A "Reverse" Mission, Church Planting and Renewal Movement
by Juan Sarmiento
Rev. Dr. Carlos del Pino is the coordinator of the Europe office of the Presbyterian Agency of Cross Cultural Missions, the mission board of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil. He leads a movement of thirty-eight missionary families that serve in a growing number of European countries with a focus on church planting and renewal.
I first met Carlos when we were both part of the Brazilian delegation to the Fourth Latin American Congress on Evangelization (CLADE IV) held in Quito Ecuador in August 1992. CLADE is series of events sponsored by the Latin American Theological Fellowship (FTL, after its Spanish initials) which since the late 1960s has been the seedbed for a holistic understanding of mission in the region. After that, he went on to pursue both a masters and PhD degree from the Pontifical University of Salamanca, serve as president at the Central Presbyterian Seminary in Goias and was then sent as a missionary from Brazil.
In addition to Spain and Portugal, the Europe office of the Presbyterian Agency of Cross Cultural Mission has missionary families in Eastern countries (Albania, Romania and Hungary) as well as Italy, France, Germany (Heidelberg), England (Manchester) and Scotland (Glasgow).
The movement displays a beautiful impetus to share the message of Christ while it strives towards a grace-filled attitude of Christian unity, seeking to establish covenant relationships with fellow evangelistically oriented Presbyterian and Reformed denominations whenever possible. When not partnering in the development of new congregations, their missionaries support the outreach efforts of established congregations, particularly in the strengthening of ministries among children, youth and immigrants coming from many places around the world.
Another feature of the ministry is its seriousness about contextualizing the gospel to the realities in Europe. While Carlos recognizes that vibrant Brazilian, Nigerian and Korean congregations in European cities have a role to play, they are intentional about not developing congregations as foreign enclaves. In Albania they have been instrumental in bringing together congregations from a broad variety of Reformed and Presbyterian streams into a single, diverse Presbytery. When asked whether serving in Europe is true mission work, he mentions some of these statistics:
• Less than 1% of Spanish and Portuguese towns and cities have a Protestant congregation of any type
• Around half of all congregations in those countries don’t have a pastor
• Most congregations are below 30 members and have not developed programs among children and youth
This church planting and renewal movement exemplifies an increasingly noticeable trajectory of mission, one in which churches and missionaries from traditionally sending countries work side-by-side with those that are being sent from the vibrant church in the global South. The Outreach Foundation is committed to helping Presbyterians in the U.S. learn from these types of interactions and discover ways of joining them in ways that reflect the common call of all of God’s people for witnessing to God’s abundant grace to the world.
Associate Director for Mission