Preaching the Word in Spain

The editor interviews Juan Lozano, evangelist and Ministerial secretary of the Spanish Union of Churches.

J.R. Spangler is the editor of Ministry.

After years of religious restrictions, Protestants in Spain now have complete religious freedom. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is enjoying the results of this freedom, although it is not without drawbacks. "Ministry" editor J. R. Spangler recently interviewed Juan Lozano about the progress of the work in Spain.

Q. Pastor Lozano, tell me a bit about yourself. You presently serve as evangelist and Ministerial secretary of the Spanish Union of Churches, which includes Spain, Andorra, and Gibraltar. I understand you were born in Madrid, but did you come from a Seventh-day Adventist home?

A. No. Actually, I am the very first Seventh-day Adventist in my family. I learned of this church and its message through a young friend who attended the Madrid Central Seventh-day Adventist church. This was at a time when the Adventist work was having difficulties in Spain. As a matter of fact, all non-Catholic religions were having difficulties. I attended the Adventist church just out of curiosity to listen to some meetings. But I kept coming back. Six months later I was baptized. I was 18 years old.

Q. You mentioned that all non-Catholic religions in Spain were having: difficulties at this time. Could you explain ?

A. Yes. All religious groups except Catholics were persecuted to some extent. Especially Jehovah's Witnesses, because in spite of a military government they opposed the idea of military service. Seventh-day Adventists seemed to be next in line because of our belief in the Sabbath. In other words, Jehovah's Witnesses were clearly identified because of their refusal to do military service; we were also quite visible because we could not participate in military exercises on Sabbath and also because of our attitude toward labor unions.

Q. Getting back to your personal experience, did you encounter any opposition at home over your decision to be baptized?

A. Yes. My family had the fears typical in Spain at that time before the pressures of the Catholic Church and of the government against all non-Catholic religions were eased. Because of this fear, more than anything else, they opposed my baptism. I told them I would leave home if necessary in order to be baptized, but I did not have to do so.

Q. Then you decided to become a minister? Where did you study?

A. I first attended our school in Madrid, but the government closed it the same year I began my studies there. This was what used to be our small seminary in Madrid. After it closed, we students continued to meet for a while in the professors' homes. Then I went to Collonges, France, where I graduated in 1964.

Q. What did you do then?

A. I returned to Spain and began my ministerial internship under the direction of Pastor Antonio Bueno.

Q. Tell me, Pastor Lozano, when did change come to Spain? When did Seventh-day Adventists gain more freedom? 

A. For several years now we have enjoyed real freedom in Spain — total freedom, I would say. During the past five years of Franco's life we were already enjoying quite a bit of freedom, but now we have switched from a dictatorship to a constitutional state. We have absolute religious freedom now.

Q. How many churches do we have in Spain, and what is the membership?

A. We have forty-six established churches with a total membership of approximately five thousand.

Q.  / remember when I visited Spain some years ago our churches did not have signs to identify them, and the people looked out the windows before opening the door to let someone in. But now signs are up and people can go in freely, is that correct?

A. Yes. In fact, during the 1960s it became obligatory that our churches, along with those of other Protestant groups, be identified. People got used to seeing the signs, but most still wouldn't go inside. Even today there is a great prejudice against Protestant churches.

We no longer have to ask for official permission before establishing a church, as we once did. Our freedom today is complete. But our problem is a different one. People who have lived for forty years under the kind of religious restrictions and oppressions that have existed in Spain don't want anything to do with religion. This is our problem—the reaction against years of an imposed religion.

Q. Are you saying, then, that it is more difficult in Spain today to get the public to attend evangelistic meetings and listen to the message than it was back in the days when we couldn't openly operate a church or advertise?

A. Exactly. Most people today look at religion as a social benefit. Before, religion was a matter of personal conviction. To a certain point, I would say that it is more difficult to win souls in an atmosphere of freedom than it is in a situation of almost no freedom.

Q. How has this new religious freedom affected our own Adventist members? Have they become less involved in the church? Does their religion seem to mean less to them now than before?

A. European countries, including Spain, are conservative, and this attitude carries over into the religious life. But I can safely say that our Seventh-day Adventist people have lost some of their witnessing zeal; they seem less enthusiastic, generally speaking, than they were ten or fifteen years ago.

Q. I understand that in your evangelism you always go to "dark areas" places where there are no Seventh-day Adventists. Is that correct?

A.  Yes. Almost half of the provinces in Spain have no Adventist members. The church has grown more in the coastal areas of the country than anywhere else. Perhaps this is due to the influence of tourism. At any rate, the work has grown nicely along the Mediterranean coast. For example, in Barcelona, where the work in Spain began, we have eleven churches and almost one third of all the church members in the whole country. The Valencia zone, another coastal region, has seven churches. In addition, the inland cities of Zaragoza and Madrid each have three Adventist churches. In the north and also in the south we have some churches, but the rest of Spain has very few Seventh-day Adventists. This has caused us to decide that our evangelism money should be dedicated only to places where we have no church members at present. We have a plan—a very specific plan that is already formulated—to reach these unentered provinces in the next few years. I do not hold evangelistic meetings except in a place where there are no Adventists.

Q. Do you experience any persecution from the established church today? 

A. It depends on the location. There are still priests who will tell you to burn a non-Catholic version of the Bible. But, generally, the younger priests are more open-minded than their older colleagues. They don't have the same prejudice.

Q. How do you go about evangelism? What have you found to be the most effective methods?

A. It does not work in Europe today to begin by knocking on doors and inviting people to attend religious meetings. Either they will not open the door because they are afraid of crime or they will not respond because they are not interested in religion. You have to realize that Spain is divided into two groups—the many who are Catholics and the few who are not. Those who are not Catholic usually want nothing to do with any religion. So I always begin with a Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking. This disarms the religious prejudice of the Catholics and also breaks the ice for those who want nothing to do with any religion. We sometimes have Five-Day Plans with as many as three thousand persons! This way we obtain many names and addresses so we can visit in the homes. Otherwise, it would be impossible to gain access to the people.

Q. Do you use any other programs besides the Five-Day Plan?

A. Yes. The Five-Day Plan is first. For ten weeks we visit all these people in connection with this program and also promote the evangelistic meetings. The meetings themselves begin with a course on the home, followed by social and psychological topics that lead into spiritual and doctrinal areas. We continue with a course on dietetics and cooking and a parallel series of separate meetings dealing with sexual education geared for ladies, men, and young people.

Q. How long does your evangelistic series last from beginning to end? 

A. From the time we begin the campaign until a church is organized is normally six months. We begin in January, and our goal is to organize a church in July.

Q.   Are there enough pastors to follow up this work? Are young men being trained?

A. In our team we have four veteran ministers and three young men. Two of these young pastors are in their first year of internship; the other is in his second year. Each works on a one-to-one basis with a veteran pastor. These pairs work in different zones, then they [get together periodically to compare work and to help one another.

Last year we had seminary students with us for the first two or three weeks of the meetings in January so they could observe the critical moments when things are being organized.

Q. You do have a seminary, then, in Spain?

A. Yes. We have a complete seminary with a secondary school and a university located in Sagunto, Valencia. I conduct a course in evangelism during December, then in January the students come to the evangelistic meetings. Spain is presently the only country in Europe running such a training program, but we hope it will spread everywhere.

Q. How about the number of young men coming through the seminary? Are there enough? Are there too many for the conference to employ?

A. Right now we seem to be doing fine. We cannot employ more than two or three a year, and that is the number we presently have each year.

Q. In your evangelism do you meet more people who are conservative Catholics or more who don't care about spiritual matters at ail?

A. It all depends on the region. In northern cities like Santander, or in such areas as Castilla or Vascongadas or Asturias there are many conservative Catholics. Along the coast, where there is much tourism, people tend to be skeptics in religious matters.

Q. What about using radio and television for evangelism! Can you get on the air if you have the money and expertise? Or is broad casting all state-controlled? 

A. Television is controlled by the government, and it is impossible to get anything on TV from the Seventh-day Adventist Church or any religious programming at all. I am taking back to Spain with me some programs of Ayer, Hoy y Manana (Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow). We have serious hopes of getting permission, according to the constitution, for non-Catholics to present our own religious programs on television.

Q. The Catholic Church has programs on television, do they?

A. Oh, yes. They have a chain of stations.

Q. Could Adventists get a station if we wanted to provide our own?

A. No. Not at the present time.

Q. So there really isn't true religious freedom in Spain.

A. We do have religious freedom. The Catholic Church, however, enjoys certain privileges because the state is Catholic. We are now pressing to get television time, and I think we will do so.

We have methods, however, of getting television and radio coverage for our evangelistic efforts. Since I begin with a Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking, the home, and similar topics, I create news. I am performing a social service. Then the communication media, without necessarily knowing that I am a Seventh-day Adventist minister, will give me time to go on the air as a temperance worker. They will also talk about my work on the news programs. In the six years that I have been the conference evangelist, I have never spent anything on television or radio advertising. Yet I have had hundreds of radio and television interviews.

Q. How about radio? Can we have a radio station?

A.  I have received word that someone is donating an FM station to us, and this is easy to install. We already have permission to place it in Sagunto, where our seminary is. We can have a radio station, but not television. This applies not only to us but to all Protestant religions, and even to large companies. Some large businesses have applied for television stations and have been rejected.

We can also buy time on the radio for our religious programs. The Voice of Prophecy is now aired in about ten or fifteen stations in Spain. Newspapers are difficult. We applied to a Catholic press to publish an ad for some evangelistic meetings to be held by Pastor Roland Lehnoff, and they accepted. But later they found out that these were sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and they returned our money.

Q. Are most of the newspapers controlled by the Catholic Church?

A. No. But in some cities, such as Madrid, Seville, Barcelona, and Valencia, one of the most prominent papers in the city is the official organ of the Catholic Church.

Q. Do our colporteurs have freedom to do their work? I have heard stories of some who have been put in jail.

A. That was long ago. Now there is complete freedom according to the constitution. Still, many of the people who elect officials are from another generation with the old mentality, and they sometimes make it difficult for us.

Q. Do you have a final word for the, readers of MlNISTRY? 

A. Please pray for us in Spain that God's Word will go forward, and above all that we will be able to reach the twenty-three provinces where there are still no Seventh-day Adventists.


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J.R. Spangler is the editor of Ministry.

August 1982

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