In the last few weeks, I have been spending most of my time calling churches, sending letters and emails, answering the same questions, over and over, from pastors and church secretaries. Don’t I have better things to do? Isn’t anything else going on for the Lord in Portugal? I have to be honest, this is not the most exciting activity that I could be doing right now. Why, then do I do it? And why am I so happy each time I am able to add another meeting to the calendar?
There is a great need
This is the main reason we have started project Reach Portugal. When you travel along the Portuguese roads you go by village after village, town after town, going on with life as usual. These villages have been there since before Roman times 2000 years ago. Never have these people have a Gospel preaching witness among them. Most of these places have never had a faithful church to tell them about the glorious Savior. I know what I am saying. The Gospel has been in Portugal. The Lord has been saving Portuguese people. But for a country of 11 million, there are seven independent Baptist churches! Seven. The result: even though 97% of the population claims to be Roman Catholic, most have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. This means we will have to go to these towns and mass evangelize, using a total saturation method. We will need to organize the converts into New Testament churches. We need to train leaders from among those converts to pastor these churches and win their people to the Lord.
Many do not know
I am a firm believer in the truth that we need to train the nationals to do the work of the Lord in their countries. In Portugal, we will need to win those nationals and train them. I am excited each time I am able to schedule a meeting in a church in the US because many Christians there do not know about the ministry needs in Portugal (many don’t even know Portugal exists, even though my Portuguese pride will not allow me to admit to this). Each church that allows us to come is an opportunity to put Portugal on the map. People do not simply forget or chose not to pray for Portugal. The truth is that people do not know. As important as Portugal is to me, I need to realize that for the average American Christian, Portugal is nothing more than a footnote in a History book (I didn’t realize this sentence would be so hard to write). Portugal does not have Spain’s flair, France’s romance, or Italy’s stravaganza. We don’t even have deep poverty stricken areas like other continents. But does this mean that Portugal will have to remain forgotten in world missions? I believe these two things: #1 – The Lord is not done with Portugal; #2 – Many have not yet started to pray for this country because no one has called attention to its needs.
The potential is there
By the grace of God we have been able to put together the structure to bring about a nationwide church planting movement in Portugal.
- For the last three years, we have been conducting youth summer camps. We believe the Lord will use these to call a new generation into full time Christian service.
- We have a Bible Institute program to train the necessary national leadership. This program is taught in a modular system. We have been recording the lessons and streaming them live over the internet. With minimal assistance, this Bible Institute material can be used at a local church level under the direct supervision of each local pastor.
- We have men that have completed the basic pastoral studies and are in the final stages for their ordination for Christian service.
- The church in Albufeira (Southern Portugal) has just started a church plant in Northern Lisbon. This will work as a model for the future church plants to be started.
This is why I am excited about each meeting that the Lord allows me to schedule. By the grace of God, Portugal will not be for long a forgotten country in world missions.