Leftist guerrillas and drug smugglers frequently put the South American nation of Colombia in the headlines. Yet for those who know the country’s churches, the story behind the headlines is one of a major revival.
“Traditional structures are crumbling. The economy has gone berserk,” says Eugene Wittig, executive vice-president of OMS International, a mission organization with 25 workers in Colombia. “The country is moving closer and closer to anarchy. Yet as a result, we are seeing a lot more openness to the gospel than ever before, especially in the middle and upper classes.”
In years past, those classes had been virtually closed to the message of the gospel. “In Bogota [Colombia’s capital], 90 percent of all Protestant churches are among the lower classes,” says David K. Volstad, Latin America regional director for the Christian and Missionary Alliance. During the last decade, however, the Alliance has begun to concentrate resources in outreach to the middle and upper classes, where the denomination is finding new responsiveness.
Strong Protestant church growth in Colombia began among rural peasants in the late 1950s. It did not spread to the cities until the 1970s, when people began to migrate to urban centers in search of work and refuge from guerrilla activity. Today urban churches flourish, with some claiming thousands of members.
Despite tremendous growth, however, the Protestant church represents only 2 to 4 percent of the country’s population. The overwhelming majority—95 percent—are members of the Roman Catholic Church, which is beginning to experience spiritual renewal through a growing charismatic movement.
The religious revival stands in stark contrast ...1
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