Planting Churches in “Post-Christian France”

Source: Baptist Press

International Mission Board church planter Michael Harrington and national pastor Glyn Hackett are pressing for greater missions engagement in what they are describing as “post-Christian” France.

For the past 12 years, Harrington has served as an IMB church planter in Strasbourg, France. He said France was once “in a sense, a Christian nation” dominated by Catholicism and home to some of the great Christian architectural wonders of the Middle Ages.

“Even though we have a rich history of Christianity, today, the cathedrals are empty. The Protestant churches that do exist tend to be barebones at best. And the evangelical churches that we see are, in fact, growing, but they are very small and scattered,” he said.

Pastor Glyn Hackett of Église Évangélique Baptiste de Strasbourg, France, agreed.

“France is still one of the most atheistic countries in the world,” Hackett said. “There is spiritual hunger, a thirst, and a lot of it has turned toward various forms of occultism.”

However, Hackett believes the French people are looking for “something much more personal and relational with God.”

The answer according to both men: We need more churches with effective evangelism programs. In Strasbourg for example, there is less than one evangelical church for every ten thousand.

“People need to see a localized expression of Christian faith, a vibrant expression of faith, in the local community,” Hackett said, adding that he believes this church-planting movement is best done in partnership with IMB missionaries he works closely with.

“I’m not a missionary,” Hackett said. “I was a teacher here, and then I became a pastor; I’m paid by the church. But the missionaries who come in, they bring in ideas and a freshness and a new look at things. And that helps to give things momentum.”

To help meet this need a church-planting training was designed by Conseil National des Évangéliques de France. The trainings offered in different regions of the country brings together pastors, missionaries, and most crucially French nationals to discuss how France can be transformed for Christ.

Currently, Harrington is leading a team of 12 from Église Évangélique Baptiste de Strasbourg through the program.

“Together with a handful of local pastors/leaders, we have a vision to see a church planted in every neighborhood of our city, as well as people being trained and sent to villages, other cities and other regions,” Harrington said.

The program is designed to take two years to complete and combines one full day of classroom learning per month, three weekend retreats per year, and monthly reading and practical assignments throughout.

“I think that effective church planting in France must come from the French people. I’m here because the French church requests and desires help from outside; desires a bit of a push in some areas. We’re able to provide that,” Harrington said.

“But no matter how long I live in France, no matter how much I study the French language, I will never be French. The French people will hear the Gospel most clearly, most convincingly from other French believers. We really do want to equip, work with, and really push to the forefront the French national believers here in the country.”

To support church planting in France, please visit France Church Planting Center.

Source: Baptist Press