American Christians mistakenly believe that Europe has the same perception of the Church and Christian faith as in the United States, said a Europe mission group spokesman.
“It is questionable whether Europeans ever had a fundamental grasp of the grace of Jesus Christ,” said Bill Bennett, director of communications for Greater Europe Mission, to The Christian Post in a recent interview.
Bennett explained that the church to Europeans is seen as an economic and political power representing the religion of the rich world. Europeans have a more formal, ritualistic view of Christianity partially because in its history, a person’s landlord decided whether he would be Catholic or Protestant rather than any personal conviction.
“In America we assume that they have the same church that we have but our church experience is vastly different than that of Europe,” emphasized Bennett. “They didn’t come to believe in Christ and then start coming to church like we do.”
He added, “We in the United States project our Christianity to Europe which is not accurate because their history is different than ours.”
As many know, Christianity is declining in Europe to the extent that it has been described as the “least evangelized spot on earth” when looking at all of Europe’s population.
Less than four percent of the total population in Europe is evangelical and in most European countries the percentage falls to less than one percent.
In Europe, it is not unusual for a person to describe themself as a Catholic-Atheist, or someone born and raised in a Catholic family but who does not personally believe in God. Typically, the person would be baptized, married, and have their funeral held in a church, but would not be able to explain the meaning of Easter.
Bennett’s description is reflected in a recent Easter survey conducted in England - a country typically seen as a Christian nation. The survey found that one out of every six people in England aged 16-24 did not know the meaning of Good Friday and about 10 percent of participants did not know that Easter Sunday commemorated the resurrection of Jesus.
European governments have been partially blamed for the decline of Christianity, being accused of restricting religious activities and hindering the expansion of faith groups. For example, in the democratic country of France, a church requesting permit to expand its church building or buy property may never receive permission, according to Bennett.
“It is a stronghold of the enemy…. You just feel the spiritual oppression,” he commented.
Bennett also highlighted that other parts of the world have recognized the need to do missions in Europe except the United States. Last year during Urbana, Christian leaders from third world countries, especially in Africa, said they were going back to Europe because they see the need there, noted the GEM spokesman.
“So they see Europe as a mission field but in the United States we still lack awareness about Europe,” concluded Bennett.
Greater Europe Mission works alongside natives in Europe and North Africa to share the Gospel and plant churches in their homeland. There are currently 300 missionaries serving with GEM in 28 countries in Greater Europe.