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Published on 06 April, 2005

The Pope’s death is providing opportunities to talk about the Gospel

Europe (MNN) — As people around the world prepare for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, many are looking for comfort. Up to 2 million people and nearly 200 world leaders are expected in an unprecedented salute for the man who’s credited with helping to bring down the Iron Curtain and known for his uncompromising stand on social issues.

Many evangelicals have expressed their condolences. Administrator for Western Europe with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Jack Shiflet, says this Pope was well liked. “I believe the church as a whole in Europe appreciates this Pope much the same way that Americans would appreciate Ronald Reagan. He got the Catholic Church out of the conclaves of Rome, took it to the people, took his agenda out there.”

Many who claim to be Christians, but don’t have a relationship with Christ are asking questions. Shiflet says this is giving evangelicals opportunities to talk about the Gospel. “Any time you have a prominent event like this in public it’s easy to bridge to the Gospel to begin to talk with people about eternal life.”

According to Shiflet, this discussion needs to take place. He says while many claim to be Christians, many are completely unchurched. “Half of Western Europe is less than 1 percent evangelical. That would be the same percentage that you would find in India or Egypt. So, we are trying to reach unchurched people for the most part, secular people who have given up on Christianity.”

Shiflet says people claim they’re Christians because of some sort of ‘birth-right,’ which is a battle not only in Europe, but other western cultures. “We focus on being disciples. Not making decisions for salvation, but Christ sent us into the world to make disciples. Those are followers who are sold out to be like their master.”

As many will be watching the funeral on Friday, Shiflet is encouraging evangelicals to be sympathetic and show love for those mourning. “If we focus on that and move into that person’s life, to live the Gospel and speak the Gospel, I think we’ll have wonderful opportunities.”

ABWE needs dynamic workers who can identify with the culture. Shiflet says it’s difficult work. “I would say Europe is something like the challenge that Nehemiah faced with Jerusalem, the walls are broken down. They have a history of Christianity and it would take someone who loves the people of Europe who would be willing to go and help the tiny evangelical church rebuild.”

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