France is charming and beautiful but she has a very deep spiritual need and is one of the least evangelized nations on earth. While France is indeed beautiful and inviting, spiritually it is dark and uninviting. The French have become largely nonreligious and atheistic while Muslims are growing rapidly – even converting unused cathedrals into mosques. The need for Christian workers has never been greater. As missionaries who deeply desire to make Christ known, our prayer is that you’ll be moved to take action in some way to support evangelistic efforts, either through intercessory prayer or a financial partnership.
Most people do not think of France as a country in need of the gospel because France is a modern western democracy with a long history of Christianity. In fact, some major events in Church history and important Christian theologians were French. When most people think of missions they think of less-developed countries in Africa, South America, or Asia, but normally not France. However, this perception is changing. The churches in Africa, Asia, and South America are growing at a phenomenal rate, while the church in France (and much of Europe) is declining.
The history of the Church in France is inseparable from the history of France itself. Gaul, modern-day France, was one of the first countries to receive the Gospel in the first and second centuries. Some say that it was evangelized by Phillip, the disciple of Jesus; Lazarus, the man Jesus raised from the dead; and Joseph of Arimathea, who buried Jesus in his tomb. During the Dark Ages, the true and faithful believers were isolated and persecuted. From the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, France was home to many of the famous Protestant Reformers, such as John Calvin. The French Revolution brought on the rejection of the Church as a whole – both Protestant and Catholic. Philosophy and existential thought grew rapidly. Cafés became a place to exchange such ideas. In fact, the French seek the same things in cafés as Christians do in church: truth, camaraderie/fellowship, and a sense of transcendence. All three are seen as necessary for life.
From political and global aspects, France is an ideal location for reaching the nations. Politically, France is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and it is one of the five remaining ‘superpowers’ in the aftermath of WWII. France’s culture is renowned and influential, and the country remains a hugely popular tourist destination. The French language is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Hundreds of thousands of top international students are sent to study in France’s highly acclaimed universities and return home to become leaders in their own countries. Many of these countries are closed or hostile to Christian missionaries or difficult to enter. Thus making France a strategic location to develop disciples of Jesus who will take the Gospel into the world.
Joie de Vivre
Though many French wear ‘funeral faces’ in public, they are always searching for the joie de vivre, the joy of life. In my opinion the two most notable areas they seek their joie de vivre are food and rest. We all know about France’s world-class gastronomy and their haute cuisine. The French take their food and its preparation very seriously. In contrast to the general American idea that food is a necessity so let’s get it over with, they believe food is a necessity so let’s enjoy it! They also know how to rest and ‘be’. Their workweeks are shorter. Their lunch breaks are longer. They vacation for weeks at a time. This is normal. This is necessary. They know how to rest. They essentially sabbath … yet without God. They seek the joie de vivre without knowing the Joy Giver.
The existentialist mindset of the French finds no meaning in life. Imagine trying to live a life that you believe is ultimately without purpose, without meaning, and without hope. Would you even want to live at all? (“If Christ isn’t risen… let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” I Corinthians 15)We believe that Jesus is the Risen Lord and He is the ultimate answer to the meaning of life and the true joie de vivre they seek. France needs communities of people following Jesus to show them a life worth living and we want to help.
Right now there is one church for every 80,000 people in France, but the goal of the French believers is to plant new churches and one day have 1 church for every 10,000 people. Churches in France are often small (between 4 and 40 people) and face a lot of opposition, but they are the pathways through which God’s love is displayed. They are like tiny candles illuminating a dark room. Many more need to be lit in order to give the French the light to see.