An Amazing Story of How Research Guided the Church in Brazil

In the late 1990's, we began to publish analyses of the status of the church in Brazil on the Internet and this seemed quite useful to the church at large. In one case, it was not until about 10 years later that we found out how the Lord had used some of this information. Here's the story:

In 2007, I met a Brazilian couple who had been studying theology in London and were preparing to return home to Brazil to serve the Lord there. They, like my wife and I, had experienced all kinds of cultural challenges when they moved to the UK, and we had a pleasant conversation about what we loved and missed about Brazil. We also learned about a moment when our experiences intersected there. Here is what they shared:

In the late 1990's, prior to their coming to the UK to study, they had worked for the board of national missions of a large Brazilian denomination. Their office was responsible for strategic planning for growth and church planting throughout the country. One year, during their annual planning week when objectives were being set for the coming twelve months, a rather contentious stale mate occurred. Personal opinions were strong and the leaders in the room got stuck in the mire of a strong disagreement about where to focus their efforts and resources for the coming year. Emotions were high and the planning process just froze. They were getting nowhere.

One evening, at the height of this impasse, the husband of the couple I mentioned went home and pleaded with God for a breakthrough. He asked God for a solution that might bring unity to these frustrated leaders. He got up from his prayers and decided to take a look on the Internet to see what he might find there that could shed some light on his denomination's predicament. (Remember, this was the late 90's and there were not nearly as many digital church resources available then as now). Anyway, he came across our team's analysis of the status of the Brazilian church. It showed the most and least reached areas, and it contained some other data in map and graphic form. He was so excited to find some objective data about real past growth and current needs. So he printed out those entire web pages and took them to the meetings the next day. When he shared the information with his colleagues and showed them the maps and graphs, the whole group almost immediately experienced fresh clarity. They came to a consensus about where to focus their effort, which was on the least reached region of the country. He said the transformation was remarkable, even miraculous.

Looking back on that week, he concluded that it was the information he presented that dissipated the emotional and spiritual “fog” that had seemed to settle on those meetings. Seeing the on-the-ground realities helped those leaders to stop basing their suggestions on their personal opinions. Instead the data led them to focus their attentions on the actual church planting needs in the country.

Had I not had that casual conversation in 2007, I would never have known how the Lord used our research to bring unity to this brother's church at a critical moment nearly a decade before. Sometimes, this side of heaven, we never do hear what the Lord does through our efforts. But on this occasion I was so encouraged and praised Him for using our team's work in such a strategic way!

Addendum: Since this time, I have heard of several other groups focusing their outreach based on this information and as a result, the least reached part of Brazil now has the fastest growing church in the country.