“Thirty-one per cent of Germans are atheists. In the U.K., there are four times more Muslims going to mosques on Friday than there are Anglicans attending church services on Sunday.”
A couple of years ago, my wife and I had some time off in Prague at the end of a church-planting trip in southeastern Czech Republic. We hired a personal tour guide who would take us around the city on foot and tell us the history of Prague. We met up with our tour guide in Old Town Square. There are a couple of churches here that demand attention. The first eye-catching landmark is the Church of Our Lady before Týn, a Gothic-style cathedral that was built in the 14th century. It has two beautiful towers, one slightly larger than the other. One tower represents “Adam,” and the other “Eve.” When you turn around, you see the magnificent Baroque-style St. Nicholas Church, a cathedral built in the 18th century.
The majesty and beauty of the buildings are inescapable, so naturally our first inquiries were about the churches. Our tour guide told us about their history and the symbolism built into the structures. At the end of her explanations, our guide added, “You need to be aware—the churches are mostly empty. We Czechs are a nation of atheists, and we are proud of this.” Then she asked me what I do for a living. Needless to say, when I responded, she felt a little awkward—but we all had a little laugh together.
This story is not an isolated one. Actually, it is the reality for most nations in Europe. The churches are empty, and most European societies are marked by striking apathy toward the Christian faith. God is understood to be a part of their history, but generally speaking, they would like to keep Him that way.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche made a simple statement about Christianity in Europe over a century ago: “God is dead.” He was expressing the sentiment of the Europeans then—and not much has changed since.
Currently, there are approximately 750 million people in Europe (Russia included). The average percentage of evangelical Christians is less than two per cent. Unfortunately, like North America, even the small church in Europe is seeing a decline in their numbers.
In the U.K., there are four times more Muslims going to mosques on Friday than there are Anglicans attending church services on Sunday. Thirty-one per cent of Germans are professed atheists, compared to just three per cent in the U.S. In Austria, only .5 per cent of the population profess to be born-again believers, and in Spain, less than one per cent. Greece is at .4 per cent; Czech Republic, .7 per cent; France, 1 per cent; Belgium, 1.3 per cent; Luxembourg, .9 per cent; Ireland, 1.4 per cent; Slovakia, 1.7 per cent; and Russia, 1.2 per cent. According to The Joshua Project (www.joshuaproject.net), these countries would be categorized as “unreached/least reached.”
Spiritual depravity is problematic within a culture. It strips away each person’s identity. It defines one’s value or the lack thereof. It breeds a culture of selfish ambition and creates a moral compass that can never point anyone in the right direction. A person whose heart isn’t surrendered to Christ is led down a path of brokenness and left grasping at a material world that will never satiate the deepest longing and desire of the soul. This is what is happening in European cultures.
In the global missions community, Europe has now been identified as the “dark continent.” Though I have highlighted only a few nations, the story doesn’t change much with the rest—I am sure you are getting a picture of how desperate the situation is.
But Jesus loves Europe! For many years, I have been networking with national churches, church planters, and pastors in European nations. I have discovered that they are tired and under-resourced but have taken a firm position in prayer for their people and their countries. Though prayer is the starting point of any move of God, the resources to act are important as well.
I’ve just returned from Germany, where I am part of a team that is starting a new initiative called the Life Spring Centre, located in the city of Bad Brückenau. Waldemar and Lilly Kontschak, German nationals and PAOC global workers, are leading the charge as the executive directors. We are doing this in partnership with our brothers and sisters from the Bund Freikirchlicher Pfingstgemeinden (BFP), or the German Pentecostal Church.
The Life Spring Centre has three objectives:
1) To train, resource and release church planters across Germany and Europe.
2) To provide ongoing missional education and training for international sending organizations.
3) To serve as a retreat centre for pastors, leaders and global workers.
While in Bad Brückenau, we launched our first event and saw over 50 German pastors and church planters attend. Jürgen Eisen, who is the church-planting catalyst leader for the BFP, was also with us. He made it clear that help from national churches is desperately needed in order to see churches planted and the gospel advanced in Germany and Europe.
It is a brilliant yet daunting task for International Missions to send workers into Europe. Do you feel called to help fill the ancient cathedrals with praise once again? The gospel can be announced only by the voices of the obedient. Because of this, the future of the gospel in Europe is bright.
Keith Waara is the director of Development & Strategic Initiatives for International Missions. Statistics and sources: www.joshuaproject.net and http://www.christianpost.com.