The history of Evangelicalism in Poland since the decline of Communism has been one of dramatic change and widespread satanic influence.
Under Communism, until the 1980s, most Bible-believing Christians belonged to the United Evangelical Church (UEC). Only a small number of Christian books in Polish were available; Western visitors were few.
The biggest outside influence came from Trans World Radio, and numbers were converted to Christ through its programmes.
By the 1980s, Solidarity, in close alliance with the Vatican, had gained the upper hand and everything began to change. (Billy Graham’s visit to Poland in 1978 had been the precursor of wider ecumenical developments.)
The UEC disbanded into its different groupings. Poland moved from being strongly Roman Catholic to fanatically so! Maybe 90% of the population at that time attended mass. The Government imposed martial law and there were food shortages.
During this traumatic time, generous practical help came from Western Christian organisations. However, this aid sometimes had ‘strings attached’ and some ‘rice Christians’ resulted.
As the influence of Communism waned, Poland was opening to anything that was new provided it was ‘Western’. Western values diffused rapidly into Polish life and culture. For example, a large pornographic supermarket was built at the main border-crossing from Germany into Poland.
Visiting American Christians, of all theological persuasions, had plenty of money to hand out. All one had to do to get some of it, it seemed, was to be a keen Christian with at least a smattering of the English language!
Thirst for the West
The thirst for things Western gripped the churches (the same was happening all over Eastern Europe). The market was flooded with trashy ‘Christian’ literature, including New Age material.
Many Poles emigrated to the West in search of a better life, and Christian pastors and their families were among them.
Christian leaders began comparing Polish with Western churches and asking: ‘Why is our church so small? Why don’t we have better music? Why are we so boring?’ Western Christianity seemed fresh, exciting and daring.
A meeting that proved decisive for catalysing further change took place in 1991 – John Wimber held a conference for Christian leaders in Warsaw. Pastors from all over Poland were invited.
Many liked what they saw and heard. The floodgates for a ‘new’ kind of Christianity opened, not just to the youth but to church leaders.
Wimber’s teaching focused on ‘power evangelism’ and an imminent worldwide ‘revival’. Innovative methods of presenting the gospel with ‘signs and wonders’ were introduced. But the gospel had been diluted.
During the 1990s, throughout Poland, Christian plays, concerts, bands, videos, dance, clowning, flag waving, mime artists and rock concerts were being used to draw people to Christian meetings.
In churches where once the whole body of Christ participated with ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’, there were now ‘worship leaders’, totally dependent on the power of the Polish Electricity Board! Their congregations had become mute, passive audiences.
The ‘converts’ joining the churches from these meet ings were not people who had passed ‘from death unto life’, but those whose religious ‘experiences’ had left them with the same deep sin-problems as before. They were prime candidates for later ‘healing ministries’.
The Toronto blessing and Alpha course; the teachings of Paul Yonggi Cho, Kenneth Hagin, Derek Prince, Benny Hinn, Morris Cerullo and T. L. Osborne have all been promoted.
‘Spiritual Warfare’, the ‘Prosperity gospel’, ‘Name it and Claim it’, ‘Kingdom Dominion’ teachings, and ‘Latter Rain’ are all ‘big time’ in Poland – it is indeed a spiritual melee.
However, not all the problems have come from the West. Another important trend has been that hundreds of thousands of Polish Roman Catholics have embraced Charismatic renewal.
Litanies and liturgical prayers to the Holy Spirit have been composed. Prayers in tongues are uttered to Mary or the saints. Some Catholic Charismatics have transferred to Pentecostal and Charismatic churches; and have even achieved positions of leadership there.
Some of the people in this movement have truly been born again, but most have retained their Roman Catholic traditions.
Recently I witnessed a televised concert event organised in Warsaw by a Baptist church. The meeting was held in the impressive premises of a Reformed church. Hundreds attended and, no doubt, many watched it on TV at home.
The choir was composed mainly of Baptists, but there were also Pentecostals and Charismatic Catholics. All the singers/musicians were dressed in the ‘first century style’ – plain robes with hoods, plain hair, mostly pigtails for the girls.
The songs included one from pop group U2 and another (about light) written by New Agers, with ‘Christian’ amendments.
Members of the choir danced and moved their bodies while singing. The lighting gave the impression of the Catacombs (with smoke machines to help). The Baptists considered this event an enormous step forward in the evangelisation of Poland!
An Intercessor’s Movement started in Poland four years ago. This is linked to the World Prayer Centre in Colorado Springs and C. Peter Wagner. The Movement called for 40 days of prayer and fasting, starting in New Year 2001.
About 1,800 people gathered for the final all-night prayer event in Warsaw. The whole spectrum of denominations was represented: Roman Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals and Charismatics.
Even the ‘Lord’s Commandos’ were there (these have recently appeared marching around cities, dressed in military gear and ‘doing spiritual warfare’!). All present were asked to declare an uncritical commitment to one another, regardless of their doctrinal differences.
Another surprising trend in Polish Evangelicalism has been an uncritical hankering for things South American. Churches in South America are looked upon as spiritual models.
Many South Americans have visited Poland and brought practices more occult than Christian. Others have gone back with large financial offerings from Polish Christians. All is done in the name of a ‘new move of the Spirit’.
It is a wonder that, in the face of this immense confusion, there are still believers faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ in Poland, honouring God’s Word and walking in the Spirit of God. But there are indeed!
The Lord has his elect remnant and beautiful are his words in Luke 12:32: ‘Do not fear little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’. Yes, the Father will have his pleasure. His grace will be sufficient for all our needs.