THE MOST OPEN REGION TO THE GOSPEL IN EUROPE RIGHT NOW IS THE REGION AROUND ODESSA IN THE UKRAINE. That is part of the bottom line of the ‘ESE’ (European Spiritual Estimate) study to have been released last week. If you visited the website mentioned in last week’s WW (http://emrg.friderich.net), you will have read that the full report release has been delayed to March 6.
However there is enough information already on the site for initial findings. It’s been clear that there has been a great gap between official figures on Christianity in Europe and grass roots realities. Superficial readings of figures say from the World Christian Encyclopedia have led to straight out silly headlines such as one in a Dutch Christian paper, that Europe was still the most Christian continent, with 537 million Christians.
The difficulty has been in finding some reliable reading of ‘Christianness’ other than official church membership, which fails on two scores. One, as we noted last week, church membership in many parts of Europe has much more to do with culture than with active faith. Two, increasing numbers of active believers do not show up on the radar screens of official membership statistics.
So how has the European Mission Research Group (emRG) approached this differently? Their basic assumption, called the ‘wisdom of crowds’ approach, has been that a survey conducted among a large number of contacts on the ground will yield a more accurate picture than compiling the insights of a small number of experts. So, from August to December last year, the following questions were sent to contacts in virtually every European country:
· If you were to have a conversation with 1000 random people in this geography, how many of these people would you estimate would indicate that they are Christians (including Roman Catholic, Orthodox, house church, organic church, etc.)?
· If you were to have a conversation with 1000 random people in this geography, how many of these people would you estimate would indicate that they follow Jesus Christ and are actively concerned about the people in their community and their relationship with Jesus Christ?
· If you were to give a clear, one-on-one, relevant presentation of the gospel to 1000 random people who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ in this geography, how many of these people would you estimate would profess faith in Jesus Christ AND join a fellowship of believers?
· How would you estimate the growth of these active churches in this geography?
· How many churches would you estimate are in this region? Please include any gathering that claims to worship Jesus Christ including Roman Catholic, Orthodox, house church, organic church, etc.
· How many of the churches mentioned in the previous question would you estimate are actively concerned about the people in their community and their relationship with Jesus Christ?
Chief author of the report, Scott Friderich, lists a few initial findings, including:
· Northwest Ukraine is estimated to be the most culturally “Christian” region of Europe.
· Kosova is estimated to be the region with the least number of Gospel Oriented Christians and also the least open to the Gospel.
· 4.1% of overall Europe population are estimated to be Gospel Oriented Christians (independently from confessions and denominations).
· Europe has an estimated 36378 Gospel Oriented churches with 117 new church plants total in 2005, i.e. only one such church for every 20,000 Europeans!
Obviously we have much work to do in digesting this information.
And then acting on it!
Till next week,