Written by Sherry
Wednesday, 10 January 2007 06:47
An article today in The Telegraph (a leading British newspaper) regarding the state of Catholicism in France is arresting in light of a saying I heard as an evangelical:
"God has no grandchildren."
Simply put, barely 51% of the French consider themselves Catholic and of that 51%, only half said they believed in God! Only 10% attend Mass.
"Many said they were Catholic because it was a family tradition"
The article is particularly interesting in light of a piece that appeared in Christianity Today in 2005 saying that a new "religious openness" simultaneously taking place in France - but the style is evangelical.
According to a study in 2003, 32% of the French who call themselves Christians had recently returned to their faith. In 1994, the number was only 13%. "Is Europe's most secular nation rediscovering its Christian roots?" asks Agnieszka Tennant in Christianity Today.
"Bible sales are currently at an all-time high in France," reports the French Bible Society's Christian Bonnet. Completely unexpectedly, 100,000 Bibles and 50,000 New Testaments were sold in 2003. La Bible Expliquée, a Bible with explanations for seekers, sold 80,000 copies in the first month, even in secular bookshops and supermarkets. "God, your shares are on the rise!" wrote a business magazine in a 72-page report on the sudden rise of religious interest in the post-materialistic age. "
Since 1950, the number of Evangelicals in France has multiplied sevenfold, from 50,000 to 350,000," says Tennant, and many nominal Catholics have experienced a renewal of their faith through Alpha Courses. Daniel Liechti, who researches church planting for France Mission, estimates that one new church was planted in France every 11 days for the past 35 years.
The Alpha course - a meal/video/small group -based evangelization course out of a charismatic Anglican church in London, is running in 400 churches around France. The April, 05 newsletter of the Alpha movement in Hong Kong reports something widely quoted around the evangelical world:
"The Catholic Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, says that Catholics have received two good things from the Protestants: the Charismatic movement and the Alpha Course, which is booming in Catholic parishes: in 1998, five Alpha courses were held; in 2004, the number had grown to 303."
As some of you know, I have my reservations about the Alpha course which you can find in this article at our Institute library (When Evangelical is Not Enough)
But, the point is, in so many countries of Europe, historical, wide-spread cultural Catholicism or Protestantism is rapidly being replaced by a smaller *intentional Christianity*, much of it evangelical and charismatic in theology and style. A similar spiritual awakening has been noted in deeply secularlized Holland, again linked to evangelical movements like Alpha, linked to movements that focus on initial missionary proclamation of the kergyma to a generation that has never heard it.
The relationship between culture and conversion is fascinating. An established Christian culture can foster conversion but it cannot replace conversion. Culture can powerfully transmit the kerygma but it can also obscure it. Christian culture is not self-sustaining. Christian culture is the fruit of personal faith. Without the preaching of the kerygma and personal conversion which is a source of renewal in every generation, Christian culture ultimately withers away and dies.
Hence, Sherry's mantra:
If we don't evangelize our own, someone else will do it for us.
If we don't form our own, someone else will do it for us.