In 2017, while visiting a tribe in Brazil, I had the opportunity to see a “finished” work in a cross-cultural environment. After 30 years of missions work, the Pataxó, an indigenous people group, now have leaders, elders, and their own church organized in a way that’s relevant to the culture and truthful to the gospel.
This isn’t the situation among all the people groups in Brazil. There are still a vast number of tribes and villages without any Christians nor any contact with believers. According to Ethnos 360 in Brazil, there are still more than 160 unreached people groups and just seven of these groups have a full Bible translation in their own languages.
There is no doubt that God is at work in Brazil as more and more disciples are multiplying. While Brazil may be considered a reached country, there is still work to be done. Due to barriers, a lack of long-term missionary commitment, apathy from the national church, and a lack of prayer, there are still so many Brazilians in desperate need to hear the gospel.
Barriers Stopping the Spread of the Gospel
Unreached people today are often the farthest away or hardest to reach. As one of the most remote places in the world, the Javari Valley in Brazil is home to some of the most indigenous peoples and uncontacted tribes in the world. Not only is it difficult to get to this region on the Amazon River in the midst of rainforests, but there are also laws that prohibit Christian missionaries from sharing the gospel here. In 2020, a Brazilian judge banned and expelled missionaries from the Javari Valley due to the fear of exposing indigenous peoples to the coronavirus disease.
Indigenous people in Brazil often resist the gospel because it demands a change to their tribal religious practices.
With a fear of changing their way of life and traditions, indigenous peoples often resist missionaries. They often resist the gospel because it demands a change to their tribal religious practices. In fact, this is why sometimes there is a lack of what we would normally judge as results, even if missionaries are with the same people group for a long period of time. Additionally, there are often language and cultural barriers that make it difficult to share the gospel.
This is still a topic under huge discussion in Brazil, even inside the church. How can we share the gospel with unreached people groups while avoiding adopting a colonizer’s attitude? One of the ways is a long-term commitment to the villages and people.
Lack of Long-Term Missionary Commitment
Brazil has an abundance of evangelical Christians sharing the gospel and a history of missionaries, but there is still a great need for disciples of Christ to multiply even more disciples. However, there is a temptation to want an immediate response or rapid result instead of building good local churches.
The reality of a growing evangelical community in Brazil hasn’t been translated for the people groups. Much of what is growing in Brazil is a gospel that doesn’t value reaching others, but values prosperity and wealth instead.
More good local churches with firm, biblical foundations will lead to more disciples and missionaries spreading the gospel in Brazil.
The local church is critical to the Great Commission. The church is the one with the responsibility to baptize, disciple, and send missionaries. More good local churches with a firm, biblical foundations will lead to more disciples and missionaries spreading the gospel in Brazil. While fruit can be produced from short-term missions trips, long-term missionaries are the ones who can build relationships, share the gospel, establish and train leaders, and help grow churches and multiply disciples within the community.
While talking to missionaries within these unreached communities, they stress the importance of the role of their faithful, sending church. These churches have invested money in preparing, sending, and supporting the missionaries. The churches assumed a commitment for years to come with the goal to see people groups coming to the faith in Christ.
Apathy from the National Church
Around 90% of the Brazilian population is considered Christian, according to the Joshua Project. However, a majority of this number is Roman Catholic due to the national Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church. In fact, Brazil has the world’s largest population of Roman Catholics. However, attending church is often due to a superficial faith based more on tradition than an actual practicing faith.
While the national church is bringing forth the idea of who Jesus is, many church goers are not committed to their faith, and the church is not diligent in building and training believers. So, not as many disciples are spreading the gospel. Further, the church has omitted itself, in most cases, from spreading the gospel to the indigenous.
Even with many of the churches that are close to the unreached, there is prejudice against certain groups and cultures, inhibiting the gospel from spreading. There is a lot to be done in this sense, from short term trips to being open about receiving, investing, and hearing from missionaries on the work that is done.
Lack of Prayer for Brazil
We can do nothing apart from God’s power, and it is through prayer that we can rely on God’s strength and Spirit to help us accomplish his Word. While not everyone can go to Brazil and share the gospel, all believers can pray for the spread of Christ’s name in Brazil.
While not everyone can go to Brazil and share the gospel, all believers can pray for the spread of Christ’s name in Brazil.
As we wait expectantly on God to advance his kingdom, we can pray for more missionaries to go and share the gospel with unreached peoples groups. Additionally, we can pray for strength for those missionaries as they become equipped, learn the language and culture, and establish relationships. We can also pray for the Brazilian government to become more open to missionary work with isolated groups. Lastly, pray for those who never heard the gospel and wisdom for the Brazilian church.
We have hope that one day every person will know the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:10–11). As we long for that day, we can live on mission as followers of Christ to share the good news of the redeeming salvation only found in him.