Yesterday, Christians from Brazil celebrated the Corpus Christi holiday, a date to celebrate the body of Jesus Christ. Evangelical churches held a major event in São Paulo’s city center: the March For Jesus, an event organized by the Reborn in Christ Church for the past 24 years. This year’s numbers are staggering: more than 500 churches were there, attracting a public of 340,000 people. Organizers have called it “the largest Christian event on Earth.”
This March for Jesus is evidence of the demographic change witnessed by Brazil over the last few decades. In the 1960s, evangelicals made up no more than 4% of Brazilians. They are now 22% of our population.
These churches began preaching in Brazil early into the 20th century – always maintaining a low-profile fashion. The two main branches of evangelism found in Brazil were Pentecostal churches, first created in the U.S. with the influence of Baptists and Methodists, and Neo-Pentecostal churches, which blame the Devil for just about anything that isn’t going according to plan.
The latter group rose in the 1980s with an approach geared towards the media, and began to buy up TV and radio stations – and used airtime to spread their word. Neo-Pentecostals are adherents of the Prosperity Theory, which connects financial gains to the blessings of God. Evangelicals represented just 5% of the Brazilian population in the 1970s. Now, they number 1 out of every 4 Brazilians. Every year, 14,000 new churches open nationwide. [That’s absolutely staggering, how many churches are actually necessary? At that rate, there shouldn’t be room for anything else.]