Usually we think as Europe as a Christian continent. However this is quickly changing. A headline in a Romanian newspaper drew my attention to this fact.
“Thousands of European churches transformed into mosques, bars, pizzerias or warehouses for a lack of worshipers”
This article noted that in France only 5% of Catholics go to church. In Denmark only 5% of Lutherans attend church. Only 3% of the population attends church in the Czech Republic. The Anglican Church declares that 10% of their churches (1,600) are empty and are no longer needed. A colleague of ours, who works in England, shared that between 1995 and 2005 the number of youth in English churches dropped 62% from 613,000 to 230,000. 39% of the churches in England have no one under age 11; 49% have no youth between 11 and 14 and 59% have no youth between the ages of 15 to 19 – alarming trends!
If we compare the percentage of Evangelical Christians in Europe to other continents, we see that Europe has the smallest percentage of Evangelical Christians – just 2.4%! (Source: Operation World). Europe is quickly becoming a post-Christian continent.
There is, however, that there is a significant difference between Eastern and Western Europe. While churches are being closed in Western Europe, there is a building boom for churches in Eastern Europe. In Poland churches are being demolished to build bigger ones, and in Russia 11,000 churches have been built since the collapse of Communism. We observed a similar building boom in Romania. Just a few minutes from our home there are two Orthodox churches and a Baptist church were recently finished. This building boom is one evidence of the spiritual awakening which has occurred in Eastern Europe since the collapse of Communism. Vladimir Putin’s concluding comment in his recent op-ed published 9/11/2013 by the New York Times, “We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal,” could be considered another sign of a spiritual awakening taking place in Eastern Europe.
Today Europe is a mission field, with so many turning away from the church and the arrival of immigrants from Asia and Africa. There are over 230 unreached ethnic groups in Western Europe today. It has been over 100 years since Europe experienced a significant continent-wide revival.
Realizing that decline of Christian spirituality in Europe, churches from Africa, Asia – notably South Korea – and Latin America are sending workers back to Europe. Some of the largest, most dynamic churches in Europe are pastored by Africans. These countries recognize the contribution that European missionaries made to establish and build up the Church in their countries. Now, they realize, is the time for them to come to the aid of Europe.
At a global level, the re-discipling of Europe is now a high priority – an unthinkable need just 50 years ago. What a transformation for the world’s most “Christianized” continent, seat of the Catholic Church, home of the Protestant Reformation and birth place of the modern missionary movement.