Granada, Spain – The CIA World Factbook says 94 percent of Spain’s population is classified as Roman Catholic, and the remaining 6 percent is classified as “other.” It is the “other” that is of great concern to evangelical missionaries here, because in that “other” category are the country’s evangelicals, estimated to be less that 1 percent of Spain´s population.
Jesús Londoño works for COMIBAM International, an umbrella group that coordinates the work of mission organizations working in Spanish-speaking countries around the world. He said, “These numbers are the real spiritual situation in Spain. We have a church (that is) little, weak and learning slow.”
The latest research gathered on evangelicals in Spain is from The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities in Spain (FEREDE). This group found that in 2007 there were 2,630 evangelical churches in Spain, a country with 44 million people. Andalucía, the largest autonomous region in Spain, has one evangelical for every 460 inhabitants. By contrast, the state of Texas, with a population about half that of Spain, has twice as many evangelical churches and millions more evangelical believers.
Nonetheless, this number represents huge growth: In 1968, Spain had only about 300 evangelical churches. One of the reasons for the jump in the number is a focus by missions organizations on home churches and small groups.
Londoño said of the numbers that “when you see the statistics from (the) last research you can say thanks (to) God for increasing the evangelical population in Spain, but at the same time we need to recognize that several of these churches are migrants’ churches. We have to find a better way to share the gospel with Spaniards.” He said that evangelism takes a long time in Spain because it is a “postmodern and post-Christendom country.”
The Washington Post’s Keith B. Richburg noted the trends in Spain and said they are similar throughout Europe. Spaniards still have social ties to the Roman Catholic Church, celebrating many church holidays, saint’s days, and First Communion. Even so, the younger generation has increasingly disassociated itself from the church. “Regular church attendance in Spain, like elsewhere in Europe, has steadily fallen,” he wrote. “Today only 14 percent of young people describe themselves as religious.” A University of Michigan study said only 25 percent of Spaniards attend a weekly religious service, compared with more than 40 percent of Americans.
Lack of attendance and interest in the church, suspicion of religion for historical reasons and an absence of a long-term vision from missionaries combine to make the evangelical climate cold and dark in Spain. COMIBAM and many missionary organizations are working to change that, but it will take years of commitment. Londoño said, “Spain needs missionaries in this time who love this country and get God’s vision for this nation. We need to show the people the difference between religion and Jesus’ life.”
Brittany Smith is a freelance writer living in Spain. She has written for Human Events, Evangelical Press News Service, and others.