In December, the French cabinet gave its backing to a bill "supporting Republican principles". Although clearly aimed at tackling radical Islamists after various terrorist incidents, the bill is worded more generally in ways that have raised significant concerns over religious freedom, especially for French protestants. Please pray for various representative organisations such as the National Council of French Evangelicals and the French Protestant Federation as they continue to warn of the dangers in the bill and seek to engage MPs. The bill is likely to be debated in the French National Assembly in February.
At the time of writing, the outcome of Brexit negotiations is still unclear. It's hard to see how a "no deal" scenario would be good news for any organisation involved in supporting Christian mission in France (or, indeed, Europe more broadly). Please pray that, whatever the final political outcome, the Lord will grant wisdom, creativity, perseverance, and faith to all those seeking to share the Good News of Jesus in France and throughout the European Union.
The French government has signalled its intention to ban all home-schooling from 2021 except for medical reasons. Christian groups in France are arguing that this contravenes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Christian faith schools are also concerned that, for reasons of "equality", they will be swept up in measures aimed primarily at "separatist" groups. The parliamentary vote will be on 6th December. Please pray for a just and proportionate outcome.
France is currently facing a significant increase in the number of new Covid-19 cases, especially among young people. Please pray for all those trying to contain the spread of the virus and limit its impact. Please also pray for the witness of French churches as they seek to maintain a biblically-faithful, socially-responsible witness to the Lord who alone is mighty to save.
Many from this distinct Arab group live in Europe and the USA. In these nations, they have access to churches and the full Bible in their language, yet they remain unreached. Pray that the Lord will call more Christians to share Jesus’ love with Moroccan Arabs, so that their lives will be transformed and the good news will spread to their friends and families across northern Africa.
The Shawiya Berber people are found in six countries across the world: Algeria, Morocco and some countries in Europe. They mainly live in Algeria, their primary religion is Islam, and ther language is called Tachawit. Pray for Christians in Europe to seek to reach the Shawiya, as it is difficult to do so in other countries. Pray that the Holy Spirit will work in many hearts to reveal who Christ is, and that wherever they are, these people will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and respond in faith.
France may not be considered an unreached country, given its history. Originally Catholic, the number of French citizens calling themselves ‘Christian’ is in constant decline, although still a ‘nominal majority’. Only about 2% of French people identify as Evangelical Christians and although most of them know of Jesus and the Bible, very few would actually know the message of the good news and salvation in Christ; even less would have ever opened the Bible. Islam is increasing very fast and atheism is considered France’s ‘second religion’. Pray that Christians would return to the true message of the Bible and pray for born-again believers to become active in planting churches and reflecting their Lord and Saviour.
Please pray for the ongoing and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on France. The country has been hard hit and there will certainly be significant challenges ahead, even once the worst of the pandemic is over. Please pray particularly for the reputation of evangelical churches in France: a significant number of the initial cases of COVID-19 were traced back to a large evangelical gathering that took place in the French city of Mulhouse (near the border with Switzerland and Germany) in February before any restrictions were announced by the French authorities. Pastors and church members have subsequently been unfairly stigmatised in the press and even subjected to threats (including death threats). Ask the Lord to supply his peace and protection.
A worker based in France with European Christian Mission (ECM) has been using creative Bible formats to reach young people with the scriptures: “Please pray my Buddhist friend's children find Jesus as they explore the Bible. At Christmas, we gave the teenager a real Bible and the little brother the Manga* gospels. Now they've checked out more Manga Bible books from the school library!” *Manga is a style of cartoon.
Please pray for the impact of the Semaine universelle de prière (Universal Week of Prayer) in France from 12th-19th January. This is a regular annual event organised by the European Evangelical Alliance. Praying is the best way to express to God our true dependence. Without his help and without his grace, the best intentions, those which sometimes animate us at the beginning of the new year, are doomed to failure. Let us bring to the Lord our plans and our aspirations.
The 18th-19th November sees the major annual gathering of evangelicals in France at an event called the Centre Evangélique. The theme for this year's gathering is ‘Living out the Gospel in a Connected Society’. Please pray for fruitful conversations and mutual encouragement and envisioning for the many hundreds of church leaders who will attend.
France has more international tourist arrivals (86.9 million) than any other country in the world. Pray for French churches as they welcome international visitors this summer. Pray also for Christian holiday centres in France as they welcome people in the peak months of July and August. Guests will be a mixture of Christians and not-yet believers.
The ongoing ‘yellow vest’* movement has been revealing significant discontent among the French population since it started in November 2018. Please pray for all those seeking to find appropriate solutions and especially for Christians as they take opportunities to explain and exemplify "the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18). *(The ‘yellow vests’ movement is a populist political movement for economic justice.)
Anti-Semitism across France is on the rise. Many Jewish people live in fear of attack and are becoming increasingly marginalised. Last year, following a series of high-profile attacks on Jewish people, a Jewish deputy mayor of one of France’s largest cities stated that ‘the future of the Jewish people in France is hopeless’. However, at Christian Witness to Israel we believe that there is hope for Jewish people in France, home to Europe’s largest Jewish community. Following a large outreach last year, contacts within Paris’ Jewish community were established and our missionary based in Paris has seen some of his Jewish contacts profess faith in Jesus and join believing congregations. Please pray for Jewish people living in Paris as our missionary shares the hope of Jesus with them.
There are approximately 500,000 Jewish people in France and over half of that number live in Paris. Against the backdrop of multiple terrorist attacks and rising anti-Semitism, many Jewish people are leaving France and those who remain are becoming increasingly marginalised. Our missionary based in Paris shares the love of Messiah with French Jewish people on the streets of Paris and by visiting them in their homes and hospitals for bible studies. Please pray that through our witness many French Jewish people will come to know the hope that can only be found in Jesus for themselves.
Although less than 1% of the population of France are considered to be evangelical believers this figure is growing and a new evangelical church is founded every 10 days. Yet there may be as many as 250 towns of over 10,000 people that has no evangelical church. Pray that God will be pleased to bless the vision of the National Council of Evangelicals in France (CNEF) whose goal is to have one church for every 10,000 of the population.
In reaction to the recent terror attacks, the people of France do their best to move on with a sense of normality. However, there remains a distinct sense of fear amongst French communities. As people worry, they look for someone to blame, so there is concern that the Muslim community will be pointed at and labelled extreme Islamists. Pray for workers in French communities to use this opportunity to communicate the gospel. Pray that spirits will not be paralysed with fear, but that they will be set free. Pray for wisdom for authorities as they have to make tough decisions regarding refugees and safety for citizens.
In the experience of Etienne Lhermenault, President of the National Council of French Evangelicals, the commitment and effort to encourage church planting in France is stronger today than it has ever been. The total number of evangelicals has multiplied by a factor of nine over the past 60 years but they still represent only 0.73% of the French population. Pray for the success of what is a fresh and coordinated effort to plant new congregations.
Millions of people from Northern and Western Africa have migrated to France in recent years. Some progressively migrate as communities (men coming first, women following), and the African town may replicate itself on French soil. In other cases, individuals migrate and find themselves in mixed communities of African migrants. For them, tribal identity may be replaced by a strengthened allegiance to Islam. Pray for all of these to have loving witnesses of "Isa al Masih"- Jesus the Messiah, and inclusive fellowships which can become new families to them.
In 1994, Aline fled the genocide in Rwanda with her mother and came to France. About two years ago Aline realised that she needed God and, seeing a sign in the street, she decided to take the risk of walking through the front doors of Nantes Baptist Church. Aline was touched by the love and acceptance that she experienced from the church members, despite there being good reasons for potentially keeping her at arms’ length. In due course Aline gave her life to Christ. The Evangelical church in France is one tenth the size of that in the UK and there are more occult practitioners than pastors. Thank God for the faithful and patient work of church planters in France and pray that their ministry would continue to bear fruit.
Although it once had a strong Protestant witness, France is now known for its philosophical rejection of Biblical revelation and, as a result, is a thoroughly secularised and materialistic country. Spiritual work in France is very slow and there has been no real breakthrough. It would be fair to say that France is the largest western nation that has not felt the power of the gospel. You might even say it is the largest ‘unreached’ western nation, since there are large tracts of land and many cities with no evangelical witness. The spiritual ground is hard and unyielding and will only respond to patient evangelism and prayer.
France is a proud nation, giving the impression of self-sufficiency. Raised on philosophical and secular thought, many French people seem to have an inherent suspicion of the gospel. Despite this, there has been a steady, though slow, growth in the Church and new churches have been planted which now have a good number of young people as members.
Population: 66,991,000 (2017)
Official languages: French
GDP (PPP) per capita: $43,652 (2017 est.)
Life expectancy: 81 years
Religions: 51% Catholic, 37% Agnostic or Atheist, 4% Muslim, 3% Protestant, 1% Buddhist, 1% Jewish, 3% other religions