The Unwise

On the morning of Sunday 6 February 2005, the authorities interrupted services at four different evangelical churches in the Montreuil district of Paris and, for no legitimate reason, turned out two of the congregations. The sociologist Jean Bauberot, a professor at I'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, protested along with others. "This is all the more worrying," said Bauberot, "in that it is not an isolated incident. We find ourselves as it were back in the 19th century, when certain forms of worship were recognised and others not. There were then the Wise Protestants and the Unwise ones; the latter being, even then, the Evangelicals."
Then, on 17 December 2006, French Television broadcast Proselytizing from Cults. The programme was filled with inaccuracies, which revealed the reporter’s ignorance and presented evangelical churches as "a sectarian movement". It is within this cultural context that we seek to take the gospel to the 700,000 Jews of France, the third largest Jewish community in the world. What difficulties do we face?

First of all, we encounter the common misconception that when a Jewish person becomes a disciple of Messiah Jesus they betray their ancestry, their roots and their family.

Secondly, there are difficulties linked to the Shoah. During the Second World War, the French authorities handed thousands of Jews over to the Nazis – 76,000 were deported.

Thirdly, most non-observant Jews in France do not wish to be openly identified as Jewish people. This creates a great problem because, except for in those few areas where fairly large numbers of observant Jews live, you can never be entirely sure whether anyone you talk to is Jewish or not. It is important, therefore, that in our evangelism we sow widely in the hope that by so doing we will reach Jewish people with the gospel.

Fourthly, we have to overcome the traditional biblical and theological differences between Judaism and Christianity. In my discussions, particularly with observant Jews, I am increasingly struck by the general tendency on their part to deny the radical reality of sin as it is revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures and received in evangelical Protestantism.

Fifthly, there are the difficulties in connection with postmodernism. Nowadays, in general, it is increasingly difficult to speak of the uniqueness of Jesus as the one and only way of salvation. This is true also in relation to the various currents within present day Judaism, which tend to be universalistic and, in some cases, syncretistic.

Finally, in the opinion of Jacques Guggenheim, the Sephardic mentality is one of the greatest barriers to Jewish evangelism in France. Sephardic ways of thinking tend to make people very open to New-Age ideas and Eastern mysticism.

Having said all that, some affinities do exist between the Jewish and Protestant communities in France, not least because they have a common history of persecution. For instance, until the First World War, the anti-Semitic press was also anti-Protestant. Cartoons in the media portrayed Protestant pastors with ropes round their necks and boards showing the accusations: "Outsider ", "Traitor" or "Jew”.

During the infamous Dreyfuss Case (1894-1906) French Protestants expressed solidarity with the Jewish community and, in the Second World War, the Protestant population of Chambon-sur-Lignon saved the lives of 5,000 Jews. These events give evangelicals a kind of privileged position which is an asset for promoting the gospel. That is why I think it is important for me to be more and more involved in associations such as the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LlCRA), and to continue developing contacts with other Jewish organisations. My participation in historical, artistic, cultural and intellectual events gives me the opportunity to show solidarity with the Jewish people. It is a form of Christian love for one's neighbour and I could give many examples of how these expressions of support have opened doors for contact with others within the Jewish community.

Jean-Paul Rempp
LCJE’s European Co-ordinator

This article is an edited version of a paper presented at the LCJE International Conference, 2007. The full text can be found at
This article first appeared in the Winter 2007 edition of the Herald

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