Europe is not lost…

…She Just Needs the Real Thing

by Bojidar Marinov


“Europeans are eager to hear answers, and when Christian leaders declare they have the answers, people flock to hear them…”

The spiritual condition of Europe has been the focus of attention for American Christians and conservatives for quite a while. The twentieth century did in practice what the Enlightenment thinkers had imagined in theory: The complete removal of Christianity from public life. Christianity has retreated, even from those countries that a century ago were vocally Christian in their public policies. The two world wars helped for short revivals of spiritual activities, and the Cold War—and its end—contributed somewhat for a renewed interest in Europe’s Christian history. But in general, Europe has been on the road to thorough secularism, rejecting Christianity as a moral paradigm, silencing its politicians and public figures who dare speak in the name of the Christian religion, and ridiculing Christianity as a backward religion of her savage past. And with the rise of Islam and the impotence of the European nations to stop its tide, the future looks bleak.

Missionaries working in Europe send back discouraging reports of governments creating obstacles to preaching the Gospel in what was just recently considered part of the “free world.” Even if they don’t have obstacles, the Europeans themselves are militantly opposed to being evangelized; and the government of the largest European nation—Germany—is on a frantic crusade to obliterate homeschooling and the “alternative lifestyles” that go with it (read Christianity). In France some cities have regulations that ban Protestant churches from owning buildings near public schools, while having no similar limitations for strip clubs or alcohol stores. And just recently the highest court in Europe acted to ban Christian symbols in the schools in Italy.


What kind of Christianity is Europe reacting against? Is it the real Christianity,
as revealed by the Bible, or is it something else?


No wonder American Christians consider Europe a “lost continent,” and conservative talk shows use words like “hopeless” and “dark” when they discuss the future of Europe. Christianity seems to be pushed out of Europe, and with it goes the great civilization that it created. Even with the victories of American Christianity and conservatism in the last years, it seems we are going to remain a lonely island of active traditional Christianity, supported from abroad only by the young emerging Christian communities in Africa and Asia—vigorous and strong, but lacking the experience and the resources to be of too much help in the next century or so.

To put it in big fancy words, the global megatrends look bad. If we lose Europe, we lose the enormous resource base built up by the Christian forefathers of today’s Europeans. And they surely didn’t build it up to be used against Christ and His Gospel.

But this feeling of hopelessness fails to make a very important distinction; it fails to ask the question: What kind of Christianity is Europe reacting against?Is it the real Christianity, as revealed by the Bible, or is it something else?

The picture I painted of Europe above is accurate enough, and yet, it misses some very specific examples that seem to run contrary to the general trend. They are not numerous, and they certainly can’t be taken to be indicative of some deep change in the European mentality and culture. But they are instructive enough to give us the clue as to what we as Christians have been missing in our efforts to evangelize Europe.

In 2005, the German Protestant Convention in Hannover attracted a record crowd of over 400,000 people, most of them young people. The Convention poster said, Gut wenn du eine Antwort weisst (“It’s good to have an answer.”) The Convention President Eckardt Nagel proposed the event “take a stand against society’s current depression and pessimism.” Europe has never seen such a crowd for many years, not even at a political rally.

The largest single congregation in Europe—more than 25,000 members—is the Pentecostal-charismatic church Embassy of God of the Nigerian-born pastor Sunday Adelaja . . . in Ukraine! The Pentecostal-Charismatic movement in Eastern Europe flourished for a few short years after the fall of Communism only to lose momentum in the late 1990s and practically come to a stall after 2000. Not so with Adelaja’s church. His church keeps growing; it has dozens of ministries—from helping families to Christian business clubs and debt relief funds—and mission churches in almost every country in Europe and Central Asia. Sunday Adelaja says about himself: “I don’t preach a gospel of salvation, but the Gospel of the Kingdom.” (You can find his views here.)

Pope John Paul II broke the unpopularity of the Roman Catholic Church after WWII and gathered crowds that few popes before him had gathered. He did it by putting an end to the official neutrality of his church in cultural matters, boldly preaching and teaching on issues like communism, abortion, international relations, dictatorships, etc. Suddenly the Roman Catholic Church was again relevant to the world without being a puppet in the hands of political dictators, as it was during the WWII.

In Poland, the Roman Catholic Church is as strong as it’s ever been. It is also the only church in Europe that openly opposed Communism, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall opposes abortion and government policies harmful to the traditional family. No other nation in Europe has priests that are as vocal on social and political issues as those in Poland.

The Reformed Hungarian Church in Transylvania has grown in numbers and influence so much after the fall of the Ceausescu regime that currently there is no village in Transylvania, however small it is, without a church. The Reformed seminary in Cluj trains hundreds of future Reformed pastors, and rather than receiving American missionaries, Transylvania sends pastors and missionaries to the Hungarian communities in the United States. The Reformed Hungarian Church has never been a “religious” institution in its limited American sense: It has always been a covenant community, viewing as its legitimate sphere of action every aspect of human life and society.

Milan and its university have traditionally been the political and intellectual stronghold of the Italian Communist Party. And yet in the 1990s, a new movement of Catholic economic thinkers in the tradition of Lord Acton has emerged in Milan and elsewhere in Northern Italy. These economists go to the Bible looking for foundations for their economic theories. Their popularity is increasing and many politicians in Italy and other countries base their political programs on their proposals.

There are thousands of smaller examples and testimonies that, beneath the surface, show that Europe is not spiritually dead. As a matter of fact, one can safely conclude that, contrary to the American perspective of Europe, the Old World is eagerly waiting and longing for its adoption back in Christendom and grasps every opportunity to do so.

The question then is this: How can we reconcile these examples with the trends we see in general? Are the Europeans schizophrenic, do they want and reject the same thing at the same time? Or is there something more than what is seen, something that God wants to teach us about Europe, history, and the Gospel we proclaim?

No, Europeans are not schizophrenic about their attitude to Christianity. On the contrary, they are more consistent than the average American. They don’t reject and want the same thing at the same time. The truth is, what Europeans reject and what they want are two different kinds of Christianity, and the European culture is much more aware of the difference than the American culture.


So next time your church is considering sending a missionary to Europe… ask him if he knows what the Bible says about taxes, economics, political representation, freedom, entrepreneurship, business relations, international relations…


The Christianity the Europeans mock and reject is the limited pietistic Christianity preached by liberal European professors and fundamentalist American missionaries (yes, these two groups are in a sense allies on “mission field Europe”). They know it is a Christianity that is weak and has no real answers to real problems. That Christianity speaks only on issues peripheral to the culture, and therefore Europeans relegate it to the periphery of their society. They call it “sectarianism” but not in the American sense of the word. “Sectarianism” in Europe means a cult that makes its members withdraw from society into a dream world of mystical false piety. And indeed, both the liberal intellectuals’ and the fundamentalist missionaries’ version of Christianity does exactly that. It never addresses the issues of the day; it never gives solutions; it never challenges the principalities and powers; and it lives in its own dream world, irrelevant and unrealistic. Europe will never accept that kind of Christianity, even if we flood the continent with missionaries.

In the rare cases when Europeans embrace Christianity, it is a relevant, practical, bold, shameless Christianity that never flinches from applying the truths of the Bible to the issues of the day. It is the Christianity of Augustine and Athanasius, of Isidore and Charlemagne, the Christianity of the Reformers and of the Reformed missionaries of the 18th century, the Christianity of the Puritans and the Founders of the United States of America. Europeans are eager to hear answers, and when Christian leaders declare they have the answers, people flock to hear them, as in the examples above. Europeans have had enough of atheism, liberalism, and socialism to know perfectly well that they provide no answers. It takes only a little effort to make them turn to Christianity . . . if only we give them Christianity that has answers! Europeans are not dumb, they like America, they like what America has to offer, and most of them understand that America was based on our Christian faith—and Europeans want The Real Thing.

But so far we as American Christians have been offering to our European brethren only a fake, limited, pietistic, existentialist Christianity. Our missionaries have been unwilling to proclaim the crown rights of Jesus Christ over every area of life. And then those same missionaries have been sending back discouraging reports of the spiritual hardness of the European societies. Europeans are not stupid.

So next time your church is considering sending a missionary to Europe, take the time to examine the applicant. Ask him about his understanding ofcomprehensive Biblical worldview. Ask him how and what he intends to preach and teach. Ask him if he knows the issues of the day in the nation he is going to work in and whether he knows the Biblical solutions to those issues. Ask him if he knows what the Bible says about taxes, economics, political representation, freedom, entrepreneurship, business relations, international relations, etc. Ask him to write a short essay on a practical topic: “What the Bible says about healthcare,” for example.

If the missionary tells you he is only going to “save souls, plant churches, and preach the Gospel,” advise him to stay home. He is heading to disaster, and his life and work are going to be a disappointment. Europe has been known for the last 50 years to be the “graveyard of missionaries,” and it is not Europe’s fault. Europeans are not fools, and they will not suffer fools. Europe wants The Real Thing. She wants the real Gospel, and she wants it badly. And we’d better act on it.

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