Over the years we have been asked the question in the title of this blog many times. One of the primary targets of evangelism for World Link Ministries (WLM) is in western Europe.
I remember hearing about meetings with elders of churches and concerns being raised. "Why are you going to Italy?" or "Do we really need to go to Spain?" These questions are raised for two reasons: First, Spain, Italy, France and western Europe in general are spectacular places to visit.
There is no denying this. Many people believe that missions must be difficult, dirty, and true challenge. Many people think that if you haven't suffered physically then you haven't been on a mission trip. More on this later.
The second reason for the questions is because many people believe Spain and Italy and France and western Europe as a whole don't need the gospel. "Aren't there Catholic churches all over the place?" or "The pope lives in Italy doesn't he?" I am always surprised by the response I get when I explain that even though Spain is considered a Catholic country it is in desperate need of the gospel. I have been verbally attacked for making such a statement, but I assure you it is a true statement, nonetheless.There is more to this than meets the eye.
Perhaps both questions or challenges can be answered at the same time. The answer is the incredible need. Before we jump to crucifying catholicism, I prefer to begin asking, what is necessary for salvation? The Bible says that if you have faith that the Jesus the Son of God has died for your sins and that his sacrifice is the only sufficient payment for your sins, you will be saved. For the grace of God is what saves us.
If we can agree on that, then you would agree with me that most Spaniards I have encountered over my 21 years in Spain have not made professions of faith. I have shared the gospel with hundreds if not thousands of Spaniards and almost without exception, when I ask them why they think they are going to heaven (because they all believe they are) they respond that it is because they are a good person. Most don't even say it is because they go to church, in point of fact, most don't go to church. Less than 10% are practicing Catholics. But out of the 47 million people of Spain, according to the Operation World Mission Statistics book in 2013, only 1% of the population has made professions of faith.
The situation is not much better in Italy, in fact did you know that for every Roman Catholic priest there are three witchdoctors active in occult practices!
If this were not enough, when sharing the gospel in Spain, we run into problems very quickly because we are viewed by all as a cult. Our second issue is when we explain that Christ is the only way to have a relationship with God. Spaniards push back from this because in most cases, Mary is elevated above Christ.
The question soon becomes, "Is there any good reason why not to go?" "How can they believe in the One whom they have not heard?" Romans 10:14
The spiritual darkness that has covered the nations of Spain, Italy, France and many more is vast and and oppressive. The people in these countries largely resist the gospel and many times have never even heard it preached clearly. Most of the people don't even own a Bible much less read it. The need is clear as is the commission. Will you rise to the challenge of going where no other desires to go share the gospel?