hands, investing generously in the work of the Lord. Refrain from looking only at ourselves, our denomination, or whatever our institution, but having a wide, encompassing vision of our partnership in His mission, thereby hastening the return of Christ.
- Finally, develop strategies so the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement becomes a reality in Brazil: a church for every people, and the gospel for every person by the year 2000.
Oswaldo Prado, Brazil
National Coordinator, AD 2000 Brazil