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Onpoint Ministries International
The Forgotten Mission Field
Changing human perceptions is one of the most difficult tasks that any mission organization can face when attempting to communicate the missiological premise for evangelizing certain areas of the world. Nowhere is this more true than Europe. It is as far away from the 1040 window as you could possibly be, not just geographically and culturally but philosophically. Industrialized, mechanized, sophisticated, materialistic and decadent Europe is not the first place that pops into your head when you think of mission fields. In fact who doesn’t picture Monte Carlo with its sapphire seas, its fast cars and sun kissed beaches; Metropolitan cities bursting with avant garde innovations in both art and technology, the cradle of democracy and the home of the cultural and intellectual elite. Most of all, Europe is the center of Christianity boasting more churches than any other continent on the planet. Is it any wonder then that so many Christians especially here in the United States (who incidentally account for almost 60% of the worlds missionaries) think of Europe as somewhere to vacation rather than evangelize.
The truth is that a land mass that covers 17% of the world’s surface boasts as of 2013 a population of 772 million, yet only 2.5% of Europe’s population claim to be evangelical Christians which compared to other continents bares close scrutiny.
North America 20%
South America 24%
These statistics compiled by Operation World and the Olsen poll reflect the shifting spiritual paradigms among the world’s continents. In fact, the deterioration and condition of the church in western Europe has produced a cultural phenomenon of striking proportions. African Pastors are emigrating to Europe to lead African communities; planting, growing and developing African churches. These church groups are specifically based on the African culture, and are attracting many from outside the African community because of there life,zeal and authenticity. This culturally stylized evangelism is not only a direct result of the decline of the western churches but also because it appeals to many of today's millennials.
Not only is the European church in decline,but it is witnessing a rate of apostasy hitherto unknown in its formidable history, the rise of secularism galvanized by a materialistic spirit which is often fostered by an education system steeped in humanistic thinking has spiritually decimated post -modern Europe.
The biblical world view which underpinned European thought for centuries has been eroded by modernism, the so called enlightened thinking of the modern era. Also, higher criticism and biblical and philosophical skepticism along with Darwinism and humanistic secularism have all taken their toll. Add to this the materialistic drive of an anthropomorphic culture and you arrive at 21st century Europe where the God of our fathers has been pushed out by the man made demagogues and ideologies of the technical age. The isolationism of many evangelical Christians who have privatized their faith has disenfranchised evangelicals over many years and consequently have failed to engage their culture with the truth of the gospel. This has contributed to the dark and sinister shadow that has fallen across what were once the bright sunlit uplands of the reformation.
What happens in Europe always affects the rest of the world simply because it is the intellectual epicenter of the planet. In 1990 the Center for Atheism boasted 250,000 members, by 2010 it had grown to 150 million world -wide in just 20 years with only 18% still in Europe. On a more parochial level, let us take France for example where though professing to be Catholic, only 15% attend mass on a regular basis. There are 44,000 towns and villages in France with no evangelical witness whatsoever; multiply this by the scores of other countries that represent the continent of Europe and this reality will enable us to comprehend the real situation and consequently change our perception of the spiritual dimension of Europe.
While the vast majority of Christian missionaries flock to the 1040 window, which does indeed need the glorious liberating power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must also remember Europe less it slide into the abyss of a new dark age made more protracted by the spirit secularism and it truly become the forgotten mission field.