France (MNN) — "Basically, nothing like this has been done for quite some time. So it's time." Colin James with the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association speaks of their bold endeavor to bring the Gospel to over 1 million people living in Marseilles in southern France. The Palau Association will be holding their Marseille Provence Festival on the beaches of Plage du Prado from June 30 – July 2. The festival will be a large undertaking, but the opportunity is enormous as James elaborates on the situation.
"We're so used to having evangelical events and opportunities in [the United States], that we just take it for granted. We're on the radio, we're on the TV, in print, and all the things that we normally do which you really can't do in France," says James. "The opportunities are very limited and constrained because of the culture and just the way the country has been run. It's not an evangelical-based country."
The Palau team knows what they're getting themselves into. They've dealt with restrictions such as not putting the words "evangelism" or "pastor" in advertisements or posters for events in France. However, despite these difficulties, they are seeing a positive change in the tide of thinking for France and Europe.
According to James, "The countries of Europe are wanting to ‘take their culture back,' so to speak. There's an openness to the churches that there hasn't been before, because they've been there forever."
With France's cautious receptivity to the Gospel, Luis Palau and his team are being very intentional to bring a message that is not offensive, but clear. Palau understands the culture. This is not his first time bringing the Gospel to an area with restrictions. Whether it's China, Vietnam or Latin America, Palau has experience and knows how to graciously yet boldly present the Good News.
It would be easy to come and, for caution's sake, give a watered-down message. This is what the team is hoping to avoid. James states, "[Palau] will be careful to come in and not tell everybody what we're against, but tell everybody what we're for. At the right points, he will be bold to clearly define the Gospel so that when we leave, it will be clear."
The agenda for all Luis Palau festivals–and specifically for the Marseille Provence Festival–has three parts to it. First is the preparation stage: the team comes in to pray for the ministry and train leaders and locals in "friendship evangelism."
Then, of course, there is the actual festival. On the central beaches of Plage du Prado, they will have children's activities, soccer, a main stage with music, and eventually Luis Palau as the speaker. The counselors that have been trained will be available to pray with those that respond to the message of the Gospel.
Finally, there is a follow-up system in place with counseling and follow-up committees in local churches that LPEA has been working with over the last year. These committees will be in contact with those that make a committed decision for Christ during the festival and work on integrating them into a local church.
James makes the stipulation, "We don't want the people of France to think that we're a bunch of Americans coming over there and we're going to show France what to do. We feel called of God to be there. Any nation needs the Lord in a powerful way…We're just going in to do what we're called to do: To bless France."
The teams would ask for continued prayer as the date for the festival draws closer. Please pray for France that lives would be changed. Also, keep Luis Palau in your prayers that his message would be clear and gracious as he presents the Word of God to the people of France.