Area: 756,626 sq km
A 4,200-km-long country wedged between the mountains of the Andes and the Pacific Ocean and averaging only 150 km in width. Also Easter Island/Rapa Nui in the Central Pacific. Great extremes from the hot, northern Atacama Desert to the Antarctic tundra in the south.
Population: 17,134,708 Annual Growth: 1.01%
Official language: Spanish (but Mapudungun increasingly recognized) Languages: 16 All languages
Largest Religion: Christian
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The Roman Catholic Church has recently declined in many ways:
a) Identification tied to the former regime and the past. In the past, both the dictatorship and the more powerful classes favoured Catholicism, and the Church did not do enough to assist the poor or to oppose injustice.
b) Loss of political and social influence, now that there is equality of all religions before the law. Liberalizing social forces see issues such as divorce, cohabitation and birth control increasingly commonplace.
c) The perception of irrelevance. The more dynamic and fast-moving evangelical groups have seized initiative with programmes and ministry for and on behalf of the poor. The same can be said of the upper classes, drawn to the success mentality of Pentecostals.
d) Major losses in affiliates. The explosive growth of Pentecostalism and the equally rapid increase of non-religious (or non-affiliated) sentiments have seen Catholicism decrease in just 20 years, from 82% of Chiles population to 62%. The majority of those remaining in the Church treat Catholicism as a traditional identity rather than a deliberate life of faith. Only 12-13% of Catholics regularly attend mass. Pray that Catholics may adapt to a new era. Pray for Bible reading and reform to take place on a much deeper level, so that many might find their faith renewed and discover the living Jesus.
Evangelicals face unprecedented opportunities as well as challenges. They are poised to exercise a pivotal role in Chilean society. The danger remains that goodwill and respect may be eroded by failures and squandered opportunities. Pray about these key issues:
a) Fragmentation and unity. Chile holds the dubious honour of having the most divisive Pentecostal movement in the world. Churches and denominations split with alarming regularity, with already over 1,200 separate groups. The culture of division must be overcome by a solid commitment to unity and this can only be achieved through humility, graciousness and repentance. Major unity meetings among the main Pentecostal groups from 2008 onward might point toward future progress in this area.
b) Nominalism and traditionalism. Long-term growth and consolidation have generated a more formal Pentecostalism that is often without spiritual gifts and true revival. Pentecostal nominalism is rife less than half attend church weekly, and one-third do not attend regularly at all. Outdated leadership models and ministry patterns only enlarge the problem. Pray for a new Pentecost and revival amid these thousands of churches.
c) Poor leadership development manifests itself through inadequate training, lazy theology, legalism and replacement of solid biblical exegesis with personal opinions and visions. Pray for TEE (SEAN, FLET) programmes and the various theological institutions addressing this widespread need, such as the National Bible Institute of Chile, with 1,000 students in the capital and throughout the regions. Interest in training for pastors and laity is thankfully increasing.
d) Isolationism. Of the 18.4% of the population that are evangelical, almost 90% belong to indigenous groups that have reached many, but they do not work together locally and have no links with the global Church. This leaves the door open to theological error and abuse, and it stunts the potential for mission and ministry.
For an additional 9 Challenges for Prayer see Operation World book, CD-ROM, or DVD-ROM.
The Operation World book, CD-ROM, and DVD-ROM provide far more information and fuel for prayer for the people of Chile.