France:

Vive la revolution

God is turning lives around in hyper-secular France, the Muslim capital of Europe, where evangelical Christians make up less than one per cent of the population. You are part of the revolution.

Twenty young people become Christians at a youth conference in October 2015. Another hundred go forward to be prayed for, desiring to step out in faith when they get back home. An angry man who has had a very difficult childhood and gets agonising stress migraines makes friends with some Christians. He meets Jesus, becomes part of a church community and finds peace. His headaches stop completely.

A man who believes in God but has never had a relationship with him has a physical, almost tangible encounter with the Holy Spirit while reading Romans 6 in a Bible study with a BMS World Mission worker. He sees himself completely differently. Sees his sin nailed to the cross. He gets baptised.

The gospel is shared, heard, encountered. The revolution has begun.
It’s not the revolution of a nation – huge, unmissable and hard-won with guillotines and bloodshed. It’s a revolution of lives. Of individual men and women, won and transformed by Christ’s love in one of the most fiercely secular nations in Europe. It’s happening in the whisper. It’s happening through your support. It’s happening right now.

French-ness and the gospel – a real explosive mix

Connexion 2017, a youth conference in France, is causing a revolution amongst young French Christians.

Statistics about the evangelical Church in France are pretty discouraging. While Muslims make up seven per cent of the population, evangelicals comprise less than one per cent. France prides itself on its secularism, and the French Church has a turbulent history, which doesn’t help. “There are two worlds in France,” says BMS pastor Christine Kling, “people who go to church, and people who have no contact at all with faith.”

And yet some stories defy the statistics. They’re miracles, really. Christine’s is one of them. Until a few years ago, Christine was in that other world she describes: she barely knew anything about Christianity.

It wasn’t until 2010, when she moved to Scotland following the death of her husband, that she came to hear the gospel message and have her life utterly transformed.

Six years later, Christine came back to France with BMS, ready to share Jesus with French people who are still as far from him as she once was. Now, she’s working to revitalise a dying church.

Christine Kling
BMS worker Christine Kling, who is a pastor of a Baptist church near Paris.

Understanding that broken relationships and loneliness are huge issues for the French, Christine is using her personal experiences to share Jesus. “I always speak about relationships to explain that in Jesus I feel accepted,” she says. “I feel loved. I never feel alone anymore. There’s this new sense of freedom. I was freed of my sadness.”

Christine’s call back to France is already having an impact.

A man and his wife pray and pray for a pastor to come and serve in their rapidly shrinking church, which has been without a leader for 15 years. Just months before he dies of cancer, Christine arrives to see if she can help. He calls her an answer to his prayers.

Homeless and refugee women of all religions and none gather in Massy at a day centre organised by Christine and the pastor of the local Reformed church. They find safety and rest. They find a place to share their stories. Some of them ask for prayer.

Flashes of light in the darkness. 

Even the fact that the evangelical Church is a minority within a minority in France (evangelicals = less than one per cent, Protestants = two per cent) is actually, in some ways, a strength. “Because we’re so small, there’s no hesitation about what our role is,” says BMS pastor Philip Halliday, who heads up the Home Mission Department of the French Baptist Federation (FEEBF).
“It’s obvious – it’s to live out the gospel and to find fresh ways of communicating the good news of Jesus.”

That’s what Christine is trying to do in Gif-sur-Yvette, near Paris. And it’s what BMS workers Claire-Lise and David Judkins are doing in Brive-la-Gaillarde – in the physical and social centre of France. They’ve moved away from a traditional church service model in order to better share the gospel with people who have not yet encountered Jesus.

Hallidays
BMS workers Phillip and Rosemary Halliday travel across France, offering pastoral support.

They meet around a table, sharing food and stories, studying the Bible and praying together. The first Church Around the Table officially started in September 2016, and by January 2017 they’d grown large enough to split into two Tables, welcoming around 30 people altogether.

Six people have been baptised since the BMS church plant started.

Six people whose lives have been radically transformed. Who’ve seen the light.

Louise* is going through a difficult separation when she meets Claire-Lise and David. She’s into Buddhism, and when she finds out Claire-Lise is a pastor she tells her she is wrong. Louise is totally against Christianity. But then God touches her heart, and she starts asking questions. Amazingly, she asks for a Bible. She reads it, believes it, gives her life to Christ. She finds peace, forgives and accepts herself and reconciles with her husband. She gets baptised.

And she gets sick with cancer.

Louise’s non-Christian husband prays for her to get better and, by prayer and radiotherapy, she is healed. He gives his life to Christ and is baptised too.

Michael Harrington, David Judkins and David Braggeal
BMS worker David Judkins and part of his church planting team.

“Their whole family is transformed,” says David. “He is somebody who’s struggled with depression, and now we’re struggling to control him in the group because he’s such a goofball, making jokes all the time.”

Beyond the local church, in the very centre of the Federation, BMS workers have helped to instil a hunger for mission that is permeating the life of French Baptists. “They have given their fire and passion for mission to others at the heart of the Federation,” says FEEBF General Secretary Mark Deroeux. “People are now able to say that, yes, as Christians, it’s possible to give your life to Christ and not be afraid of being a witness.”

In a mining village in the north of France, a struggling young pastor called Thierry Auguste receives a BMS grant to pay his salary. Fifteen years later he is the President of the Baptist Federation, helping to drive the vision of churches across the nation. He says he has never forgotten the gift. Says that, “When I had nothing and BMS helped me, I felt very rich all of a sudden.” Says that the gospel is worth all the sacrifices he now makes to volunteer for the Federation, that “the fruits we receive from the ministry are most precious – they’re men and women who give their lives to Christ.”

When I had nothing, BMS helped me – I felt rich

Following a terror attack in Paris, 200 people gather together for an ecumenical service in Brive, organised by BMS workers and their church planting team. In the midst of tragedy, non-Christians come into a church to pray.

The evangelical Church in France is small, but it’s not weak. At its heart is this fire to share the good news. To reach more people. To save more hearts. And the Christians here are a tiny minority, but they are strong. They believe what they profess – if they didn’t, they’d walk away from the Church and never come back. Because it’s not normal to be an evangelical Christian, it’s hard.

And yet, there is so much in France and the French that is already a reflection of the image of God. As church planter David says: “in their creativity, hospitality, and relationships, there’s so much there that is reflective of God’s plan and desire.

“If the two could go together – this core French-ness and the gospel that’s embodied in that –then you’d have a real explosive mix.”

Fifteen new Baptist churches are being planted across France.

The number of evangelicals here is nine times greater than it was 60 years ago.

The revolution has begun. It’s not the revolution of a nation, not yet. But it’s a revolution of individual lives. It’s people coming to life. The challenge for the French Church is to dare and to keep on daring. To be bold and to speak out for the gospel. The challenge for us, France’s neighbour, with a larger, stronger, better-resourced Church, is to keep helping them to shine.

*name changed

If you're praying for this Click Here
icon
John and Sue Wilson
BMS workers John and Sue Wilson pastor a church in Paris, and Sue also organises the national youth conference.
Beaux Guests

They’re shining God’s light in France, with your support.

Philip and Rosemary Halliday

Philip is President of the French Baptist Federation’s (FEEBF) Home Mission Department, overseeing the 15 church plants across the country and encouraging FEEBF churches to be more outward looking. He and Rosemary travel across France offering pastoral support and vision to pastors. Rosemary is also involved in a local church’s young adults’ ministry.

John and Sue Wilson

John and Sue are breathing new life into Avenue du Maine Baptist Church in the heart of Paris. John also leads FEEBF’s Ministry Commission, while Sue heads up the Federation’s Youth Committee, which includes organising the national youth conference.

Christine Kling

Christine is the pastor of the Baptist church in Gif-sur-Yvette, near Paris, working to replant and grow the congregation. She also helps run a day shelter for homeless women, works as chaplain at a residential home in Gif and does project management for FEEBF.

Claire-Lise and David Judkins

Claire-Lise and David are pioneering Church Around the Table in Brive-la-Gaillarde. They’re building relationships and sharing Christ as they lead the church plant, which they hope will become a movement of disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

IF YOU LIKED THIS ARTICLE you
may be interested in these...

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR WEEKLY EMAIL UPDATE