|% Urban:||75.1 %|
|% Christian:||71.3 %|
|% Evangelical:||2.5 %|
|% Largest Religion:||71.3 %|
In the midst of overall population decline, and in many cases, amidst the rapid decline of those identifying as Christian, it can rightly be regarded as a point for praise that evangelicals and/or charismatics manage even to maintain their numbers. As strong national Christian identities erode, evangelicals are in fact growing in maturity, confidence and a sense of their own identity within many European countries. The robust nature of these evangelical and charismatic movements is demonstrated by their increased presence in mainline churches, which are otherwise declining, in the relative stability of theologically conservative denominations and in the arrival of dynamic new fellowships and networks onto the Church scene. All of this is modest compared to great gains in Asia and Africa, but is light in an otherwise bleak European religious landscape.
The Caucasus region remains a centre of unresolved tensions – with its ethnic and religious diversity, history of war and repression, and its position, straddling the oil-rich but politically sensitive region, where many major powers (Russia, Turkey, Iran, the West) have conflicting areas of concern. In all likelihood, decades of unrest lie ahead. Its peoples represent one of the most difficult challenges for evangelization, with many ethnic groups still unreached. Pray for God to somehow break through these seemingly unscalable barriers to the Gospel.
The growth of Islam through immigration and a higher birth rate is such that Islam has become the second religion of Europe. It is the largest religion in Albania, Bosnia and of other potential new nations – Kosovo as well as several republics in the Russian Federation. Integration and extremism remain serious but unresolved issues. But higher birthrates, the continued immigration of Muslims, savvy lobbying for concessions to Muslim sensibilities and a fundamental inability to exist as a placid minority mean the rise of Islam’s influence in Europe. Some Muslims seek to assimilate into a multicultural Europe on their own terms; others intend to dominate Europe’s future and impose shari’a law. Many simply seek an existence far from the violence, destruction, and poverty of the homelands they fled. Alarm and fear characterize the response of many, including Christians. Yet Muslims form a possible bulwark against further secularization and atheism. Most are deeply moral people, and many are not far from the Kingdom of God. Pray that Christians might cooperate with God-fearing Muslims when appropriate and, at all times, extend the love of Jesus and power of the gospel.
Effective collaboration and partnerships between immigrant churches and indigenous churches in Europe are essential and hold immense promise and power. These can give grounding, training, resources, and a sense of acceptance to the newer churches and offer energy, spiritual vitality and links to burgeoning communities that the older churches need. Together, immigrant and indigenous Christians can offer a shining example of Christ’s reconciling power. Immigrant churches are undeniably vital to Europe’s future. Pray for God to raise up men and women who will pioneer this bridging of different cultures and backgrounds into one unified body that will glorify Jesus and win Europe back to the gospel.
Great swathes of Central and Western Europe are truly post-Christian — where committed Christian remnants are small in number, low in confidence and marginalized. In these areas, the Church’s battle against secularization and social irrelevance has been lost. What little faith remains is confined to private belief. These regions are some of the most devoid of spiritual life in the world and urgently need to be re-evangelized. Pray for a new wave of mission to post-Christian Europe, and for the re-awakening and revitalisation of the Christian faith. It may fall to the vibrant faith of African, Asian, and Latin American migrant churches to provide a new spiritual impetus to these regions.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.