SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The president of Assemblies of God Spain recently explained during a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the denomination that although missions work has been difficult in the country, he sees it as a “breeding ground” for the gospel.
Pastor Juan Carlos Escobar was among the speakers at the Assemblies of God Centennial in Springfield, Missouri, where various leaders from around the world spoke of progress in spreading the gospel in the countries where they have been planted.
“Our country is known for [being] a cemetery for pastors and missionaries,” he stated through a translator. “It has to do with the strongholds of unbelief in the Spaniards, and a mentality that has been an influence over centuries.”
Escobar explained that although the gospel has been present in Spain since the first century, the number of evangelical Christians has remained small through the years as Roman Catholicism has dominated the country. According to statistics, over 70 percent of the population in Spain is Roman Catholic, with only one percent identifying as Christian. The remaining percentage identifies as non-religious.
“Along through history, we have seen that this religious darkness has caused a rejection and a lack of rights for the believers in the country,” Escobar said, referencing the Spanish Inquisition and the incidents that followed. “But despite the resistance, God has always had a faithful remnant: men and women who have been boldly proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, [and] willing to pay the price for the consequences.”
Escobar himself came to Christ in 1981 because of the presence of missionaries in the country, and began pastoring six years later. He said that he is optimistic about missions work in Spain as he recognizes an openness to the gospel in recent years.
“In the last 25 years, in that cemetery of Spain, what some have called a dry and thirsty land, the power of the resurrection has activated itself in our country,” he said. “We have seen an incredible growth. It hasn’t been explosive growth, but it is sustained growth. A day new day has arisen in Spain. Something tells us that Spain is in the heart of God.”
The Assemblies of God denomination has a goal to plant 1,000 new churches by the year 2020.
“In the last two years,” he stated at another session during the event, “…we have seen 390 new churches and centers, and we now have 800 workers trained to plant new churches.”
“The biggest spiritual warfare we can do against the devil is to plant churches,” Escobar opined. “Every church that we plant is a center of training and preaching; it is an agency of God. If we do it in every neighborhood, in every town, [and] every city, the Church takes ahold. … The devil will be reduced in his influence.”
He noted that although many missionaries and preachers have died in the country in years past, Jesus stated that “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
“It’s true, Spain and other countries are cemeteries for preachers, evangelists and missionaries,” Escobar stated. “But they are not cemeteries of death. Those cemeteries, in reality, are the breeding grounds [for the gospel]…”
“Spain is a cemetery,” he said, “but of seeds that will bear fruit for the glory of God.”