What kind of response do people get when they decide to support ministry in Europe? Here are some samples:
"So you are going on a ministry trip to Paris? Yeah, right!"
"A work-camp in Italy? You mean a vacation right?"
"I'd rather go to Africa or someplace where they need Christianity."
"The Europeans had their chance. I'm going to support a place where Christians have never heard the Gospel."
These kind of responses are what some people receive when they decide to help the Lord's work in Western Europe (Eastern Europe is a different story, associated as it is with poverty and communism). But when people respond this way, they are showing their ignorance about the current state of Christianity around the world. Here are some reasons why you should care about missions doing work in Europe:
1) Non-Western Growth vs. Western Decline: Today Africa has over 390 million Christians (3/5ths of the continent), Brazil is the 2nd largest Evangelical nation in the world, China is experiencing the fastest growth of Christianity in history. Many of the places where the West concentrates its missionary efforts have an abundance of churches, leaders, and resources. These countries are now sending missionaries to the USA. In Europe, however, the church struggles in isolation, but is full of sincere Christians needing help to make an impact in their communities.
2) They have not heard: For many Europeans, it has been 4 generations or more since there was a religious believer in the family. Many countries in Europe saw widespread religious belief disappear after World War I, or at the latest, World War II. So this means that even the elderly may not have ever heard the Gospel message in any form. Shouldn't they get a chance to hear or is the Gospel only for non-Europeans and North Americans?
3) Europe is pagan: The "Christianity" in Christian Europe has been greatly exaggerated. Through most of Europe's history, it has mostly been a pagan society with people following superstitions and local religions that were sometimes incorporated into a state religion. Even Calvin and Luther complained about the few people that were actually involved in the church in a serious way. The very fact that Christianity was institutionalized by Emperor Constantine set up the foundation of Christendom which would limit the dynamism of Christianity. Europe needs genuine Christian movements as opposed to state-sponsored or forced Christian initiatives.
4) What we learn doing mission in Europe can benefit the American Church. At Three Worlds we see how quickly the U.S.A. in particular is entering into a post-Christendom atmosphere. As America secularizes, we feel that the work we are doing and what we are discovering in the European context can be of use to the American church. You should care about Europe because the next generation in the U.S.A. will look like Europe.
5) The rate of born-again Christians is small. In many European countries, the Evangelical community is less than .25% of the population. That is less than a quarter of one percent! It means that we are literally talking about a few thousand people in large countries like Poland, Italy, or Czech Republic. Very few people are sharing the life-affirming gospel of Jesus Christ.
6) If European Evangelical churches close, they may never re-open! In countries like Greece or Bulgaria, you cannot take for granted any Evangelical church that has the permission to be open. Local laws and the state church can make it extremely difficult to own property, register as a legal church, or bring in missionaries. Even if a church is down to 10 people, it may be vital to keep it open or else there will be no way to get back into that particular European country. In many places where the Church of God operates in Europe, we cannot afford to let churches go under. This is also true in the Middle East. Our registration as the Church of God is golden in most of these countries and cannot be allowed to lapse.
7) There are many lonely Christians in Europe trying to stay encouraged as they are vastly outnumbered. Most churches, pastors, and believers in Europe are very lonely and desperate to connection to any other believers. Unlike many believers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, European evangelicals are extremely isolated not only from other Evangelicals (a given), but even people of any kind of religious persuasion whatsoever! And few churches in North America bother to connect to lonely Evangelical churches in Europe.
8) There are not enough workers, experts, and helpers in European churches. Because churches are small, it is not always easy to find people that are talented at church management, children's programs, youth, theology, and many other areas that North Americans take for granted. We need North American churches to pass on their talents and skills to our sincere workers who are eager to learn.
9) Because it's Not About You and Your Image. Let's face it. Some people love going to poverty-ridden places because it seems much more dramatic and sacrificial. But we are called to go to those that have never heard. Jesus says nothing about the conditions or geographical location, but rather teaches us to go the whole world. That includes Western Europe. There is poverty in Europe, (particularly Eastern Europe), but it is the spiritual and eternal poverty we should focus on above all else.
10) Because the world comes to Europe: Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Athens--all of these places put you in contact not only with the locals but with people from every continent. Many of these cities are filled with people that would love to attend evangelical churches for Latin Americans, or West Africans, or Chinese, or Koreans. Globally connected as they are, it's easy to impact the rest of the world with the Gospel when reaching international people in Europe for Christ.
Consider the importance of investing in the church in Europe. We need your skills, talents, and resources. It is a gorgeous continent that has a lot to teach us not only about Christian history, but about the whole world in general. Three Worlds is committed to making a big difference in Europe and using that to touch the world. Won't you join us?