For eight years running, my wife and I and our two children took our summer holidays in Greece. Every year we tried to find a church where the gospel was preached, but without success. We knew that there were Evangelical churches somewhere in this land, a country where Paul once preached the gospel.
It was only on our ninth annual visit that we met up with some believers – those who worship at the Free Evangelical Church in Kalamata, in the Peloponnese. Since then we have been introduced to many delightful groups of the Lord’s people, and I have had the privilege of preaching God’s Word in some of Greece’s large cities and in many of its small towns and villages.
Why is it so difficult to find Evangelical churches outside the large cities? It is often because they meet in private homes and small halls; and in many of the holiday areas there is no permanent witness to the truth.
Unless you have a phone number you will not find out where believers meet. Sometimes I can provide a phone number for those who identify themselves as genuine believers.
The fundamental reason for this difficulty is because the Lord’s people there are a small minority of the population. Also, anyone who does not belong to the Greek Orthodox Church is considered not truly Greek, or even a traitor to the nation.
Even though the Greek Orthodox Church is a member of the World Council of Churches, it is intolerant of all those within their country who belong to other churches.
I know of one Evangelical church where there is a ‘spy’ living opposite the church building. The pastor knows this because, when any local person visits the church, the person subsequently receives a visit from the Orthodox priest or one of his workers. They are warned that if they continue to attend that church they will go to hell when they die!
There are very few Evangelical missionaries working in Greece. This is because the Greek Orthodox Church does not welcome foreign Christians, and also because Evangelicals there have had bad experiences in the past.
I know of one ‘missionary’ who started his own church and drew away several people from a neighbouring Evangelical congregation. Then, after a few years, he returned home and the church he founded ‘folded up’.
Another man came to the Peloponnese and persuaded many Greek people to sell their property and give the money to him, because he said that the Lord was returning soon.
What can evangelical Christians in other countries do to help our brothers and sisters in Greece? We can pray for them. We can join their congregations when we visit Greece – there is usually someone who has sufficient English to point out the place in the Bible from which the preacher is speaking.
We can support those who are seeking to produce Christian literature of a biblical nature in the Greek language.
In addition, when a believer is taken to court for preaching the gospel, you can write to protest that Greece is persecuting Christian believers while, at the same time, professing to allow freedom of religion. In such cases you could write to the following fax or E-mail addresses:
The Prime Minister of Greece (fax: 0030 1 3238129; [email protected])
Minister of Justice (fax: 0030 1 7758742; [email protected])
Minister of Education and Religion (fax: 0030 1 3233 787; [email protected])