Religion is viewed as something negative. In fact, French people have been ‘disgusted’ by Roman Catholic dominance for centuries and democracy was seen as liberation from the Roman Catholic church. So religion is tolerated, but evangelicals live in a secular society where religion is considered to be a ‘private’ affair (the principle of laïcité) and evangelism is therefore frowned upon by local authorities.
The occult, however, is rampant in France. Statistics show that mediums, faith healers and fortune-tellers earn as much money as medical doctors. There are more registered occult workers in France than pastors (over 30,000 registered Mediums and Spiritual Healers).
About half of the French population believe in faith healing, with one quarter putting their faith in clairvoyants or astrology. An estimated 10 million people pay around $40 billion for occult consultations, three times the amount paid to their family doctors.
The average size of a French evangelical church is now around 50 in the big cities. In the region where we live, most churches are have between 10-40 people. Many churches today face discrimination when they seek larger space to house their congregations because the owners do not want to rent to the churches for fear of noise, public image and being seen as fanatics.
There are 36,551 cites/towns/villages in France. The vast majority of them (35,000) are without an Evangelical church. This number is best interpreted in light of the statistics above since France has many thousands of small villages that are still considered communes but whose inhabitants are accustomed to frequenting nearby towns to do routine activities (and who would not need a church in their own village but could go to a larger town’s church). There are still over 300 towns with at least 10,000 inhabitants that have no existing Evangelical church.
Although French evangelicals are seen as part of a cult, and although they are still a minority, today they are about 1%. This is already double the 0.5% – 0.8% known in previous years, which shows that the growth rate is increasing, particularly among Pentecostals and Charismatics.
Relations with the government have improved slightly however, local governments still treat churches on a ‘case by case’ basis, and decisions are often taken based on the mayor’s personal view on religion.
* From Impact France (Part of the following information is from the websites of Operation Mobilization and France Mission.)