Home Voices The Exchange The Church and Mission in Europe Today: Changing the Narrative

The Church and Mission in Europe Today: Changing the Narrative

2. Diaspora Churches

We are living in the age of World Christianity. The center of gravity of the world church has shifted from Europe to the Majority World. Yet, as missionary historian Andrew Walls observed, “the movement of Christianity is one of serial, not progressive expansion;” of gradual decline in its heartlands but rapid growth at the periphery. As Europe once again finds itself “on the periphery,” rather than nostalgia for a mythical Christian past, we should be filled with expectation for through migration the Spirit of God has drawn millions of Majority World Christians to Europe from Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

Over the last thirty years, Latin American migrants have planted hundreds, thousands of churches in Spain, Portugal and beyond. African-initiated Pentecostal churches number in the thousands in Britain alone. And Asian Christians have been no less industrious. There are more Chinese Evangelical Churches in Italy (31) than the total number of Evangelical Churches in the neighboring country of Slovenia.

3. Next Generation

Amazing things are happening amongst Europe’s youth and again, I point you to the Europe 2021 report to read more about that, so that I talk more broadly about Europe’s future.

What will Europe look like in 2050, when those who are born today are in their early adulthood? Well the demographics of Europe’s tomorrow are already pretty certain, because birthrates across Europe over the last twenty five years have collapsed. Some Mediterranean countries now have rates that are among the lowest in the world—Total Fertility Rates 2022: Malta 1.08, Spain 1.16, Albania 1.21, Italy 1.24, Poland 1.29 (Source: Eurostat 2022)

Low birthrates are combined with a second demographic reality: a substantially larger older generation. Europe’s Old Age Dependency Ratio, the number of people aged 65+ per 100 people of working age, is expected to rise from around 30 in 2015 to between 50 and 60, and in the case of Italy and Spain, to between 70 and 80, by 2050 (Source: Eurostat 2021). In other words, for every five working people in Spain in 2050 there will be four pensioners.  

Last week, I sat down in church next to an elderly man I hadn’t seen before. Tony is a widower. His wife died just 18 months ago. He told his children he didn’t want to be a burden and he was very happy to go to an old people’s home. Tony used to be a Baptist minister, and now in the old people’s home, he has a queue of people waiting to visit him. The door to his room is always open and spiritually needy old people are seeking him out. “I have never had such a fruitful time in my ministry as I do now”, he said.  Tony is 85 years old.

In tomorrow’s Europe there will be more needy old people than in all its history. Lonely people, people who have lost hope, people living with fear, people who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. What an opportunity God has set before us.  

God has not given up on Europe. It may be out of the spotlight but church planting is accelerating, diaspora churches are everywhere, and in the next generation, young and old will have unprecedented gospel opportunity.

And we know how the story ends: with every nation of Europe represented before the throne. So let’s change the story we are telling about the state of mission in Europe. Let’s stop talking about Europe being post-Christian. Europe is not post-Christian. It is pre-revival.