When representatives of the American Bible Society reached Brazil in around 1816, it marked not only the beginning of Bible distribution in both the country and in Latin America as a whole, but it also signified the beginning of a significant wave of evangelical Protestant missions which was spread throughout the region by Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists and other evangelical groups. Such groups were followed by Pentecostal groups in the early twentieth century. By 1890, there were just 143 000 Brazilian evangelicals; however, today that number has swelled to over 30 million. While Brazil is still considered one of the largest Roman Catholic countries in the world, it is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing evangelical ones as well, with some projections holding that Brazil will be 50% evangelical by 2020 (Prado n.d., 2002:52).
The aim of the current article is to show that an important element behind the establishment of evangelical missions to Brazil – particularly during the pioneering stages – was evangelical revival, especially that which occurred in North America during the nineteenth century. Following a brief introduction to the general relationship between eighteenth- and nineteenth-century revivals and evangelical missions, I shall endeavour to support historically the commonly accepted, yet often unsubstantiated, correlation between such movements of revival and mission. Firstly, I will show the significant paradigm shift in missional thinking, which took place in the nineteenth century, as North American evangelicals began to regard Roman Catholic countries in Latin America as mission
fields. Secondly, I shall argue that the influence of nineteenth-century revivalist evangelicalism (particularly that sourced in North America) on missions to Brazil and Latin America can best be observed in the Brazilian evangelical identity that emerged in the twentieth century, which has, in turn, propelled the Brazilian evangelical church into its own significant involvement in global missions (Noll 2009:10).
To continue reading this article (published in October 2010 in the South African theological journal Verbum et Ecclesia), click here.
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