(MNN) — Only between 1.6 and 2.8 percent of Portugal's 10 million people are
Christians, and 42 out of 308 counties have no evangelical church. Nevertheless, biblical education is
strengthening Portuguese believers to reach an important goal.
"The evangelical alliance in the country of Portugal has set a goal of reaching all of the
counties in Portugal
with the Gospel by the year 2015," said missionary Duane Olson of Greater
Europe Mission. "It's an ambitious goal,
but God is able to accomplish that."
Olson teaches at a Bible school on the northern end of the
country, where seven counties are strongly Roman Catholic and have no
evangelical witness. The people of Portugal often
see evangelicalism as a cult.
The Bible school, Centro de Estudos Teológicos, or Center of Theological Studies, is a satellite of the Portuguese Bible
Institute and the Baptist Theological Seminary. About 80 students choose to take the first-year courses offered by
either one school or the other. Eventually,
the school hopes to offer second- and third-year courses.
"It's an exciting venture for us in that it is a
collaboration of two different schools," Olson said. "Because of that, we're able to minister to a
greater body of believers in the north."
Students take classes in systematic theology, Old or New
Testament, counseling, sermon preparation, and pastoral ministry. These courses are offered in two
locations, Porto and Braga. Some students have gone on to pastor or
minister in local churches; others are teaching ethics classes from an evangelical
perspective in the public schools.
"[Bible school] helps the believers to be more effective in
their ministries, both in their churches but also in the area of church-planting and discipleship," Olson said. "There's a real need in the country for pastors, teachers, and Christian
workers who are willing to devote themselves to minister in the local church
but then also to reach out into areas of northern Portugal–and really all
over Portugal–that really do not have churches or Christian witness."
Although the evangelical church in Portugal has grown from 55,000 in
1975 to over 307,000 in 2000, it is plagued by divisions and a lack of concern
for evangelism. 1,650 churches reach
only 1.6 percent of Portugal's
population. The Global Mission 2015
movement hopes to heal some of these issues.
"Pray that the Lord would just raise up more believers in
the country," Olson said, "and
a strong leadership among the pastors and the Christian workers, so that they
in turn might be able to strengthen the body of Christ in Portugal."