Europe was not on the Apostle Paul’s itinerary on his second missionary journey.
He was on his way to preach in parts of modern-day Turkey before the Holy Spirit changed his plans, taking him to the coastal city of Troas. There God gave Paul a vision of a man from Macedonia who pleaded for Paul to “come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9).
From where Paul stood, Macedonia was the doorstep of Europe. Though he had no way of knowing it, when he obediently crossed the Aegean Sea from Asia to Europe, he was setting the course of what we call Western civilization.
The next Sunday Paul was in Philippi, a major city named for the father of Alexander the Great, where there evidently was not even a decent house of worship. Paul went down by the river, seeking a place where he might find people praying. That’s where he met a woman named Lydia. “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14, NIV). From there, the Church in Europe was born, and Paul took the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ westward to Rome and perhaps even to Spain.
For many centuries, Europe was the bastion of Christianity, which endured even in the face of intense persecution and martyrdom of men like William Tyndale. The Reformation was birthed in the heart of the European continent, led by men like Martin Luther. In England, great preachers like Wesley and Spurgeon powerfully and faithfully preached Christ.
However, as the Gospel spread to the Americas, Africa and Asia, it faded from the hearts of generations of Europeans. Even though many still call themselves Christian–primarily due to membership in a state church–less than three percent of Europeans are evangelicals, believing in the atoning death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Today Europe is suffering from the effects of being a post-Christian society. Great cathedrals have become little more than tourist attractions. Evangelicals are often seen as a cult. Islam is a growing power and threat across the continent, and Christians face stiff challenges sharing their faith in a culture hostile to followers of Christ.
However, I don’t believe Europe is a lost cause. Twice in the last 20 years we have conducted massive evangelism conferences in Amsterdam, training tens of thousands of evangelists from around the world to proclaim Christ. There are still strongholds for the Gospel in the British Isles and Germany. These are also the homes of the European offices of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
I recently met with leaders from our offices in these countries, and we are trusting God to lead us as we seek to proclaim the saving Gospel of Christ across Europe. I believe that if we preach Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) the Lord will awaken spiritually dead souls with His resurrection life.
This is a cause for prayer. In recent years, God has given some exciting new tools for ministry, from the My Hope World Television project to the Dare to Be a Daniel youth evangelism outreach, that we believe the Lord can use.
We will also continue to hold Crusades in Europe, including one this year in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and another we are planning for Northern Ireland in 2008. God has not forgotten Europe, and we want to faithfully proclaim Christ across the continent since we know that He is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).