Much of Europe, and in particular, Germany, is now what is commonly referred to as post-Christian. This means that Christianity is no longer the majority or predominant religion within a given culture. And the Church across Europe is losing members at an alarming rate.
In Germany, the statistics for secularization are bleak.
- Since 1950, when Pew Research Center started tracking that data, the percentage of the population that once self-identified as Protestant has gone from 59% to 30%, a 49% decrease.
- Catholics, once representing 37% of the population, now account for roughly 30%, a 19% decrease over the past 70 years.
- Most disconcerting is that the religiously unaffiliated—or religious nones, as they are commonly called—rose from 4% of the population to 29%, a 625% gain.
Though these trends are most pronounced in Germany, other countries are experiencing similar phenomena. For example, Poland, though a very different country religiously than Germany, is experiencing seismic shifts among its citizens, alluding to an incoming wave of post-Christian culture. One set of researchers found that since the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s participation in religious practices has reduced by threefold. Further, based on the conclusion of their research, 57% of Polish people no longer attend church after COVID-19, up 147% since 2020.
When I was training across the Polish countryside, I asked an individual why there were fewer people attending in his country church now. His answer: As Poland’s current political party rose to power, they intertwined themselves with the church in Poland, and now the church too closely resembles the current political state. Though anecdotal, I believe my new friend might have put his finger on that which afflicts much of Europe, and increasingly, the United States; the Church has become something the Church is not meant to be. Rather than seek reform of a Church that has confused political power with the actual power of the gospel, hordes of people are walking away from the faith.
3 ways Christians can respond
It can be difficult to offer a practical solution to a situation that requires nothing short of prayerful revival and reformation. To only compound the problem, most of us are thousands of miles away from Europe. However, there are three practical ways Christians can address a post-Christian Europe, followed by a turn toward addressing the post-Christianization of America.
1. Support the IMB
The International Mission Board (IMB) strategically places and supports missionaries across the world in order to share the gospel and work to plant healthy and gospel-focused churches in spiritually dry communities. Support for the IMB takes multiple shapes, two of which are prayer and money. By using the prayer resources the IMB provides, leading yourself, your family, community group, or church through the materials can be a great way to partner with missionaries across the globe.
When you tithe to your local Southern Baptist church, a portion of those tithes go directly to supporting the work of the IMB through the Cooperative Program. Additionally, initiatives such as the Lottie Moon Offering raise direct and concentrated support for missionaries spreading the gospel among the nations.
2. Faithfully participate in the life of your local church
Participating fully in the life of the local church is one the best ways to maintain the health of a church within a community. Not only are Christians commanded to participate in a church community (Heb. 10:24-25), but doing so gives Christians opportunities for gospel-centered work through engaging in local contexts.
3. Maintain an awareness of when the Church has assumed too much of culture
Writing about the role of missions and evangelism, one theologian argues, “the most creative social strategy we have to offer is the church. Here we show the world a manner of life the world can never achieve through social coercion or governmental action. We serve the world by showing it something that it is not, namely, a place where God is forming a family out of strangers.”
Yet, we too often forsake the distinctiveness of the gospel and the nature of the Church for the comfort and misnomer of relevance. By maintaining the call for a Christian distinctive, the Church is allowed to function as it should: an outpost of the Kingdom of God and a place where the divine economy is sustained by the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).
Maintaining this awareness is easier said than done. It requires regular consumption of Scripture, both in personal and communal settings, personal and communal prayer, sustenance by the Spirit, and an outflow of the fruit of the Spirit. There is no clear formula for how this should be achieved, but it should be done under the leadership of a local church pastor.
Germany is not an outlier of where modern culture is headed; the data gathered by researchers of religion bears that out. The Christian Church is not to respond in fear and attempt to preserve its power, but it is to respond in love and graciousness, recommitting herself to the tenets of Christ’s teaching and the truth of his crucifixion and resurrection. By supporting our missionaries, participating in the local church, and allowing the Church to be the Church, the Church will still be a strong, faithful witness of the triumphal and resurrected Christ.