From Fear to Faith: Overcoming Cultural Challenges in Spain

Zoilo, an 87-year-old Spaniard, couldn’t imagine that God loved him. Though he grew up believing in God, Zoilo’s faith echoed the experience of many of his generation who were required to attend church—it was based in fear.  

Imagine living in a village so isolated that there is no electricity, no running water, and limited medical care. The only institution is the local church, yet despite the stability it offers, the anxiety it produces is even greater. This was life for millions of Spaniards a mere 40 years ago. And this worldview is a reality that the MTW Spain church-planting team takes into account as they build relationships with men and women who are skeptical of church. 

I recall my youth in church was one of constant fear," said Zoilo. "I feared I would fail to obey God or the commands of the Church. I recall a feeling of pollution in everything I did and touched." 

Maria, a stylish 70-year-old woman who has gotten to know the MTW team, echoed a similar thought. "I have lived two lives," she explained. "The first half knew only isolation, fear, and the Church. It was like the Middle Ages. Then, boom, the modern world arrived." 

A unique challenge 
The lasting effects of a legalistic church background combined with the atheism that younger generations embrace poses a unique challenge for the MTW team. Many younger people in Spain have abandoned religion and instead focus on their careers or simply having a good life. 

People over 40 resent the Church for the bitter treatment they received growing up, and those under 40 reject those religious traditions because they see no connection to real life," said Robert Tanzie, an MTW missionary who has served in Spain since 2008. Tanzie recalled his friend Javier admitting, "I wish I could believe. I just can’t." 

But there is good news. For many, the political and religious freedom of the last few decades has opened their hearts to the freeing grace of God. Despite the hardened, stony ground of this post- Christian nation, the MTW Spain team has launched or re-launched seven churches. They’ve also expanded MTW’s work, offering training and resources to over 20 churches throughout the country. And most importantly, they have helped people like Zoilo move from fear to faith in a loving God. 

A few years ago Zoilo discovered God’s relentless love for him through Redeemer Cathedral, one of the Anglican churches that the MTW team has formed a relationship with. Zoilo is now a regular at Tanzie’s weekly Bible study and an active church member. 

"I learned how much God loves me!" said Zoilo. "Who could imagine that God loves me? I now know that this is true, and only want to give Him thanks for his gift of Jesus." 
Katie Weaver in Barcelona Madrid Spain on Jun 27, 2015

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Pray for the MTW Spain teams as they face cultural challenges of ministering to the older generation with a faith built on fear, and a younger generation disinterested in God.

Pray for Bogomil, who came to faith in Christ out of antagonistic atheism, and for others like him who have yet to embrace Jesus.

Give thanks to God for a movement of the Spirit spreading across Europe opening doors that have been long-shut.

Pray for Europeans who have heard the gospel but are hesitant to fully commit to Christ. Pray that God would draw them to Himself.

SPAIN: Pray that the Holy Spirit would bring spiritual depth and numerical growth to the Principe Pio and Sanchinarro church plants in Madrid.

Pray for missionaries seeking to minister to those who are critical and hard to love. Pray that missionaries would love their neighbor as Christ loved us. 

Pray for the declining Church in Europe. Many see Europe as post-Christian and without hope. But we know that Christ will build His church.

Pray for two women, Monika and Andrea, who have recently come to faith against the odds in a hard-to-reach, largely atheistic European city.

Pray for Monika, that God would continue to heal her, give her a new purpose, and protect her life from physical harm, and for Andrea, that she would grow deep roots of faith and be a witness to those like her—unlikely subjects—of the reality of the grace of God.

Pray for Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and our church-planting work there. Pray for God to grow, expand, and deepen the churches and draw many to Himself.

Pray for our ministry in Cusco, Peru, as they put MTW values into action among the Quechua through the church, a medical clinic, discipling medical students, an orphanage, and community outreach.