Simply put, we want to get the gospel into the hands and ears of the Portuguese people. For too many years, the people within this country have been told what to believe, never having been invited to investigate the Bible for themselves. And because of the culture, most have been taught legalistic religion without ever actually hearing the truth of the gospel message.
Over the years, we have learned that most Portuguese are baptized as babies in the Catholic Church. This means most will identify themselves as Christians. So, even if someone doesn’t practice this faith for years, wants nothing to do with the Catholic Church, or even hates the Catholic Church, they will often still refer to themselves as a Christian. Catholicism is truly ingrained in the culture. In fact, the saying goes “to be Portuguese is to be Catholic”. That is their tradition. But as we share our faith with those around us, we are not fighting against the Catholic Church, and our goal is not to get people out of the Catholic Church. Rather, our goal is to inform people and guide them to the pages of the Bible.
"The Graveyard of Missions"
At one point, Western Europe was described as the “graveyard of missions”. That is because, years back, missionaries flocked to that part of the world. However, when they saw nothing happening, they quickly left. From their point-of-view, the Spirit just simply wasn’t moving. After living in Western Europe for five years, we would like to challenge that thought. The Spirit is moving, but perhaps not in the way that people think He should be moving.
Let's think about it. If at this moment in your life, you trust in the Word of God and you have put your faith in the Lord, how many times had you previously heard the gospel message before you came to this point? Some people grow up in church buildings hearing the gospel every week, yet they don’t follow Christ until later in life. Some begin following Christ at a young age, yet they spend many years continuing to hear the gospel to better understand what that faith means. The point is that many, if not most, of us hear the gospel multiple times before we surrender to it. The Portuguese are a people no different than us. Just because someone hears the gospel message once or twice and rejects it and just because the Spirit isn't moving how we want or expect Him to, it doesn't mean that the Spirit isn't moving.
The truth is most people that we encounter are hearing the message of the gospel for the first time. They are hearing for the first time about a loving God, a God that came to live among us, and a God that gives grace. It is a profound message, and while we believe that God can save anybody at any point, we have found that, generally, people need to hear this profound message multiple times, they need to question it, and they need to discover it for themselves before they can truly believe it. No, Western Europe is not the cool place to do mission work because there are not mass conversions, and there are not many church plants. The work is slow and takes time, but the work is happening and the Spirit is moving.
Reaching the Portuguese with the Gospel.
Within the Portuguese cultural setting, we have found the most effective way to reach people with the hope of Jesus is by simply living and sharing life with them. In fact, we aim to live how Jesus lived, among the people, yet with the boldness to proclaim the gospel as He did. We are not simply trying to get people into a building, and we are not trying to change people. Instead, our desire is to introduce them to the life-changing truth found in the Holy Scriptures. We want to meet people where they are at, so that we can help take them to where they need to be.
All in all, we are sharing life in order to share Christ. And as people hear the gospel, we trust that the Spirit is moving in their hearts and in their lives. As Albert Molher so wisely puts it, "Our responsibility is to get God's word to their ears. Only God can get the word from their ears to their heart."