Recently, I interviewed a Missional Pastor about his work in Paris France and on their experience of living in another culture. This Missional Pastors name I interviewed is Tim Meier who part of the C&MA (the denomination I am a part of). This is post deals with his answers to my questions about mission in Paris, it includes Tim’s answers and my commentary. (See Part one here: Missional Ministry in Paris and part 2 here: Missional Ministry in Paris (Part Deux))
My presentation of the gospel in France, and this will touch the answers to some of the later questions I’m sure, is primarily life on life. Since 98% of the population does not have a relationship with Christ, there is no framework for a “gospel presentation” or the notions of God, sin, or anything like that. It takes a very long time to earn the right to speak the gospel. The way I present the gospel is sort of a case by case situation (I guess how Jesus did) not based on needs, but based on the capacities to understand. So, with a friend who has never heard the story, it’s to start with the story of Jesus. For someone who believes that there is absolutely no God, it’s to start with creating the need for God. I have never presented the “bridge” or “four spiritual laws” or anything like that because they don’t make sense to people. The way to present the gospel is to present Jesus, his life, his ministry, his way to God, and then let Him begin to open their eyes. I have personally led a number of people into a place of commitment but each one looked very different and they all looked extremely different than any of my experiences in the States.
4. How effective has this presentation been so far?
The presentation has been effective I guess. It’s hard to define what “effective” means. Based on relationship people will hear you out no matter what because French people are relatively gracious when there is trust involved. But, without a supernatural work of God it’s impossible convince people of anything, especially those without any framework of God. That being said, we have seen a number of people decide to follow Christ with their lives and many more who are on the “way” so I would say it’s been effective to a degree.
5. What is the biggest barrier to the Gospel in French culture?
The biggest barrier to the gospel in France is an intellectual culture of doubt fueled by a history where the church did much evil in the name of God. France gave up on God about the same time that the US gave up on the monarchy. France was overthrowing their king, same as the US, but with the king came religious oppression and people threw out much of their belief at that point. God, in France, is currently paramount for many people, especially young people, to Santa Claus. Sure, you might tell the story to your children but at a certain age, if you’re still believing in Santa, there is something very wrong with you. So, this culture of skepticism, intellectualism, and a philosophy marked by evil done by the church is difficult to overcome and only true friendship and supernatural workings of the Spirit will break through that wall.
6. What is the biggest asset to the Gospel in French culture?
The biggest asset is actually tied to the biggest obstacle (which is probably true everywhere). Since people don’t have much of a framework for God, there is a freshness when telling the story of Jesus. And since intellectualism and art is valued, there are many different means of telling the story: film, music, art, etc. People are actually open to talking about belief and religion and faith because it’s intellectually interesting but the discussion is difficult to get to that “next level” without tons of time.