The House Church, the Hope for Europe?

I led a seminar at Raynes Park Korean Church in London last week for pastors and missionaries ministering in Europe. 150 pastors, missionaries, and their spouses attended, some coming from as far as Africa and the Middle East. The topic of the seminar was the House Church.

I had read that churches in Europe are declining but didn’t realize the seriousness of the problem until this trip. The major historically Christian European nations – Germany, France, Netherlands, and United Kingdom – are no longer Christian. According to a recent poll, only 5% of British people attend Sunday services more than once a month. One English pastor who was knowledgable about the matter said that the number of committed Christians is probably less than 2% of the total population, most of them elderly people.

One Korean pastor I met at the seminar said that he was pastoring 3 Anglican churches simultaneously, and the average age of his members was 75. The church with the youngest members averaged 60 years in age.

As the number of Christians in Europe dwindles, many church buildings are becoming vacant and must be put up for sale. Most denominational meetings are occupied with discussions concerning which church buildings to sell and what to do with the proceeds.

A large wave of immigration is rapidly turning European nations into Muslim countries. Most of the immigrants are Muslims with large families and high birthrates. They are supported by oil-rich Middle Eastern countries and are buying empty church buildings.

Most church buildings in Europe are historical relics that cannot be remodeled or destroyed. So many repurposed buildings look like regular churches on the outside, with crosses and stained glass windows, but on the inside are used as galleries, apartments, or restaurants. Sadly, some of them are used as Muslim or Hindu temples. William Carey Memorial Church, named for the first Baptist foreign missionary from England, was sold to Hindus and is now used as a Hindu temple with a large idol occupying the center of the pulpit, where God’s word used to be preached.

What a sad state of affairs for a country that has produced many Christian giants, including C.S. Lewis, the greatest influence in making me who I am today. Will Korean churches be like this in 30 to 40 years? I wonder.

I was deeply discouraged, but found a little encouragement at the end of the seminar when many pastors and missionaries said that House Churches, because they are the New Testament church, may be the answer for revival in declining European churches.

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