Foreign Missionaries Find Fertile Ground in Europe

The “Amens!” flew like popcorn in hot oil as 120 Christian worshipers clapped and danced and praised Jesus as if He’d just walked into the room. In a country where about 2 percent of the population attend church regularly and many churches draw barely enough worshipers to fill a single pew, the Sunday morning service at this old mission hall was one rocking celebration.

In the middle of all the keyboards, drums and hallelujahs, Stendor Johansen, a blond Danish sea captain built like a 180-pound ice cube, sang along and danced, as he said, like a Dane — without moving.

“The Danish church is boring,” said Johansen, 45, who left the state-run Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church three years ago and joined this high-octane interdenominational church run by a missionary pastor from Singapore. “I feel energized when I leave one of these services.”

The International Christian Community (ICC) is one of about 150 churches in Denmark that are run by foreigners, many from Africa, Asia and Latin America, part of a growing trend of preachers from developing nations coming to Western Europe to set up new churches or to try to reinvigorate old ones.

For centuries, when Europe was the global center of Christianity, millions of European missionaries traveled to other continents to spread their faith by establishing schools and churches. Now, with European church attendance at all-time lows and a dearth of preachers in the pulpits, thousands of “reverse missionaries” are flocking back, migrating from poor countries to rich ones to preach the Gospel where it has fallen out of fashion.

The phenomenon signals a fundamental shift in the power, style and geography of Christianity, the world’s largest religion. Most of its more than 2 billion adherents now live in the developing world. And as vast numbers of them migrate to Europe, as well as to the United States, they are filling pews and changing worship styles.

Churches in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, South Korea and the Philippines have sent thousands of missionaries to Europe to set up churches in homes, office buildings and storefronts. Officials from the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Pentecostal church based in Nigeria, said they have 250 churches in Britain now and plan to create 100 more this year. Britain’s largest church, run by a Nigerian pastor in London, attracts up to 12,000 people over three services every Sunday.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Europe, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

5 comments on “Foreign Missionaries Find Fertile Ground in Europe

  1. Hoskyns says:

    We must hope for the survival of Christianity in Europe and indeed in America that the American church wakes up soon to the reality that Europe is today in gospel terms the world’s neediest mission field. It will soon look like today’s church in Chalcedon or in Augustine’s Hippo – i.e. completely vanished from sight – unless missionaries from around the Christian world hear the call to bear witness and speak the gospel in a place of increasing antagonism against a dwindling and intimidated Christian minority.

  2. DH says:

    The U.S.A. may be a few years behind Europe in the decline of Christianity, but certainly is on that path. The problems in the TEC attest to a political takeover of our Church. Now days in this country, politics are ugly and getting uglier, even in the church, Agenda politics in the TEC are killing our church.

    Lord Save Us from Ourselves!

  3. DH says:

    ….I should add: +KJS, 815, The House of Bishops, and many diocecans are the most political of all and more interested in power and extracting money from us pew sitters than Preaching the Gospel.

  4. robroy says:

    Where does one sign up?

  5. BpPWhalon says:

    The article reminds me of what our worship is like in the Convocation. There are more Nigerians than Americans at St. Paul’s, Rome. You should also hear their Latino congregation sing. You should see the members of the Rennes Episcopal Mission sing and dance at worship (almost all Central and East Africans). And get ready when there’s a baptism at St James Florence, for the African members will sing a song of welcome that lasts…well, it lasts the time it needs. Then there are the Germans—achtung! Better be absolutely on top of your sermon exegesis, or else they will chew you to shreds at coffee hour. Like the people at Christ Church Clermont-Ferrand, all Americans, who also know their Bible backward and forward thanks to overflowing men and women’s Bible studies. Then there is the youth group in Waterloo, which will wear you out in missions to in Romania, Latvia, Portugal, etc. How about the deportee ministry in Frankfurt, which ministers to ex-convicts deported from the States? Or the several ministries with refugees? Large-scale ministry for AIDS in Africa from Geneva? And I am only scratching the surface.
    The Convocation has doubled in twenty years. And we’re just getting started. Send in the other missionaries, there’s plenty of work for all. “The fields are white with the harvest”–I read that somewhere.