"Pastors want more people, and if a strategy works—regardless if it is biblical or not—it is used."

Adult evangelical Christians in Brazil still remember what a stigma it was to be known as a crente (a believer). We were considered stupid, poor, and backward. People openly disliked us. But not any longer. We have left our underprivileged status behind us. Today we count soccer players, artists, business people, politicians, and high-society people among our ranks. Sophisticated convention centers and five-star hotels serve as our meeting centers. Weekly magazines cover the evangelical presence in society.

Much of this has come through the sheer numbers we have attracted into our churches in the last two decades, though precise numbers are difficult to come by. Some figures say evangelicals make up 20 percent of Brazil's population of 160 million people. A 1996 census, however, put the evangelical figure at 10.95 percent.

At any rate, the growth of the Protestant church has attracted attention—including that of the Vatican in this historically Catholic country. Pope John Paul II has visited Brazil twice (in 1980 and 1997). What worries him is the growth of Pentecostalism, which has begun to threaten the hegemony of the Catholic church here. Still, as Leonardo Boff, a prominent Catholic spokesman, declares, "The growth of the evangelical church is based on its own merit, due to the fact that they are more organized and closer to the Brazilian reality."

The major evangelical denomination here is the Assemblies of God, which claims a membership of more than 10 million. Other major denominations include Universal Church of God's Kingdom, Christian Congregation, Four Square Gospel, and many other Pentecostal ...

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