I have heard it said that the movement of Christianity from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth has been like a ring of fire. As the gospel moved west to Rome and Continental Europe, new fires blazed as missionaries like Patrick, reformations in Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands, and revivals led by the likes of Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, and others produced abundant fruit. Today, however, Europe is a shadow of what it once was. Forms of Christianity remain, and renewal movements in places like Great Britain continue, but on the whole, it seems that the glory has gone out.
Hence, we need to pray for Europe. With more than 700 million people, there are only around 18 million evangelicals. Protestant make up less than ten percent of the population,while Catholic and Orthodox comprise over fifty-five percent of the population. In recent years, the greatest rate of growth have come in the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and Muslim contexts. While the fires of reformation and revival have smoldered, the Spirit has not left the earth. There are still many pastors, missionaries, and evangelists who are doing good work, and we need to pray for God to light the fires again.
Here is a little more on the history and current situation in Europe:
After the Muslim invasions of the 8th Century, Christianity was suppressed or wiped out in the lands of the Middle East where the early Church first took root. Fore nearly 1,000 years, Europe was the last bastion of Christendom. The encircling Muslim lands–and Turkey’s occupation of southeast Europe–effectively prevented any missionary outreach to Africa and Asia [hence, the 10-40 window today]. The emergence of Europe as a colonial power in the the 15th Century and the theological impetus of the Reformation in the 16th Century provided the platform for the Church to become a force for world evangelization. The last 250 years have been years of worldwide advance for the gospel, but, conversely, decline in Europe. However, in many countries that have seen secularism and anti-religious social policies have their sway, and upswing of spirituality is also occurring (Operation World, p. 74-75).
Today, there are other sociological factors at work.
Massive cultural shifts are occurring right across the continent as Europe finally reaps the harvest sown from the Enlightenment through WWI up to today. Christianity was effectively replaced by humanists philosophies and nationalism. Europe can be regarded not only as postmodern, but also post-rational and certainly post-Christian. [America should take note, because our culture is following suit]. It is not accident that the regions of the world where relativism, individualism, and existentialism reign supreme are also spiritually the bleakest. This has several debilitating effects.
- Cynicism is not apparently the ‘ism’ of choice, as the younger generation increasingly disengages from traditionalism civic responsibilities, such as politics and community service, and fells alienated from older generations. The elevation of the individual and instant gratification spur on hedonistic, nihilistic lifestyles that often end in dysfunction, emptiness, loneliness, and despair.
- Moral uncertainty. With transcendent authority undermined (and the authority of the Bible dismissed long ago), right and wrong are determined by consensual bureaucracy or individual inclination, leading to a morass of relativism.
- Societal disintregation. Traditional values regarding the family, childbirth, marriage, sexuality, sanctity of life and community are being dismantled not just culturally, but also legally. These have severe repercussions in the areas of demographic decline, future economic burdens and psychological and social health. As traditional foundations of healthy societies are deconstructed in Europe, some suggest the term ‘sociocide,’ self-aware civilizational suicide, as an adequate description (p. 77).
There is great need in Europe. May we pray this week for this continent, that God would send the light. That those who labor in the darkness would be encouraged by the gospel, and that those who embrace the darkness would have an increasing dissatisfaction with sin, such that they begin turning from the systems of the world, to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That the nations might glory in the only glorious One, dss