In considering whether the kingdom of God is advancing around the world or is in retreat, we now turn to Latin America (Latin America is generally understood to consist of the entire continent of South America in addition to Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean). Are you ready for some more good news?
Kingdom Expansion in Latin America
According to the Pew Research Center, evangelical Christians have increased more than 877% since 1900 with millions coming into the kingdom of God. Furthermore, Christians are expected to remain the largest religious group in Latin America and the Caribbean in the decades ahead, growing by 25% from 531 million in 2010 to 666 million in 2050.
For centuries, countries in Latin America have been predominantly Catholic (given its Spanish and Portuguese colonial past). However, this is now changing. There has been considerable movement from Catholicism to various Protestant groups and denominations in recent decades, and this movement is expected to continue in coming decades. Although foreign missionaries, mainly from the United States, established the beachheads of Protestantism, the dramatic growth since the 1960’s has been largely driven by Latin American Pentecostal groups.
Within Central America, a majority of the developing nations are at least 15-30% Protestant. Guatemala has experienced significant growth with reports that a new church opens every single day. In countries such as Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, around a third of the population are said to be engaging in the current move of God.
In South America, several nations have significant numbers of evangelical Christians, for example, Chile, Columbia, Peru, and Argentina. Brazil now has one of the largest evangelical populations in the world and has emerged as a large mission sending force. While growth has been dramatic (from 2.9% in 1960 to 26.3% in 2010), there remain many issues for prayerful action, including training, discipleship, and unity across some 4,000 distinct evangelical groups.
For Latin America as a whole, the Catholic exodus to the ranks of Protestant churches also presents major challenges, along with demonstrating meaningful participation and influence within society and culture.
But, the over-arching good news is that the gospel of Jesus Christ and His kingdom is on the increase throughout Latin America!
“Christ the Redeemer” statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Artyominc [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons