Europe - A Huge Mission Field

By Roger Carswell

When Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy went one Sabbath day, to the river side in Philippi to meet a group of ladies at their prayer meeting, who would have guessed what this would lead to? Lydia, a seller of purple, was converted. As far as we know she was the first convert in all of Europe. What an inauspicious beginning to a great work of God. Today, Europe comprises forty five states. a population of over half a billion people and embraces over one thousand ethnic groups within its borders. Twenty two of these states have less than one per cent evangelical Christians. Europe is the second smallest continent yet boasts the longest shoreline and the greatest density of population for its overall size. The rise in nationalism threatens to undermine the basic stability of Europe again, but generally there are improving economic conditions.

I love Europe, and in my travels in the continent feel a great sense of awe at both its beauty and its heritage. Cities, towns and villages are all so different yet equally fascinating. There was a time when Europe and Christianity were almost synonymous. For two hundred years missionaries from Europe sacrificially served God all over the world, and the gospel advanced through its people. Sadly, today the majority of Europe's churches are looked upon as monuments of a past Christian era. Protected as part of a heritage, but regarded by most as irrelevant An estimated 1.8 million people cancel their church membership each year. Liberal theology and dead orthodoxy have brought about the closure of hundreds of previously Bible-preaching churches.

Although nearly 80% of the population would call themselves Christians, Europe must be the world's neediest mission geld, as the current generation is hardly evangelized. It became a continent of baptised pagans; now fewer and fewer have any church connection. Less than one in ten attend any type of church, and percentages of people in evangelical churches are minimal. Secular humanism is the dominant religion of the day. Europeans have developed an apathy and indifference to religion and have very little understanding as to what it means to be a Christian. Bible stories are regarded as fairy tales, and Bible truths as mediaeval folk lore. Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism have brought both confusion, to those who look on, hoping to see genuine Christianity, and delusion to those who want to find a my to God and the peace and joy of forgiveness (the new term, ''the en-churched'' is misleading, as so many people are still unsaved).

There are new challenges facing evangelicals: the millions who until 1989/1990 were living in oppressive Communist regimes with little opportunity to hear the good news of Christ the militant movement of Islam throughout Europe and the pervasive influence of new age philosophies which appeal to those who recognise their spiritual needs but know little of Christ. At the end of the twentieth century, Europe offers unparalleled opportunities for the gospel. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the European Union, the removal of internal trade and travel barriers provide us with the opportunity to live and work anywhere with the community. Travel has become easier, quicker and cheaper. Our roads reveal that people from all over the continent are at least visiting our nation, and many Christians are regularly travelling to other parts of the continent.We are all surrounded by, and are part of, a huge mission field.

What Can We Do?

Now is not the time for churches to be happy to merely maintain their membership. We need to be aware of the missionary situation in our own continent (and beyond), and to be actively involved in the evangelisation of our continent. How then, can we help? Perhaps we can begin by receiving missionary machines focusing on Europe. By prayer, giving and helping, we can support missionary and evangelistic endeavours. We could take opportunities to be actively involved in reaching Europeans with the gospel, whether it is by us travelling and giving evangelistic literature, of by welcoming those from overseas. It may be that the Lord would have us to be more fully involved in the evangelism of our country and continent.

One thing is certain, if we do not reach this generation, nobody else will be able to. Interestingly. the names of the leaders and signitories of Philippi in the first century have long been forgotten, but the name of Lydia who trusted and served the Lord lives on. Our world may not acclaim us for reaching men and women for Christ but we will count for the Lord and for eternity.