(Photo: ag.org video screen shot)
Spain has come a long way in embracing the Gospel and continues to thrive despite being known as a dead end for Protestant churches, said Juan Carlos Escobar, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Spain.
Escobar's message on church planting was part of the denomination's 100th anniversary celebration taking place in Springfield, Missouri, this week. He noted that the country's religious landscape has shifted over several decades and will do so as the Assemblies of God intends to plant a total of 1,000 churches by 2020.
"It's true, Spain and other countries are cemeteries for preachers, evangelists and missionaries. However, they are not cemeteries of death but they are breeding grounds for the Gospel," said Escobar.
He added, "The power of the resurrection has activated itself in what some have called a dry and thirsty land in Spain over the last 25 years. We have seen an incredible growth, it hasn't been explosive, but it has sustained. Something tells me that Spain is in the heart of God."
According to 2013 statistics, Roman Catholicism remains the largest religion in Spain with 70.9 percent of the population identifying with the faith. Evangelical Christians, however, make up less than one percent of the country's nearly 50 million population. Compare that to the non-religious in Spain, which account for 24.6 percent of the population.
Escobar noted that the denomination's vision to plant churches in Spain began in 2010. Since then, 850 individuals have been trained and prepared to plant 300 congregations.
"By 2010, the Assemblies of God had a growth each decade of about 100 percent … the biggest spiritual warfare we can do against the devil is to plant churches," said Escobar. "Every church that we plant is a center of training and preaching; it's an agency of God. Imagine if we planted one in every town and city."
In order to continue growing, Escobar noted that churches in Spain have had to consult with large ministries to implement a structured plan. He also said they will need to have a 350 percent growth in the next few years in order to reach their goal of 1,000.
Although the denomination is to partially credit for a Christian revival in Spain, Escobar noted that it began through a divine intervention.
"God began raising the Assemblies of God a few decades ago so that churches throughout various part of the country could begin to receive an impact ... the current generation of leaders in Spain have been visited by the Holy Spirit and have shown change in their character, commitment and service," said Escobar.
However, he also says that the rise of immigrants has contributed to the Gospel's growth in the European nation.
"Immigration has been important to our country. Currently, about 12 percent of the Spanish population are immigrants and they have been an important influence in our growth," said Escobar. "We thank God for immigrants because they have caused positive change and have caused our culture to become modified."
The Assemblies of God 100th anniversary celebration can be viewed live on 100.ag.org. Event organizers expect an estimated 10.5 million viewers to view the AG's Centennial live on August 10. The Centennial will be also broadcast through Unsión TV to Latin America, where the Assemblies of God has more than 30 million adherents. Furthermore, LMTV will broadcast the service throughout Africa, where the AG has over 17 million adherents.