However, for the first time since the 1950s, French Protestants make up close to 3% of the population (2.70%-3.00%, depending on statistical methodology) and churches are being planted at an increasing rate (a 15.5% increase in the number of churches from 2012-2015)!
The following information is taken from Daniel Liechti’s 2017 publication, Les Eglises protestantes évangéliques en France – Situation 2017:
Evangelicals by the numbers:
- 650 000 – Regularly practice their faith (all ages).
- 3/4 – Evangelical Protestants represent 1/3 of all Protestants but ¾ of those who regularly practice their faith.
- 10 – The number of Evangelical Protestants has increased 10 times in the past 60 years (in 1950, there were 50,000 practicing Evangelicals)
- 2,521 – There are 2,263 local churches in France, counting those communities that offer at least 3 services per month on the weekends (in 1970, there were 769). Additionally, there are 500 more houses of worship that meet less frequently.
- 10 – A new local church is born every 10 days – about 35 new churches per year.
- 45 – The majority of local churches belong to one of 45 denominations.
- 70 – Out of all the local churches who belong to a denomination, over 70% are affiliated with the CNEF.
Evangelical France (Geography)
Number of Churches by Department (2017)
Number of Churches for every 10,000 residents.
Areas where one local Evangelical church is within a 30 minute drive
NOTE: Our primary source of reference for the above information comes from the National Council of French Evangelicals (CNEF) – www.lecnef.org (French).
In our view, the CNEF is the most representative, factually sound source of information as it relates to the Evangelical movement in France. Because of its open and collaborative nature, the CNEF benefits from a data-rich, national perspective on how Evangelical communities are growing.
Additionally, we incorporate the work of Sébastien Fath, the foremost statistical authority on the French Evangelical world. As a researcher with the CNRS with their GRSL division, Mr. Fath is a renowned author – extensively published lecturer, statistician, and analyst who specializes in the Evangelical movement in France. His blog can be found by clicking here.
In addition to the information presented here, we recommend visiting WorldMap.org for a full history and other maps on Evangelism and Church presence. WorldMap also has a complete Country Profile available in WORD or PDF format.
Evangelical France (Challenges)
* Part of the following information is from the websites of Operation Mobilization and France Mission.
Religion is viewed as something negative.
In fact, French people have been ‘disgusted’ by Roman Catholic dominance for centuries and democracy was seen as liberation from the Roman Catholic church. So religion is tolerated, but evangelicals live in a secular society where religion is considered to be a ‘private’ affair (the principle of laïcité) and evangelism is therefore frowned upon by local authorities.
The occult, however, is rampant in France. Statistics show that mediums, faith healers and fortune-tellers earn as much money as medical doctors. There are more registered occult workers in France than pastors (over 30,000 registered Mediums and Spiritual Healers).
About half of the French population believe in faith healing, with one quarter putting their faith in clairvoyants or astrology. An estimated 10 million people pay around $40 billion for occult consultations, three times the amount paid to their family doctors.
The average size of a French church used to be about 35-50 people (early 2000s) but is now between 50-75. Additionally, there have been a surge of megachurches going from one (1,000+) church in the 90s/2000s to more than 5 or 6 today. Many churches today face discrimination when looking for a larger space to house their congregations as landlords don’t want to rent to churches for fear of noise, public image, and being seen as a fanatic.
There are 36,551 cites/towns/villages in France. The vast majority of them (35,000) are without an Evangelical church. This number is best interpreted in light of the statistics above since France has many thousands of small villages that are still considered communes but whose inhabitants are accustomed to frequenting nearby towns to do routine activities (and who would not need a church in their own village but could go to a larger town’s church). There are still over 300 towns with at least 10,000 inhabitants that have no existing Evangelical church.
Even though French Evangelicals are still a minority at 1.2%, this is double the .5% – .8% that had been consistently cited from the 70s through 2010 or so. They are often viewed as being part of a cult. Evangelical Christians in France are usually very committed believers because they are living in a secular society. When they go to church, they know why they are going – it is not a routine. They also need fellowship as they often don’t meet another Christian at work during the week.
As mentioned above, the Christian church in France has grown significantly over the last 20 years and the rate of growth is increasing, particularly among Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations. So much so, there is a new church plant every 10 days. The Catholic church has a growing ‘renewal’ movement and many Roman Catholics are reading the Bible for the first time in their lives.
Relations with the government have improved slightly however, local governments still treat churches on a ‘case by case’ basis, and decisions are often taken based on the mayor’s personal view on religion.
Perhaps one of the most encouraging demonstrations of what God is doing on a national scale in France came in 2001.
Responding to the invitation from the National Council of the French Evangelical Alliance (AEF) and the Board of the French Evangelical Federation (FEF), the large majority of the persons in charge of French church movements and Bible Institutes met on January 6, 2001, at Nogent-sur-Marne. Different aspects of the position of the French Evangelical movement were discussed: sociological and statistical, theological and relational.
Aware of their dispersion and the harm that this was doing to present a clear Evangelical witness to the country, this assembly decided to reunite on June 18, 2001, in the same place, for a day of fasting and prayer. It was at this meeting that several leaders expressed, in the name of their Federation and of their Union, a request for forgiveness for the distances maintained in the past. All rejoiced at the quality of the dialogue which showed the mutual desire for recognition and development of true fellowship.
It was decided to begin work on the project of an Evangelical platform and to transmit the details about what had occurred to the Unions, Associations, and respective Federations throughout France. The group would reconvene on January 7, 2002 to continue their work. A text was composed at the time of this encounter defining the possibilities of the National Counsel of Evangelicals in France. This text was revised and finally adopted one year later.
After many years of work, in 2010, the CNEF was officially created as a separate association.
It remains a place of dialogue, reflection, and prayer – a platform aiming to reinforce the visibility of and connections within the France Evangelical Protestant world while respecting its diversity. To learn more about the CNEF, please visit https://www.lecnef.org.
- TheIFOP study on Protestants in France – November 2010 in French
- The most recent IFOP study on Protestant Pastors in France – November 2010 in French
- International Religious Freedom Report 2005 (U.S. Dept. of State)
- Evangelical Protestantism (French Evangelical Federation) [in French]
- Statistics about France (France Mission)