A March academic conference on evangelicalism in Paris — actually the first of its kind in France — looked at the increasing strength of Third World evangelicals in missionary activity.
Mark Noll of Wheaton College addressed the growth of non-Western missionaries in general, as well as those working in cooperation with American missions. Overall, the proportion of Americans remain high and the U.S.-based interdenominational groups, such as Campus Crusade for Christ and Youth with a Mission, are among the most active. However, only one-fourth of the international mission force of Campus Crusade is American, and no more than one-sixth of the international mission force of Youth with a Mission is American, according to Noll.
What is happening is more than a surge in Protestant missionary volunteers from other countries. There are also increasing numbers of missionaries sent by non-American agencies, with the strongest impetus coming from South Korea (from less than a hundred missionaries in 1979 to more than 5,000 in 1998). The international missionary impulse of Brazilian evangelicalism was examined by Paul Freston, author of Evangelicals and Politics in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
While Brazil “is still a large recipient of foreign missionaries,” it is also increasingly becoming a sending country. “In 1989, there were less than 400 Brazilian missionaries abroad, but this number has risen to over a thousand by 1994.” Freston adds that “We can estimate a total of some 2,000 Brazilian evangelical missionaries, nearly 90 percent of whom are sent by missionary societies resulting from Brazilian initiative.”
Only about 40 percent go to other Latin American countries, while the rest go to other parts of the world, including North America and Europe. One should also add the missionary contribution of Brazilian-born denominations, such as the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, founded in the 1970s and already present in over 60 countries.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer