My son Zach and I just returned from our trip to Europe. I intended to blog along the way, but unfortunately my laptop did not like Europe at all, so I've got a lot of catching up to do.
But one thing I discovered, my preconceived conceptions about reaching Europe with the gospel were wrong, ALL wrong. In fact, after a couple of days I realized that I was kind of depressed about what I was discovering about Rome and Marseille. On my way to Europe, I felt like I was arriving to figure out where to plug in my ideas of how to evangelize Europe. All of my ideas were wrong. On the train from Rome to Marseille, I was having a debate in my head about whether Europe might actually be a lost cause. Then I rediscovered my Bible! I highlighted this passage from Mark 9:23, where Jesus is talking to a dad who had almost given up hope for seeing his son healed. The dad asked Jesus to heal his son, if you can: "And Jesus said to him, 'If you can! All things are possible for one who believes' ". That verse spoke volumes to me and the cause of Christ in Europe. God is sovereign, and by allowing myself to think that Europe was beyond hope would mean that God is powerless to save Europe. That's NOT the God I know!
Here is some information about Europe you might want to check:
- First, in France and Italy (where I was) less than 2% of the population is converted.
- Also, secularism is the new religion here. People believe in science and truth in Europe. Religion is often viewed as the problem, not the solution. Two offshoots of secularism are:
1) Relativism: Truth is relative to the person. Each person can have their own version of what they perceive the truth to be.
2) Fatalism: Much of this culture does not believe in heaven or hell, and if they do the presumption is that everyone goes to heaven. The result is a view that you can do whatever you want, there are no eternal consequences.
- This rocked me: It takes 15-25 years to plant a church in Europe. This is no one or two year commitment.
- Project evangelism is less effective in Western Europe (if at all). Europeans are leery of organized religion (that includes us) and must be won personally. So the growth rate of church plants in Europe is very slow. One French national church planter we got to hear from while we were in Europe has been working for 2 1/2 years… and still has no members! This guy is dynamic and has a heart for his people, but establishing credibility is difficult.
I will be blogging about Europe the rest of this week, and with some ideas of how you and your church might be able to help share the gospel in a continent that at one time was the center of Christianity.
Europe is not a lost cause for the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it may be one of our more difficult challenges. To reach Western Europe, we will need to redefine how we look at missions and church planting. The challenges are there, but so are the opportunities.