The Paris massacre continues to dominate world news. CNN is reporting this morning that the suspected ringleader in the attacks has been killed. Lawmakers in France have approved a plan to extend by three months the state of emergency declared the night of the attacks. And China has now pledged to cooperate with the international community in fighting ISIS. Clearly, a global alliance will be needed to defeat this global threat.
But as this morning’s New York Times notes, such an alliance against ISIS “may be easier said than done.” For instance, the U.S. and Russia remain deeply divided over a host of issues, including Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Whether the powers can work together in a meaningful way remains to be seen.
But what politicians cannot do, the Spirit of God can.
Yesterday it was my privilege to speak with Jean-Paul Rempp, an evangelical pastor in Lyon, France. His church is the only evangelical congregation in the center of the second-largest city in France. He also serves as International Deputy Director for Europe with the Lausanne Movement, the largest network of evangelicals in the world.
I asked Rev. Rempp for his reflections on the Paris massacre. He began by noting, “The situation is not easy in France. Before the killings, people were already desperate in a general way. Now they are more desperate.” In response, Rev. Rempp notes, “We are more convinced that we have to preach the gospel, because only the gospel can change human hearts.”
However, evangelism in France is difficult. Rev. Rempp explains: “Our French society is very much secularized. This is a big problem in France because we have difficulty expressing evangelical faith in the public space.” Those who share their faith publicly are often viewed as a cult. Churches cannot meet in schools and have difficulty obtaining property for their ministries.
But God is not defeated by human challenges. In response to growing opposition to public faith, evangelicals in France have become more united so they can speak with a single voice to the authorities and the media. Seven years ago a national evangelical platform called Conseil National des Evangéliques de France (CNEF) was created after pastors asked forgiveness from each other and began meeting for prayer and worship.
Their unity is leading to remarkable results. Next April and May, all evangelical churches and ministries in Lyon will work together for a three-week evangelical outreach to the city. Their initiative, “A Heart for Lyon,” will be a model for France. The unity of God’s people in France, years in the making, is vital to their ministry in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.
God is on the move in France. Rev. Rempp told me that a new evangelical church is created there every ten days. The greatest growth rate for the Kingdom in Europe is now occurring in France. CNEF’s vision is to create an evangelical church in every city with 10,000 inhabitants. Rev. Rempp noted, “This is totally impossible, humanly speaking. But this is our vision.” And God’s.
Our Father redeems all he allows: “For those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Rev. Rempp told me, “we are praying that what is happening in France will be used in the providence of God, in his sovereignty to open the hearts of the people to the gospel.”
Will you join them today?