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Offline Galileo

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Surfer Evangelism
« Online: 22 de Abril de 2005, 19:31:27 »
RIO DE JANEIRO -- It's Friday night in the wealthy Rio de Janeiro suburb of Barra da Tijuca and the band kicks off into a loud set of reggae and rock tunes. A crowd of surfers and skateboarders is clapping enthusiastically, swaying in board shorts and baseball caps to the music. The guitarist strums furiously with his strong tattooed arm, tearing two strings within minutes while keeping his elaborately pierced ears rocking to the beat.

"We can take on those big waves, whether in Hawaii, whether in Maverick's [in California], because we have Jesus on our side," the tanned singer says. "Jesus loves us!"

On cue, hands raise in the air and a string of "Amens" follows.

The concert atmosphere is part of a typical service for the Bola de Neve church, an evangelical group that is rapidly growing in the world's most populous Roman Catholic country. Church life in Brazil is as entrenched as soccer and samba, but recent decades have seen the erosion of Catholic dominance -- evangelical congregations now draw roughly a quarter of Brazil's population, highlighting the challenges facing newly elected Pope Benedict XVI.

The Catholics are "trying very hard to get young people, but to get them you must be with them," says Gilson Mastrorosa, who founded Bola de Neve with brother-in-law and fellow pastor Rinaldo Luiz de Seixas Pereira in 1999. "There's no magic to it . . . to talk with surfers, you have to be a surfer," he says.

Bola de Neve ("snowball" in Portuguese) came about after the two found that their sermons were finding an audience with surfers and other athletes. They decided to form their own church, which they inaugurated in a beachfront service attended by six people. Six years later, it boasts 15 permanent congregations, two hundred smaller "cells" around the country, a new church in Peru -- a cell in Los Angeles. Mr. Mastrorosa estimates that his church has 10,000 Brazilian followers, including several actors, professional athletes and a former Playboy playmate. He proudly displays a local magazine article claiming that membership is growing at a rate of 1,100 per cent a year.

Their services offer an atmosphere where surfers, skateboarders and young Brazilians can worship with peers in their own style. Pastors and ministers are mostly surfers and their pulpits are topped with surfboards. It is "a God-centred church, oriented for Generation X," according to the organization's website.

"We saw a generation of surfers doing drugs, not working, just getting a bad experience with life," Mr. Mastrorosa recalls. "The connection [with God] is 100 per cent. . . . The Bible said that the Holy Spirit walked on the waves. We believe that."

At a beachside church in another Rio suburb, the faithful gradually shuffle in, leaning their boards against the wall, salt and sand still in their hair. Pastor Zeniel Fabricio Pires asks the dozens of new members to stand and present themselves to the congregation. Each new introduction elicits a volley of cheers from the crowd, punctuated by a musical lick from the house band. Bear hugs and high fives from churchgoers greet the fresh faces.

The content of Bola de Neve's services is actually fairly straight evangelical Christianity: passionate testimonials from recovered drug addicts, inspirational Bible stories, open displays of spiritual release. But surfing is the vehicle to get these worshippers interested, and Bola de Neve can get the message out. When the pastor calls Jesus a "radical dude," the audience gets it.

"I like it a lot; it's very different from other churches," 17-year-old student Eric Prado says after his first service. "The music is different and the environment . . . there's lots of young people."

His two friends, Paulo Berto and Rafael Menes, agree.

"The message seems more from the heart than other churches. We'll come back here and bring friends," Mr. Berto says.

"Ministers use such normal language -- it shows there is a way to understand God," says university student Giselle Machado, 23. She says she was raised in a traditional household, but struggles with her family's views.

"I am a beach girl, born and raised on the beach, but other churches didn't see me as a good Christian. Bola de Neve doesn't care how you look, whether you have pierces or tattoos or how you dress. God says he looks at your heart."

Source

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"Galileo was more perceptive than his prosecutors" - Pope John Paul II, 1992

Offline Alenônimo

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Re.: Surfer Evangelism
« Resposta #1 Online: 23 de Abril de 2005, 10:45:58 »
How embarassing... Someone take-me out of here!
“A ciência não explica tudo. A religião não explica nada.”

 

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