MADRID, Spain (BP)–It’s mid-afternoon in Madrid, and storefronts stand eerily still. As the scorching sun elevates temperatures above 100 degrees, Spaniards race for the relief of air-conditioned rooms. Businesses close between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. People slowly return to work in the early evening, but the city remains relatively quiet until 9:30 p.m.
Millions of Madrid’s inhabitants take to the streets once the sun sinks below the horizon. For university students, the night may end when the sun reappears the next morning.
Madrid is a sprawling, diverse urban city that offers a taste of everything. It is the capital of Spain, and the rows of embassies and law offices give Madrid an appearance similar to Washington, D.C. It functions as the hub of business activity; thus, the downtown area vibrates with the same buzz as New York City. Madrid is home to numerous movie stars, sports heroes and entertainment moguls, giving it a Hollywood-like flair.
With 6 million inhabitants, it’s no surprise Madrid is home to people from every background, culture and lifestyle. More than 250,000 university students attend the city’s 10 universities. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and refugees from Northern Africa and Latin America have come to escape political and economic hardships. At least 1 million professionals work in Madrid’s government and business districts. And another 1 million people fill blue-collar jobs as taxi drivers, gatekeepers and waiters.
Innumerable Catholic churches exist in Madrid, yet the city remains distant from God. Fewer than 2 percent of Spaniards are evangelical believers, and the current generation is raised to believe that Spain has outgrown its need for religion. As one Christian worker in Madrid said, “In the biblical analogy of the seed sower, we’re still picking up stones in the garden. We have to clear the land before we can start planting seeds.”
Many Spaniards remember living under the oppressive dictatorship of Franco, who died in 1975. Under his reign, Spaniards were forced to attend the Catholic Church and give every appearance of being Catholic supporters. History reminds them that dissenters within the Catholic Church often met with bloody deaths, as during the Spanish Inquisition.
When Franco died, the country experienced an extreme backlash against everything Franco enforced. Schools and government became secular, and Spaniards rebelled against any form of religion. Today, many college students say, “I’m Catholic, but I do not believe in God.”
Christian workers in Madrid realize that if the city is to be transformed by God’s love, they must mobilize believers to spread the Gospel. One team works with university students, both from America and Spain, to train them to evangelize and disciple their peers.
Another team focuses on mobilizing immigrants from Latin America, many of whom are evangelical Christians and can communicate with the locals in Spanish. This team attempts to train Latin American immigrants to share their faith with employers and local Spaniards in a culturally acceptable way.
A third team seeks to share the Gospel with the movers and shakers of Madrid — the professionals. They help Christian businessmen find ways to share the Gospel with co-workers and mobilize Christians into cell groups that eventually will become church plants.
The fourth team’s vision is to plant churches among Muslims who frequent the thousands of mosques throughout the city. They distribute Bibles and “JESUS” films to Muslim refugees and immigrants and offer English-as-a-Second-Language classes inside mosques.
“Our goal is to produce followers,” says Daniel Peters*, city strategist for Madrid. “But the natural expression from that will be churches. Our vision is to see all the people of Madrid come to know Him.”
*Name changed for security reasons.