Brazil may have lost its bid to win the World Cup, but it has a few days left to win the souls of soccer fans, and local Christians aren't letting this opportunity slip past.
Brazil's Christian population is enormous — more than 90 percent of Brazilians claim to be Christian — making it the world's second-largest Christian population, with 8 percent of the total (lagging only the United States' 11.3 percent). While most of those are Catholic, evangelicals are gaining on them, expanding from 15 percent of the population in 2000 to 22 percent in 2010.
Brazilians have a history of traveling to witness when other countries host the world's most famous soccer tournament, but this time they've got a home field advantage.
About 100 evangelicals hit Copacabana Beach to hand out 15,000 booklets on the history of Brazil and soccer, including an article by Brazilian soccer star Kaka, who says that "the true sense of victory is having Jesus in my life," reports Yahoo news. Meanwhile, volunteers for the Bible Society of Brazil are passing out 20,000 copies of the Gospel of John in eight different languages.
"Brazilians are football-mad," the Bible Society of Brazil's Rudi Zimmer said. "We want the Bible to have a prominent presence amidst all the excitement. It's an unprecedented opportunity for churches and Christians here to share God's Word with local and foreign fans, and we want to equip and encourage them to do that."
The game itself has inspired outreach tools. The Child Evangelical Fellowship of Brazil made up thousands of soccer balls in the colors of evangelism: gold (heaven), black (sin), red (atonement), white (righteousness) and green (growth), to be passed out to schools with the explanation of the gospel. And the Brazilian Baptist Home Mission Board developed a strategy for handing out yellow cards to fans as a way to begin conversations about what they've done wrong and how they can be made right through the gospel.
On July 12, the day before the World Cup final, more than 1,000 Brazilian evangelicals plan to circle the Maracanã soccer stadium to "send a message of peace to the world," according to Yahoo news.
From there, they'll be able to see the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer (whose World Cup allegiance is up in the air after an Italian ad drew criticism for depicting the 125-foot statue in an Italian soccer jersey).
CT reported on how Brazilians search the Bible online, the Brazilian evangelical voting bloc, the evangelistic efforts of Brazilians to connect with North Koreans at the 2010 World Cup, how Brazil is one of the top missionary-sending countries, a recent interview with a pastor ministering in the slums of Brazil, and other Brazilian stories.