How many Protestants are There in Brazil — 1997?

by Larry W. Kraft – Sepal (OC International) Brasil

Based on the 1991 and 1980 censuses, we can approximate a figure for Protestants in Brazil today. These estimates are available on the Internet along with maps and graphs on the web page Here is a summary of the current situation:

– There are about 18 million Protestants in the country, or 11% of the population. Besides the IBGE (government) census, all other published studies that we have been able to find on the subject agree with these figures. (For example: Vox Populi, a well-respected independent research firm in Brazil, published the figure of 11% in April 1997; Veja Magazine published 10% in July 1997; and the University of Sγo Paulo Department of Sociology published that 13% of the electorate was Protestant in 1994).

– The states with the largest percentages of Protestants are Rondonia, Espirito Santo, and Rio de Janeiro.

– All the states with the lowest percentages of Protestants are in the Northeast region.

– All the states with the lowest growth rates of Protestants are in the Southern region.

– A list of 222 municipalities with less than 1% Protestants, published in January 1997 was incomplete. In the Northeast region alone, more than 220 such municipalities were found; there are probably more than 350 in the whole country. More than half of the least-evangelized municipalities can be found in the Northeast. According to Pedro Luis, a researcher in the Northeastern state of Paraνba, 80% of the municipalities with less than 1% Protestants have either no churches or only one church. There were only fifteen states represented on the list of 222 municipalities with less than 1% of Protestants. This demonstrates the poor distribution of churches in Brazil.

– In the state of Rio Grande do Sul (in the South region), there are at least 27 municipalities with less than 1% Protestants. There are also some places that claim to have more than 70% Protestants, but the only churches there are nominal Lutheran. James Himsworth, who does research in that State, estimates that only 2% to 3% of the population is actually Protestant. It has also been determined that the Evangelical churches in that state are very concentrated, usually downtown in the cities.

How many churches do we have and how many do we need
in order to consider Brazil evangelized?

There have been some studies done in a few cities that can be an indication of how many churches we have. The next planned research goal of the Brasil 2010 Project is to confirm these statistics throughout the country.

– In Rio de Janeiro, ISER (Instituto Superior de Estudos Religiosos), a sociological research organization, registered all the Protestant sanctuaries in greater Rio. One thing this study confirmed was the fact that the church grows much faster among the poor. If the density of churches in Rio is a dependable indication of the situation throughout the country, we have about 66,000 churches today throughout the country. This figure is probably high, however, since the state of Rio de Janeiro is the State with the third largest Protestant percentage in the country.

– In Sγo Paulo this year, we did a pilot project, researching two large neighborhoods with a total population of 642,000. We found 206 Evangelical churches:

Projecting this to the whole country would give a figure of 51,298 churches in Brasil.

It was observed that the overwhelming majority of the church sanctuaries were very small, with space for less than 50 people. If the average church size is 70 people who attend regularly (it is probably less based on the observed church size), 2.24% of the population can attend Sunday services. This means that probably only one of every 5 of those who identified themselves as Protestants in the census, are active in their churches on Sundays. To have one church per 1,000 people, we need 437 more churches planted (2.12 for every existing church) in these two neighborhoods.

– In the North (Amazon) region, there are probably about 25,000 communities with populations between 50 and 500, of which at least 20,000 do not yet have churches.


– There are probably more than 300 municipalities without churches. If we consider neighborhoods and sub-districts, this figure is much higher.

– The percentage of the population that can be served by the existing church sanctuaries is estimated to be between 2.2% and 2.9%.

– There are large sections of neighborhoods in the large cities that have no evangelical churches (once I spent a whole morning driving up and down street after street and only after 3 hours did I find a church). We have to make the Light shine in every place in this large country.

– According to the size of the churches now in existence, we need much more than one church for every 1,000 people to be able to evangelize EVERY PERSON in this country.

– A goal of 150,000 new churches by the year 2010 appears to be low in order to reach all of Brasil, when we take into consideration the poor distribution of churches, the number of small communities, and the fact that many churches are small and do not have the vision to reach the people around them.