Special Reports on Church Growth Around the World
Assembled and Edited by John Holzmann
. . . In Naples
Conservative Baptist churches in Naples, Italy, have experienced unusual growth over the past three years. Since 1984 nearly 500 conversions have taken place, primarily as a result of annual three-week evangelistic crusades. Among those converted have been the president of the Mormon church in the area, the son of a nearby town's mayor, drug addicts, gang members, and several members of a broken family.
As a result of the growth, Christians in Casoria petitioned the mayor for a land grant. "The state has helped the Catholic Church buy land in the past," they said. "Why not us?"
The mayor's recent announcement came as a surprise, however. Not only did he tell the church that the city fathers had agreed to donate land for their use, but he commended the church for converting drug addicts and gang members. "You have made a significant contribution to the community," he told them.
. . . In Burkina Faso
As far as the Assemblies of God is concerned, Burkina Faso is one of the fastest growing churches in Africa. In 1972, there were 25,000 believers in 325 churches. Now there are 155,000 believers attending more than 900 churches. There are four Bible schools with 345 students, and all four are led by local Christians. At least half of the 155,000 believers have been converted out of Islam.
. . . In Vietnam
Despite hardships, Vietnam's church has grown since 1975÷some say by as much as four times. It is still growing today.
There is much bad news mixed with the good. In the north, of seven remaining pastors, the youngest is 74 years old. All 30 people who attend the showcase church in Hanoi are over 60 years old. Central Vietnam has undergone severe repression. All the tribal churches in the central highlands have been closed and the properties confiscated. However:
ð Sixty percent of the churches in the south are said to be open.
ð Tribal Christians meeting in small groups now number 11,000, compared to 7,000 in 1975.
ð When the largest Protestant church in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) was closed in 1983, Christians scattered to other churches and started new Bible study groups. The pastor, still in prison, now has a congregation of over 60 fellow prisoners.
. . . In Spain
More evangelism is going on now than ever before in Spain, says evangelical leader Juan Gili. But, he cautions, the Spanish evangelical church is not strong enough to bring to faith the many who are hearing the gospel. "They are unprepared for a harvest," he says.
. . . In Sudan
SIM churches have experienced an astonishing growth rate in the past three years. Until three years ago, there were only 13 churches among the five tribes with whom SIM had worked for the previous 40 years. In the past three years that number has jumped to 31! AIM missionaries see a great hunger for God's word, especially among the Toposa tribe.
. . . In Mali
In 1972, there were 3,250 believers in Gospel Missionary Union (GMU) churches. It appears that, in 1985 alone, more than 4,000 came to Christ. Though much of the growth took place in drought-stricken areas, GMU field director Harold Peters points out that church growth is widespread throughout Mali. Eight GMU churches in Bamako and the surrounding area have received an influx of new converts, he said.
. . . In El Salvador
The number of evangelicals in El Salvador has tripled in the last 10 years to a total of 750,000. Some observers think they could become the majority by 1994. The population of 5.2 million is nearly half (44 percent) under age 15.
. . . In Angola
Mail response from radio listeners in Angola, West Africa, has led personnel at radio station HCJB to feel that spiritual revival is underway. John Braun, director of the station's Portuguese Language Service, stated that most of the letters came from young people attending high schools and colleges in the Marxist state.
"Nearly all who write have the same request," he said. "'Please send us Bibles.'
"We don't have enough Portuguese Bibles, so we've been sending them gospels of John." Braun added that many correspondents also inquired how to find the "way to freedom."
Brazilian evangelist Nilson Fanini, who has preached in recent years in Angola, reported a similar spiritual responsiveness. Eager Angolans quickly exhausted the large stock of scriptures which he had brought to distribute.
. . . Among the Quechuas of Ecuador
An estimated 10 percent of the 300,000 Quechuas in Ecuador's Chimborazo province belong to an evangelical church. There are more than 50,000 Quechua believers nationwide.
"We didn't see our first baptized believers among the Quechuas in Chimborazo until 1955," missionary Henry Klassen explained. Today there are more than 300 evangelical churches in the province.
The Quechua church grew rapidly in the '70s and early '80s when a revival came, but the growth has slowed, and indifference has begun to infiltrate the church, Klassen says.
. . . In Portugal
Portugal is 94 percent Catholic, with less than one percent evangelical Christians. The Catholic charismatic renewal has had no impact in Portugal, and evangelical church planters have had dramatic encounters with spiritism.
At the same time, the Catholic Church is not as powerful as in other Catholic countries. Portugal's political development has recently allowed for religious freedom and separation of church and state.
Portuguese are more r^ponsive to the gospel than either the Spanish or the French, yet as recently as two years ago there were only 123 missionaries for 10 million people. Veteran missionaries say there is no time like the present for church planting in Portugal.
Among agencies planning to seize the opportunity are the Mennonite Brethren, with two couples assigned to start this year.
. . . Among Nigeria's Maguzawa People
The six-year old revival among Nigeria's Maguzawa people shows no signs of abating, Missionary News Service has learned in an interview with Panya Baba, director of Nigeria's Evangelical Missionary Society. "They're asking for more missionaries to come and we can't send them," he said.
The Maguzawas rejected Islam when Muslims came into northern Nigeria 400 years a-go. These hard-working farmers maintained their idolatrous, animislic religious practices until six years ago when they started to become Christians "by the hundreds," Baba explained. In Kano state, 200 churches have been started. Of the not less than three million Maguzawas in that area, some 6,000 to 10,000 have become Christians according to Baba.
What is particularly gratifying is their "bridge-building" to northern Hausa Muslims. "They are better communicators than (Western) missionaries," Baba said. "For the first time, I've seen Muslims shedding tears and some are becoming Christians."
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