Following its heyday as a world power during the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal lost much of its wealth and status with the destruction of Lisbon in a 1755 earthquake, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, and the loss of its Brazilian colony in 1822. A 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy and Portugal was ruled by a succession of repressive governments until a left-wing military coup in 1974 installed broad democratic reforms. The following year Portugal granted independence to all of its African colonies. The ensuing years of religious freedom have resulted in the steady and increased growth of Evangelicals, yet they are still less than 2% of the 10 million population.
People typically associate Europe with the Protestant Reformation; however, that movement never reached Portugal. Religious and political freedoms gained in 1975 have transformed the nation, but the ancient heart-bondages remain. The Roman Catholic Church is strongly traditional and has much influence, but needs renewal. The veneration of Mary is a ‘Christian’ veneer over the old paganism, and an estimated 90% of the population consult spiritist mediums and witches. To this are added the new bondages of secularism, materialism, and alcohol and drug abuse.
Growing unity in the evangelical church has led to a national church-planting movement called Global Mission 2015, seeking to evangelize Portugal and reach the world. God is empowering the Portuguese: Portugal is sending out missionaries to other countries. Recently 300 people gathered for a national mission conference that the younger generation of Portuguese believers planned and carried out. Yet Portuguese leaders have affirmed they still have a need to receive missionaries as well.
OC's team in Portugal is fairly new, consisting of Brazilian missionaries sent in partnership with our OC ministry in Brazil.