Pastor Carlos Martins looked up as an unfamiliar couple walked through the church doors.
He greeted the couple warmly, silently wondering how they already seemed to know him. They quickly explained that they had faithfully watched the church’s online services for six months during the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, and now that the church had resumed meeting in person, they wanted to attend.
“Today they are active and serving members of our church,” he reported.
Carlos, pastor of Igreja Baptista de Linda-a-Velha in Portugal, is one of several ABWE ministry partners who have witnessed church growth after streaming their services during the pandemic.
“Many of our churches had two to five times the number of viewers as in-person attenders,” related ABWE Regional Director Kyle Farran. “Now after COVID, we are seeing the fruit.”
An ABWE church plant near Madrid, Spain, Iglesia Evangélica de Torres de la Alameda, has almost doubled in size, from around 40 attending in 2020 to 70 in 2023. During a recent baptism service, over 125 people squeezed into the church—one third of whom were unsaved friends and family members who heard testimonies of God’s saving grace.
The church developed online services in 2020. When children were prohibited from leaving their apartments during lockdowns, ABWE missionaries organized online events, partnering with other local churches. Their virtual Easter egg hunt reached almost 500 viewers—and all heard the gospel message. When restrictions lifted, the children’s and youth ministries grew as families who had joined online started attending in person.
Other Spaniards, finding the Catholic church increasingly unrelatable, were curious about the Bible but did not feel comfortable walking into an evangelical church. Listening to sermons online allowed them to try it out from the privacy of their home.
“The most encouraging thing is that many Spanish believers who could never get their friends to come to our building can now send the sermons to their friends,” said missionaries Caleb and Krystie Hague. “Their friends are responding to the messages, and they’ll visit.”
Recognizing the impact, many churches have continued streaming their services, using the equipment and technical knowledge developed during lockdowns.
“Today it is a ministry where several people from our church serve,” said Carlos.
These churches’ ministry expands far beyond the online sphere. Thomas, one of those baptized in Spain, came to Christ during the pandemic. Distraught over his recent divorce and isolated by social distancing, he began attending church at the recommendation of believing neighbors and trusted Christ. He is now enrolled in seminary and assists in the men’s ministry to disciple others.
Kyle affirmed: “You never know what God is doing behind the scenes.”