Greece was the first European country to be evangelized (Acts 16:10), but Christianity is now mostly a cultural expression. Less than 3% of the population regularly attend church. Evangelical churches represent less than 0.5% of the population, including all non-Greek evangelicals. The Macedonian call to evangelize is just as valid today.
Greece's economic and social travails of the past few years have caused much uncertainty, upheaval and disruption. The massive deficit and debt, the crisis of the Euro and the threat of financial meltdown regardless of what actions are taken cause fingers of blame to point in all directions. Protests and riots are increasingly common and frequently violent. Regardless of how low the Greek economy had to sink until it hit rock-bottom, it has amounted to a genuine shaking of the nation's foundations. Pray that such shaking might drive the nation to cry out to God rather than to trust in the obviously flawed financial solutions offered by economists and politicians.
The Orthodox Church was a rallying point for Greece during the long Ottoman and then German occupations. Orthodoxy became a deep part of Greek identity and contributed to an attitude of xenophobia. Other expressions of Christianity are seen as a threat. Renewal within the Orthodox framework tends to mean anti-heresy movements and increased monasticism. Most Greeks are ignorant of the gospel message and are unreceptive to any non-Orthodox witness.
Religious minorities have in the past been persecuted by the Greek government and frowned upon socially by the majority. But in recent years things have improved, although discrimination occasionally occurs due to ignorance or fanaticism. While Muslims and Jews enjoy official recognition, Catholics and Protestants often face difficulties in getting the same recognition. In such cases, proselytism tends to be the stumbling block - any groups perceived as attempting to woo Greeks away from Orthodoxy will face opposition. Pray that such discrimination might end and, in turn, that evangelicals might see the effectiveness of working toward the re-evangelization of Greeks in appropriate ways and through the right channels.
Evangelism and discipleship remain the real needs in reaching Greece. Short-term ministries (AMG, Hellenic Ministries, OM, WEC and others) spread the gospel to many, but to have a lasting impact, a longer-term presence is needed. Pray that national churches might develop in the areas of prayer, outreach and church planting. The 2004 Olympics saw the awakening of greater vision for outreach and the completion of some excellent facilities for this purpose, such as the AMG Cosmovision Center. New, non-threatening forms of outreach are being developed that are more engaging and acceptable to a society wary of evangelism. Many of these involve community development service by young people, sports and activities; beyond the gospel being shared, the desired outcome is strengthened families and communities.
- Albanians number at least 500,000, many of whom are in Greece illegally. Involvement in smuggling and criminal activities results in stigmatization and high incarceration rates. Pray for Greeks and others to reach out in Christian love to this, Greece's largest ethnic minority.
- Immigrant communities. Many thousands of immigrants and asylum-seekers pour into Greece every year from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and other places. Much of Athens seems overwhelmed by migrants. After a long history of emigration, Greece must recognize that more than 10% of those in the country are foreigners - many from unevangelized nations. The fastest growing churches are the immigrant churches - Iranians, Russians, Romanians, Filipinos, Africans, Afghans, Iraqis and Pakistanis. Helping Hands (HH) is one ministry that combines compassion with evangelism; many refugees and immigrants have encountered the risen Lord through such outreach. Pray for more churches to get involved in this fruitful ministry. It is likely that more born-again immigrants than born-again Greeks are worshipping on a Sunday morning in Athens!
The large Greek diaspora totals nearly 7 million of Greek background in 108 countries: USA 3.0 million; Australia 800,000; Germany 400,000; Canada 220,000; Britain 200,000; South Africa 120,000; Russia 100,000. It is both an opportunity for evangelism (especially through the many evangelical Greek churches in USA, Australia, Canada and others) and a good source of Christian workers for Greece itself.
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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.