I spent last week in Brazil speaking at the Fiel Conference in Aguas de Lindoia, a small resort town 100 miles outside of Sao Paulo, and in Salvador, a seaside city in the northeast. Spending seven days in a massive country of 200 million people hardly makes one qualified to pontificate about the “state of the church” there, let alone the nation as a whole. But hopefully a few reflections are still permissible—both for the benefit of those who have asked for my thoughts, and (more helpfully) for my own benefit as I think about what I saw and learned.

Let me summarize my (still forming) thoughts with four words.

1. Encouraging. Of course, the weather was sunny, the terrain beautiful, and the people warm and friendly. But in addition to these delights, I was very encouraged by the health and maturity of the church I encountered in Brazil. True, most of the country is still Roman Catholic (and often syncretistic) and health-wealth hocus pocus is running rampant in too many places. And yet, the church is growing in Brazil. Good evangelical, strongly biblical, Calvinistic churches and ministries are growing. If we run low on vibrant, conservative Presbyterians in the United States, we’ll be able to find scores of new ones in Brazil.

One person I talked to remarked that he thought the indigenous church in Brazil was as strong as anywhere else in the non-English speaking world (I imagine the Koreans might disagree). There are good seminaries with good scholars training good pastors to shepherd good and growing churches. From what I heard, more pastors are needed along with more confessionally orthodox professors trained at the highest levels of the academy. But I saw first hand, and learned first hand, from top notch Brazilian pastors and scholars. The conference was run by Brazilians. The first Brazilian systematic theology book has just been written. Brazil is a strong missions-sending country. The church has a growing appetite for good teaching and good books. I thank God for the work of the gospel in Brazil.

2. Faithfulness. I also thank God for missionaries and local leaders who sowed the seeds for the gospel harvest now growing in Brazil. Fiel Ministries is just one story, but it’s one worth noting. This was the 30th anniversary of the Fiel Conference. Over the past several decades Fiel has published good books, invested in new technologies (videos, blogs, social media), established good partnerships with ministries in the States, and helped support local pastors. And there are other ministries, publishing houses, seminaries, and denominations doing similar things. Will God allow you to see the same results in the little town or among the unreached or barely reached people you’re now serving? Only God knows. But if we stick around and if we keep sowing and if we keep our hand to the plow, God will certainly do more than we have eyes to see.

3. Evangelism. Speaking of sowing, whenever I get the privilege of rubbing shoulders with brothers and sisters from around the world, I’m inevitably impressed by their commitment to evangelism and a bit embarrassed by my own. What a joy it was to hear about the tens of thousands of R.C. Sproul books that were distributed by Brazilian Christians during the World Cup. And what a greater joy to hear one pastor speak of the more than a dozen new believers he was baptizing into his church as a result of this evangelistic outreach. Is a large scale book giveaway the best way to reach the lost in this country? Maybe, maybe not. But I can think of worse ways. Like not dreaming, planning, strategizing, or sharing anything at all.

4. Resources. If there is one thing I am always reminded of when I speak in another country it’s the importance of good training and good resources. What a gift theologically sound, pastorally wise, devotionally rich Christian publishing is to the world. Never underestimate the power of the printed word. And don’t underestimate the growing influence of the internet. Through the translation of good English materials and through the increasing production of their own online resources, the Brazilian church seems ahead of the curve when it comes to utilizing the web for the cause of Christ and the health of the church.

Which leads me to one final caution. While it’s certainly appropriate that those of us in America would tweet and blog and author books about issues affecting our immediate context, let us labor to think broadly and biblically about what we write. General works of theology, accessible commentaries, basic stuff on Christian discipleship, thoughtful pieces on pastoral ministry–these are the sorts of blogs and books that may not make you a bestseller or king of the clicks in America, but they will make you relevant to Christians twenty years from now and to Christians all over the world right now. Let’s keep the main things the main thing.

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12 thoughts on “A Few Reflections on My Trip to Brazil”

  1. Derrick says:

    This is really encouraging brother Kevin. As a Ugandan Christian preparing for pastoral ministry, I would love to see similar things happen in Uganda. Thanks for writing books that we have found useful here, noy long ago I passed on “The hole in out holiness” to a friend after being challenged and encouraged by it, and now his wife has been reading it.

  2. Fellipe do Vale says:

    What an encouragement to read. As someone personally born in Brazil and studying to be a systematic theologian currently in the States, it is wonderful to know that my home country is flourishing under God’s grace.

  3. It was great to have ministering among us and it is great to read your perspectives and impressions about Brazil. If any one reading would like to help, pray for us, that “that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ”. Blessings

  4. Joversi Ferreira says:

    I had the privilege to be at the 30th Fiel Conference and I was challenge by your sessions. I thank God to be able to learn more and for him to use your life these past days.
    I hope that our church, which loves good books and good theology, will receive this knowledge about the work of the Holy Spirit.
    God bless you. Hopefully I will see you at TGC2015.

  5. I’m so glad FIEL puts a lot of their material on the web for others to access because many can’t get to conferences due to time or budget constraints. So many places in Brazil and the Portuguese speaking world need this. It’s a big challenge to get traditional churches that have grown cold to warm up, get off their pews for salt and light to go beyond their church walls. Likewise, I challenge doctrine shallow churches to also roll-up their sleeves and help with complex problems in their neighborhoods to show why faith and doctrine need to be deepened. Otherwise how many ‘modern Christians’ will stand — much less multiply — when oppression comes? If you return to Brazil, please come visit or even stay at the Escola Esperanca e Vida foster homes in Ouro Fino, MG — about an hour north of Aguas de Lindioa.

  6. Isaac says:

    Derick!! My name is Isaac! I am a british born ugandan christian. Would like to speak with you further about the work in uganda and whether there are any reformed churches being established out there. God bless

  7. Love your comment on writing accessible content that people all over the world can read. That’s actually one of the things I really appreciate about the gospel coalition. Have you guys ever thought about installing a translation feature to the website such as the plugin Transposh? ( Not trying to spam (and I am in no affiliated with them) but it’s a fantastic plugin that would cause most of the content on this site to be able to be read in over 70 languages. Just a thought, great post as always!

  8. John Crotts says:

    Amen Kevin! I’m so glad you got to encourage the saints in Brazil. Praise God for Fiel’s great work.

  9. It was a great privilege to hear you. Thanks for coming and blessing us with sermons. We’ll keep praying and acting for Brazil to know the true gospel. God bless you and the USA. Soli Deo Gloria!

  10. Luciana says:

    Undeniably believe that that you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the web the simplest thing to consider of. I say to you, I certainly get irked at the same time as other people think about concerns that they plainly do not recognise about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the highest as smartly as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be again to get more. Thank you

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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