Europe: the challenges

I’m not talking about the parliament or the euro but, instead, about the church in Europe which faces challenges that are unique to this continent. The context is that of an overwhelmingly Christian shaped past but in a rapidly secularizing and pluralistic present that has rejected much of Christianity. Cultural religion exists as an empty shell. There are churches but there is little faith.

Patrick Johnstone in The Future of the Global Church writes of Europe (p98),

“Most of the population claim to be Christian, but generally this does not involve much more than a fuzzy individualistic commitment to some Christian concepts. Over 50% of Europeans claim to be religious but never attend a place of worship. If Christians alone were counted, this figure would be even higher, since the Muslim minorities are more likely to attend a mosque. However, the numbers that go to special events in places of worship more than once a week indicates that many worshippers have little social interaction with others. Fellowship and community are lacking for most, which underlies the personalization of faith and the breakdown of family and social cohesion.”

But that’s not all (p159).

“Growth through conversion is Southern Europe is from a very small base and has only followed the decline of the once dominant Catholic Church. In Eastern Europe, growth through conversion has followed the collapse of communism. In the West and North, evangelicals are stagnant in the lands once most impacted by the Reformation. Non-evangelicals have experienced massive decline.”

So he outlines five challenges facing the church in Europe (p159).

  1. Ministry has been crippled by negativism after years of little fruit and a developing ‘minority complex’. Where are the leaders of vision and faith?
  2. Aggressive secularists are marginalizing and even persecuting evangelicals in particular. There is need for a holy relevance and boldness in witness to them.
  3. Declining indigenous populations are pulling in immigrants who need to be evangelized – especially Muslims. Children need to be reached – few nowadays are exposed to anything Christian.
  4. Evangelical ranks are being swollen by immigrants. All evangelicals need to be able to work together for the re-evangelization of Europe.
  5. Vision for missions has declined among evangelicals in the face of a prevailing pessimism and creeping universalism. How can it be revived?

What do you think? Is he right? What would you add or take away?

Photo by National Library of Ireland on The Commons

4 thoughts on “Europe: the challenges”

  1. Stephen Dancer says:

    Hi Phil,

    I came across your blog recently as I have an interest in the progress of the gospel in Sweden. Thanks for writing.

    I am not sure I can comment on all of Johnstone’s points, though I find his last one interesting. It seems to me that many evangelical churches see mission as something done in Africa, Asia or South America but not in Europe or the UK. That has to change, and I think is chaInging with a growing emphasis in church planting.

    1. Phil Whittall says:

      Thanks for the comment, Stephen. Yes, I think church planting from every movement or denomination is essential (more workers in the harvest field). Interesting to see your denomination has links to a group in Stockholm. I shall try and introduce myself at some point.

      1. Stephen Dancer says:

        Actually, I am coming over to Stockholm a week on Friday to lead a Bible Study with the group on Saturday morning. Its going to be a regularfeature which I will do, God willing, alongside David Bergmark, pastor of the presby church in TranĂ¥s. It is a fragile work but looking to Lord to establish something viable.

        1. Phil Whittall says:

          If that’s the 22nd then unfortunately I’ll be in the UK! Hope you have a good visit but would welcome the opportunity to meet, on any future visit!

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