About four-fifths the size of Texas, France has a fascinating variety of landscapes from snow-capped mountains to sandy Mediterranean beaches. Heirs to centuries of worldwide influence in the arts, philosophy, literature, cuisine, and fashion, the modern-day French are characterized by atheism, skepticism, materialism, and the pursuit of pleasure.
Although France had a sizeable Protestant population in the 17th century, persecutions chased most of these Bible-believing people into neighboring countries more sympathetic to the Protestant Reformation. France has not had a significant evangelical population since that time. It is estimated that there are not more than 600,000 born-again Christians in all of France. A growing rejection of the Catholic religion as well as an ever-increasing secularism help explain the fact that today 32 percent of the French declare themselves to be nonreligious. Other major religions include Islam (8.8 percent) and Judaism (0.7 percent).
When our first missionaries in Europe were forced to leave Czechoslovakia in 1948 because of the Communist takeover, they went to France. Immediately they were challenged by the tremendous spiritual poverty, especially in the cities. They began work in Bordeaux. This church has now been used of God to start daughter churches in the suburbs of Bordeaux.
Over the years, other works were begun in other cities in France. Missionaries used a wide variety of methods to proclaim the Truth, including literature distribution, children's clubs, internet programs, Bible bookstands, gospel media presentations, camping ministries, Bible conferences, English as a second language, and outreaches to university students.
The Pastoral Baptist Bible Institute was begun in 1978. The program includes a three-year biblical studies course with a one-year internship as well as a one-year Bible course.
Sister Baptist churches in France, planted by both Baptist Mid-Missions and Evangelical Baptist Missions, established a mission agency for their own outreach efforts in 1986. "Missionary Action of Independent Baptist Churches" (AMEBI) has sent French missionaries into home missions efforts, including Arab, Jewish, and Basque populations as well as into other European and North African countries.
Among skeptical people indifferent to spiritual values, a Baptist church of 100 members is considered large. Establishing a church is an ongoing work involving several years. Those considering missionary service in France must be sound in doctrine, patient, and emotionally strong to minister effectively to this rationalistic and resistant population. Ministering in a team setting is important.
With many current missionaries aging and retiring, new workers are needed to reach out to the diverse populations living in this country.
Our missionaries offer a short-term experience for students of college age that gives hands-on experience in the day-to-day workings of church planting in France. This summer group trip teaches students about the French and their culture and why France is one of today’s most neglected mission fields. Students will leave with a clearer understanding of how God can use their individual gifts in a cross-cultural situation. To learn more about Focus on France, click here.