Fight Nights and Reggae Pack Brazilian Churches


Published: September 14, 2009

We have addressed this subject in a number of News Articles, and Written Articles, speaking to Worship Centers Church Music, Sound Systems, Stages, Stage lights, Special Effects, Preacher Comedians, Paid Singers, Paid Song Leaders, Paid Dancers, Bands. We have also spoken to the Vision I had when I was still in high school 1975-76 of these very things we are seeing now in this Church and more and more churches in the US, Australia, and other places around the world. It was an utter shock to see such things in Vision back then. It grieves our heart greatly to see what I saw in that day now come to pass as seemingly there is no line or boundry this filthy and corrupt generation will not cross while still proclaiming themselves virgins, righteous, holy, and as children of the kingdom.

These are Children of Darkness, preaching and teaching another Gospel. Preaching and teaching the broadway, the easy path that men will follow as it entertains them. Christ did not die on the Cross nor shed one drop of His blood for any of this. This is like the Bread and Circuses just prior to the fall of Rome.

SÃO PAULO, Brazil The atmosphere was electric at Reborn in Christ Church on “Extreme Fight” night. Churchgoers dressed in jeans and sneakers, many with ball caps turned backward, lined a makeshift boxing ring to cheer on bare-chested jujitsu fighters.

They screamed when a fan favorite, Fabio Buca, outlasted his opponent after several minutes. They went wild when Pastor Dogão Meira, 26, took his man down, pinning him with an armlock just 10 seconds into the fight.

With the crowd still buzzing, Pastor Mazola Maffei, dressed in army pants and a T-shirt, grabbed a microphone. Pastor Maffei, who is also Pastor Meira’s fight trainer, then held the crowd rapt with a sermon about the connection between sports and spirituality.

“You need to practice the sport of spirituality more,” he urged. “You need to fight for your life, for your dreams and ideals.”

Reborn in Christ is among a growing number of evangelical churches in Brazil that are finding ways to connect with younger people to swell their ranks. From fight nights to reggae music to video games and on-site tattoo parlors, the churches have helped make evangelicalism the fastest-growing spiritual movement in Brazil.

Evangelical Christian churches are luring Brazilians away from Roman Catholicism, the dominant religion in Brazil. In 1950, 94 percent of Brazilians said they were Catholic, but that number fell steadily to 74 percent by 2000. Meanwhile, the percentage of those who described themselves as evangelicals grew by five times in that period, reaching 15 percent in 2000. A new government census is due out next year.

Despite Brazil’s deep connection to Catholicism, more and more Brazilians want to experiment and choose their own religion, said Silvia Fernandes, a professor at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, who wrote a book about Brazil’s evangelical movement.

She said more Brazilians were attracted to evangelical churches, or Pentecostalism, for the “flexibility of the religious expression.They see churches like Reborn as places where they can express themselves more freely, and “not only look for solutions to personal problems, but also find a place to meet and socialize.”

Pastor Meira said that for young people seeking salvation, evangelism could fill a void. “Here they enter the church, sometimes to see a fight competition, they receive the word of Jesus Christ, and they begin a transformation. They will get off drugs, start to respect their parents and start to cure the illnesses of the soul, like anxiety, depression, drugs and alcohol, prostitution,” he said.

Amid the youth movement, Reborn in Christ has suffered its share of controversy. The church’s leaders, Estevam and Sônia Hernandes, returned to Brazil last month after serving several months in an American prison for trying to smuggle more than $56,000 into the United States, including $9,000 concealed in a Bible. They still face fraud, larceny, tax evasion and money laundering charges in Brazil.

Reborn tries to hire younger pastors who can relate better to adolescent members. Pastor Meira is a part-time pastor; he also has a day job in marketing for a household paints company and studies advertising at night.

The night of the Extreme Fight, dozens of teenagers and young adults hovered around the church. In the front room, booths sold hot dogs and pizza, and young people lined up in one corner to get religious-theme tattoos like “I Belong to Jesus.” In the main room, there were video games, a D.J. spinning a mix of hip-hop and funk, and a projection screen showing a DVD of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Though most came for the main event, the Extreme Fight, they lingered. After four fights and Pastor Maffei’s sermon, members paired up. One placed his hand over the other’s forehead and spoke of Jesus Christ; the other closed his eyes tightly.

The growing evangelical youth movement takes aim at Brazilians of all classes. At Bola de Neve Church, young professionals blend in with lower-income families and troubled youths.

Pastors lead a flock of more than 2,500 members on Sunday evenings in rousing reggae and rock songs, with religious lyrics projected on a huge screen.

The church’s “apostle,” Rinaldo Pereira, said he had a near-death experience related to drugs and hepatitis some 17 years ago before a “supernatural” event led him to dedicate his life to God.

Mery Galanternick contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro.