The current issue of Christian Chronicle details the continuing need and challenge of European mission work. Having lived and worked as a missionary in Vilnius, Lithuania I appreciate the Chronicles’ emphasis. Here is my two cents worth on the topic which I wrote originally for our church bulletin of January 15th.
Is God dead in Europe? This is the question contemplated by James P. Gannon on the Editorial/Opinion page in a recent USA Today as he examined the decline of Christian faith on that continent.
From the rapid rise of secularism to the increase in such vices as pornography to the alarming decrease of church attendance among Catholics and Protestants, Mr. Gannon describes Western Europe as a “post-Christian society.”
He further connects the drastic decrease in European birth rates to this secular emphasis and its widespread acceptance of abortion, casual sex and gay marriage. He echoes others who claim that the continent has become “one vast Leisure Land” and is in the process of committing “demographic suicide.”
He concludes with a warning for us- the United States- to avoid their path at all costs. He says, “Europe is showing us where this path leads. It is not the right path for America.”
As I read this article Mr. Gannon’s points resonated with me. I witnessed first-hand a portion of this sharp decline of interest in matters spiritual in Eastern Europe since the fall of the Soviet empire. I have seen many of the churches of which I am familiar struggle since the surge of Bible studies in the early nineties that birthed them. But as disheartening as all of this may be, it should also serve to strengthen our resolve. Now more than ever the gospel is needed in Europe.
Travel back with me in time to the world of the apostle Paul. If it can be said that God is dead in modern European culture, it most certainly could have been said of Him in that ancient Roman one. Yet in this world the gospel flourished. Against the desperate darkness which enveloped that day the Light of the World shone brightly and attracted multitudes. Who is to say that it cannot happen again- and in Europe?
Europe was once known as the “cradle of modern Christianity”. Those who rocked this cradle have long ago gone to their graves and apparently so too now have their legacy. But we should not despair. God knows a little something about resurrections.
So we must never stop taking the gospel to the world including Europe. The challenges are daunting and numerous, but God is bigger than them all. We must never underestimate the redeeming power of His gospel.