Why go to a place like Europe, especially Geneva, where evidences of Christianity appear everywhere?
The history of the city tells the story of the need for God’s ongoing work, as well as the optimism we can have that God can intervene even when the spiritual outlook looks bleak.
In the Middle Ages Geneva thrived as a strategic city, located near major crossroads and housing more inns per capita than anywhere in Europe. Over time, conditions declined. Drunkenness and prostitution were common, the church grew corrupt, there was little awareness of spiritual things. It seemed obvious “Christianity” has run it’s course in Geneva.
Then change came. First William Farel and then John Calvin made history by calling for reform, and amid turbulent pushback, the church recovered the gospel. For the city, it was a new day. If you go to the Wall of Reformers near the university, that is what you will see inscribed in Latin on the wall: “Post Tenebras Lux” (“After Darkness Light.”)
By the early 1800s much of the city had lost interest. In 1815, Robert Haldane, a Scottish minister came to Geneva in hopes of assessing the condition of churches in continental Europe. He met with several theology students from the university. He was surprised that the pastoral students, thick in their Biblical studies, did not know the gospel. Moved, Haldane started a Bible study in a nearby apartment, carefully working through the letter of Romans. God worked with power. At the end of the study, each student was converted, and had a passion to spread the Good New. They became instrumental in a revival that spread throughout the entire region (and called Le Réveil to this day).
By the 1900s, there was a new loss of interest. In 1906 Hugh Alexander, another Scottish pastor, came to the city, familiar with the area because he had vacationed nearby as a child. Surprised at the lack of interest in spiritual things, he launched a number of evangelistic campaigns throughout the area. Again, God worked with power. Thousands of people came to hear him preach, many were converted, and the church movement “Bible Action” was founded, planting churches throughout the region in France and Switzerland.
God is free to work with power, and often does so when the outlook looks bad. The city of Geneva tells the story of what we long to see God do all over Europe. Today, the spiritual needs in France are great. Less than 7% of the population attends any kind of church, and around 1% are connected with an evangelical church. While many good things are happening, there is still so much spiritual darkness.
God, how about another powerful work now?
More information about TCC’s partnership with David at www.gospelabroad.com