Look on the Fields: France and Belgium

In the 18th century, when England was experiencing a revival under the preaching of John Wesley, France was going through a revolution. Both events changed the face of the two countries, one for the better and the other for the worse.

As a result of the French revolution, the country officially adopted an atheistic attitude, banning any reference to God in public life. Politicians speak of republican values, not in the sense understood perhaps in the United States, but where morality is based on strictly humanistic considerations. The Bible is not taught in schools which means that there is widespread ignorance of not just the gospel, but even Who the Lord Jesus is.

Islam is a growing force with its accompanying problems and dangers. About 10% of the population is Moslem since Morocco and Algeria were French colonies. Thus, these populations had free entry into France. The cults are very active and again, like many countries, the majority of evangelical churches are Pentecostal or charismatic.

The recovery of assembly truth over a century ago through the teaching of Darby, MacIntosh, Kelly, and others was seen in France and Switzerland when many came out of the official Protestant churches to gather to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In France today there would be over 100 assemblies still in existence but, sadly, they are influenced by the exclusive teachings of Darby. They retain his views on baptism and reject the truth of the autonomy of the local assembly. There are as many assemblies as well which trace their origins to what they term the “Brethren movement,” but that have pursued a position that has opened the door to unscriptural practices in relation to role of the sister in the assembly, association with the denominations, and the appointing of pastors.

This means that any exercised to maintain simple New Testament assembly principles tread a very lonely path. Nevertheless, it is a cause for rejoicing that, despite all this, the gospel is still being preached and God is still saving souls.

We live in the south of France near the town of Perpignan at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains. Over the years, we have seen some fruit in the gospel despite the difficulties. We enjoy every liberty in the gospel and have been unhindered in different outreaches, through tent work, open-air preaching, preaching in hired halls, Bible stands on markets, and tract distribution. But it must be said that we suffer from our isolated situation. The nearest assembly with whom we are in fellowship is in Cannes, a five-hour drive from here.

Belgium is a small country of some eleven million souls. It is a country linguistically divided: the north is Flemish, in other words, Dutch speaking, while in the south, French is the official language. I have had meetings both for ministry and the gospel over the years, and at present, I regularly visit four or five assemblies in the country. They are all small and get little help. Two years ago, I was at a conference in Mechelen, north of Brussels. In the past, they would have a good number attending from Holland but numbers were down and only 26 believers were present.

The above is not to be pessimistic but to help readers to understand the particular situation which is common in Western Europe. During the summer months we have enjoyed help from visiting saints from Britain and many have been a great help in the gospel and in the distribution of tracts and gospel texts.