Photo Essay – Is Europe Unreached?

By a Pioneer in Europe

Had you asked me whether Europe was unreached a decade ago, I would have responded with a resounding “No!” How could a continent that boasts beautiful churches and birthed the Reformation be unreached?  Why should an organization like Pioneers, one focused on reaching unreached people groups, send missionaries to a continent where 70.8% of the population are reportedly professing Christians? Shouldn’t we focus our efforts elsewhere?

I entered the missions world focusing on the 10/40 window—but now I consider Europe one of the most unreached continents in the world. And I’m not alone.

Did you know…

  • Christians in Muslim North Africa refer to Europe as the spiritually dark continent?
  • That it is the only continent where the church is in rapid decline?
  • Or that Islam is its fastest growing religion?

In Europe, nationality and religion are almost synonymous. To be Croatian is to be Catholic. To be Serbian from the former Yugoslavia is to be Orthodox. And to be Scandinavian is to be Lutheran. State religion is not a choice but an undisputed fact assigned at birth.

During times of war, leaders often used churches as places of mobilization and strategizing rather than preaching a gospel of peace and reconciliation. In Greece today, it is illegal to share the gospel unless attempting to convert someone to Greek Orthodoxy. In Sweden, it is culturally acceptable for a priest not to believe in God, and missionaries attest to meeting Swedish college students who have never had a spiritual conversation.

Cultural Christianity

The statistics reveal that less than 2% of Europeans are evangelical believers, including less than .1% in Slovenia, .3% in Poland, .5% in Austria and 1% in France.  Though many are Catholic, Lutheran or Orthodox Christians—and there may be an unspecified number of redeemed, gospel-adhering believers in these faith traditions—a closer look reveals that this faith is often a cultural tradition instead of true belief in Jesus.

Today, if you asked me, “Is Europe unreached?” I would respond with a resounding, “YES—it is unreached!”

One missionary so clearly communicated, “Europe is as spiritually poor as it is materially rich. Remember that there are two places to die of thirst: one is the desert and the other the ocean. Europe is the spiritual ocean of the missions world.”

Contact us or visit Pioneers in Europe to learn more about opportunities to serve.

Images from France

The Church of St. John the Baptist in Albertville, France, beautifies the foothills of the Alps in this small town. Though the church is open, few enter regularly. Many only attend programs or concerts on Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter.

This basilica in Lyon, France, is a gathering place for the homeless, troubled youth and street performers. However, tourists and the occasional worshiper are the ones who venture inside.

This handwritten sign on the barred window of a church in France reads, God is looking for you. Come.

Switzerland

This church in a Swiss village is the venue for many musical performances including opera, chorale and orchestra. A great site for performance, yet not often used for gospel presentations. This performance was Handel’s Messiah during Easter.

From Finland

Builders carved the Church of the Rock in Helsinki, Finland, from a large granite formation shortly after World War II.  The acoustics of its copper dome amaze. This is a practice for an orchestral performance.

The Turku Cathedral in Turku, Finland, is home to great Scandinavian Christian history. However, now it is primarily a tourist destination and home to many artistic and social programs in the city.

Stories from the pursuit

Video: How Pioneers Got Started

Ted Fletcher wondered whether he was ready to die during the Korean War. Watch this one-minute animated video to find out how he responded to that question and founded Pioneers 40+ years ago.

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