I’ve sometimes had people ask why we send missionaries to Europe. Shouldn’t missionaries go to uncivilized places like Africa, Cambodia, and the jungles of South America? Well, yes, they should go to those places. But you’re just as likely to find people who don’t know who Jesus is in France.
Consider: In the 18th century, 95% of French people would have declared themselves Catholic, most of the rest Protestant. But in 1789, the French launched a program of de-Christianization that resulted in church property being confiscated, destruction of crosses and other signs of worship, instituting cults, killing priests, and celebrating the goddess, “Reason”.
Today’s French gods are individualism, hedonism, consumerism and other similar -isms. They reject anything having to do with the church, Christianity, or religion — these things are viewed as obviously incompatible with values like justice.
The current generation of French are over 200 years removed from Christianity in their culture, and the last vestiges of religion in their history were full of corruption, not the hope that we know comes from true relationships with the Living God.
So how do you restore hope and truth to this pessimistic, lost generation of Europeans? Theological debate won’t give you the credibility to open the door, let alone win the argument. As Lesslie Newbigin said, “the only hermeneutic of the gospel is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.” And so we plant churches in Europe.
I’ve met some amazing people this week, Americans and Europeans, who have dedicated their lives to being that hermeneutic of the gospel to the people of Europe. I’m inspired by their courage, creativity, and steadfastness in the face of incredible obstacles. It’s clear that God has not turned His back on Europeans even though so many of them have turned their back on Him. Progress is slow, but there is progress.
Europe is considered the materially richest continent in the world. Join us in praying that God brings a fresh wind of revival to make it spiritually rich!