On Mission . . . In Portugal

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The Igreja de Deus do Sétimo Dia de Portugal (ID7DP, or Church of God of the Seventh Day of Portugal) is a merger of two Sabbatarian Christian organizations: the Igreja Universal de Jesus Cristo (IUJC, or Universal Church of Jesus Christ), founded in 1931, and the Congregação Cristã de Portugal (Christian Congregation of Portugal), founded in 1941.

During the 1950s, there were contacts between the IUJC and the Church of God (Seventh Day) based in Denver, Colorado. For an unknown reason, that connection was lost. But thanks to God and to previous contacts, a letter was sent in the 90s from Lisbon (Portugal) to the old address in Denver. After a few months of delay, the president of CoG7 at that time, Calvin Burrell, replied to the letter, restarting contacts between the two countries.

In 2002, the Church of Portugal became a member of the International Ministerial Congress (IMC) and participates actively in it, with human and financial resources. Since 2018, the ID7DP has obtained the status of Igreja Radicada (“rooted church”), the highest administrative status given by the Portuguese State to religious communities.

Church challenges

For several decades the number of ID7DP members has decreased. This happened for various reasons: a lack of evangelistic strategy and training adapted to the rapid changes in society, a “turning inward” of the Church, the internal divisive influence of former members influenced by liberal theology, and others involved in Judaizing messianic movements. In addition, the Church aged and did not know how to deal with adolescents and young adults, showing a lack of generational renewal.

This negative context led to a more than 50 percent loss of members compared to the organization’s “golden years” (1950-1970) that gave rise to the ID7DP.

However, despite this decline in human resources, the past few years have been characterized by an administrative consolidation of the Church in Portugal.

Strategic vision

God teaches us that we should not despise small things (Zechariah 4:10) and that even from stones He can produce children of Abraham (Matthew 3:9). So instead of lamenting over what the Church’s existence in Portugal had become, one day, empowered by God, we would rise and rebuild what had been torn down (Nehemiah 2).

After prayer, group analysis, and reflection, the ID7DP adopted a new strategic vision in 2019. It is developed in the following concepts:

  • Adopt a new leadership model that evolves from the traditional institutional and clerical model to a leadership model that equips each member to be active in the life of the Church. This transition requires a permanent commitment to formation so that mentality changes, starting with our national leaders.
  • Extend the Church’s vision to the life of each believer, thus expressing in their daily lives the presence of God’s kingdom among us. This includes the creation of family and domestic groups, where they can live out kingdom principles.
  • Increase usage of new technologies and social networks in the work of evangelization.
  • Give greater attention to the younger generation.
  • Provide salary for pastors. By tradition, all pastors of the Portuguese church throughout history were and are non-salaried.
  • Reinforce the integration of the Church of Portugal into the Church of God (Seventh Day), united and global. The Portugal church is a member of the body of Christ, based on her active and deep participation in the IMC. The Church should also take full advantage of all the resources and instruments (literature, training tools, etc.) made available by the larger churches that are members of the IMC. These can be adapted by a small community like the Portuguese.
  • Extend our evangelistic vision in relation to the Portuguese language (the ninth most spoken language in the world). We would also collaborate in creating the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Angola and Mozambique, as well as develop contacts in the other Portuguese-speaking countries (Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, East Timor), integrated in the international global vision of the Church of God and of the IMC.

The current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the speed and means of implementing our projects in the short term. However, we give thanks to God because the Church had no members diagnosed with the virus, and the members remained spiritually united through using alternative means of communication we had available.

Special thanks

As one of the members of the global church, the Church of God (Seventh Day) of Portugal thanks the Church in the US and Canada. We also thank the other sister churches of all countries for their work for the kingdom of God. The integral health of our members and churches around the world reflects the work of everyone. We are all part of one another in Christ Jesus. We count on your love and your prayers.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12, NLT).

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Paulo Jorge Coelho lives in Lisbon, Portugal, with his wife, Luísa, and their two children. He pastors the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Portugal and is a medical doctor (rheumatologist). He is finishing his position as representative for Zone 7 (Europe) of the International Ministerial Congress, which began in 2008.