Publishing the good news of God’s sovereign grace in Christ in French-speaking Europe at the end of the twentieth century is a vital missionary work. The evangelical constituency in Belgium, France and French Switzerland is slowly increasing in size, although turnover among its members is high. Yet sadly its message is still largely man-centred, as are the methods it practises. The true gospel has never been popular with man, and it is not popular now, especially amongst Europeans nurtured on secularism and materialism since the French revolution.
So why disseminate sovereign grace literature in these areas? The main reason is certainly not commercial! Rather, the Lord has told his church to proclaim the good news of salvation in Christ. She must remain faithful to that task, even if it is rendered difficult by apathy, smallness or fragmentation amongst believers. The Lord has given his people many means of doing this, and among them is literature. Furthermore, only the truth of God does the work of God. So for Christ’s sheep to follow the Good Shepherd, his truth must be spread abroad. It is actually very thrilling to be involved in such a mission at such a time. It is exciting to be able to publish Reformed books in French-speaking Europe today and so break ground which has lain fallow for many years.
The Shepherd’s voice
Europresse is a Reformed publisher in French Europe. It was set up twelve years ago with the express purpose of making the voice of Christ heard, for it is then that his sheep hear him, love him and follow him (John 10:27-28). France and Switzerland have had a rich biblical heritage over the centuries, but today the link between that heritage and the churches has largely been lost. In fact, English-speaking churches have probably benefited more from the French heritage than French-speaking ones. It was partly with the purpose of re-forging this link that Europresse began its ministry.
So far, most of Europresse’s publications have been translations into French of English titles. English Reformed books (past and present) are more readily available currently. In a sense, this means England is repaying its debt to France for the earlier ministry of Frenchmen like Calvin. Another approach, more time-consuming but still deeply rewarding, has been to try to ‘unearth’ forgotten French books, originally written by men like César Malan and Théodore Beza. It is particularly pleasing to know that several of these rediscovered works have not only been republished in modern French but also made available in English. In a small way this is a tale of true catholicity!
Europresse has so far published over sixty books and nearly twenty booklets. These are distributed all over the French-speaking world, from Canada to New Caledonia, from the West Indies to West Africa, as well as to several countries within Europe. Titles published include A.W. Pink’s Sovereignty of God; Walter Chantry’s Today’s Gospel; C.H. Spurgeon’s Lectures to my Students; Jonathan Edwards’ Distinguishing Marks; and many more besides. In addition to these, a quarterly Christian newspaper called Les Echos de la Vérité is published, which, although only eight pages long, has had a significant impact on many lives.
Our aim is to spread the gospel of sovereign grace and the matchless victory of Christ’s work at Calvary. Contrary to the man-centredness of our day, these books herald the distinctiveness and amazing grace of God’s work of redemption. It is the gospel which alone can solve problems for believers, for the church and in the wider world. It is crucial that we continue, in love, to publish this distinctive message, centred on Christ alone, whether people receive or reject it.
The need for perseverance has been underlined to us during the last year for, after a considerable number of years spent in sowing the seed, there have been real encouragements. A lady from southern France wrote, ‘In the midst of much soul-searching … I read The Sovereignty of God by Pink. My mother had told me it was such a hard book that I had left it aside. My heart began to melt … Then I bought The Thousand facets of Grace (sermons on sovereignty) by Spurgeon, then Back to the Gospel (J.I. Packer’s essay on John Owen’s The death of Death in the death of Christ). I literally devoured them and felt myself grow. I am discovering the true God of the Bible. I understand so many things now! Our Lord is really amazing. I am like a woman who has discovered a precious treasure. Now I understand election, grace, the perseverance of the saints and all those glorious doctrines, and they are the joys of my days. I know without a doubt that I was converted before, and therefore am elect of God. But now I UNDERSTAND! My eyes are open, everything has taken on a new meaning.’
A man phoned a few weeks ago from western France, asking if we knew of any church in his area which taught the same things as Spurgeon and Pink. Unfortunately, the nearest church to do so is about one hundred miles away from him, yet the man went there the next Sunday! The aging leader of a small church in eastern France phoned a few months ago, saying that he and the men in his church had read several of these books and Les Echos. He said that this was the message they believed and wanted to hear and proclaim — could someone come and preach it to them?
Work to do
Despite such encouragements, publishing this matchless gospel in French-speaking Europe today means being involved in a spiritual battle. So many have not heard, and so many do not want to hear, the gospel of grace. There is much work for us to do in this ministry. For us? Yes, for us who are directly involved in producing books; also for readers who love the message, that they too should catch the vision of spreading it through literature; and then for you, that you will shoulder the burden in prayer. Let us pray that our almighty Lord will revive his work in our day — for we can do nothing without him.