A Cemetery for Missionaries

By Tuesday, June 26, 2012 4 0


Spain has been called a cemetery for missionaries. Around 80% of missionaries who come to serve in Spain return home or go to another field after less than four years on the field. Why is that?

Author José Martínez writes, “[Spain] is a neo-pagan field, much more difficult to evangelize than in any previous period of time…it seems as if it is immunized against the gospel.”

A number of factors play into the existing cultural, moral, and religious context of Spanish people.

  • Although Spain has one of the richest religious histories in the world, only 3% of Spaniards list religion as one of their top three values. This, from a place once known as “more Catholic than the Pope!” (80% of the population identifies as Catholic, but less than 10% practice or express traditional Catholic views)
  • There are more than 1.5 million Muslims in Spain, most of whom are immigrants. There are far more people praying in Mosques (over 1,000 of which are illegal) on Friday than churches on Sunday.
  • The severe counter-reformation prevented the Reformation from taking root in Spain.
  • For the better part of the last 500 years, the Bible was a forbidden book. True religious freedom in Spain is as recent as 1977.
  • Spain leads Europe in unemployment, AIDS, addiction (drugs, alcohol and gambling in particular) and abortions, and 95% of young people ignore conservative views on pre-marital sex and sexual orientation.
  • The church in America considers Spain to be “reached,” with the Gospel, but 200,000 believers among 50 million people is about .3% (3/10s of 1%!)

Make no mistake: Spain is unreached, lost, and suffering. But, by the grace of God, our family is being prepared by the power of the Holy Spirit for long-term, effective ministry in Spain that envisions Spaniards, especially influential young people, putting their trust and faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

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  • Katie

    Great post! Interesting and thoughtful as always.

    Do you have sources for those statistics? I’m not trying to be an asshat or anything, was just genuinely surprised to see Spain as the European leader for AIDS; I thought it was Russia, with … countries that were previously Russian… filling up the other spots in the top five or so.

    • I got these stats from a document another missionary in Spain sent. I think most of them are from Wikipedia and linked sources. Most of them are from 2007. When I say Europe, I typically mean Western and Central Europe. See how the WHO organizes European regions (http://www.avert.org/aids-europe.htm)? I would consider Russia part of Eastern Europe, which includes the former Soviet countries, etc like you were talking about. Our mission agency considers that a different region, as it doesn’t share many cultural characteristics with countries that are part of the EU and surrounding. That link above has Portugal and Switzerland leading in 2010. But I would say being in the top is “leading.”

      • Katie

        Thanks Rose

  • Blessings to you as you minister in Spain. The older I get, the more I realize how little I know about the rest of the world. Thanks for sharing this information.