PARIS, FRANCE — A Paris church named for American civil rights hero, Martin Luther King, brings blacks, whites, and other races together, racial reconciliation, earning government support, and becoming one of the fastest growing evangelical churches in France.
In a communist, socialist, and conservative suburb of Paris, a song of reconciliation and unity is rising. And with it, a message that’s attracting people from diverse backgrounds.
Ivan Carluer, Pastor, Martin Luther King Church:
“I don’t have to build a church, I have to build a place where people will be loved, will be changed by the Holy Spirit, and by the power of God”
French Pastor Ivan Carluer, founded Martin Luther King Church here in Paris’ Créteil neighborhood after drawing inspiration from the civil rights leader’s message of unconditional love.
“Loving people as they are and don’t try to make them look like you are, but just love them and introduce them to a God, and that will change them.”
Like Martin Luther King, Carluer says he, too, had a dream to create a space where blacks, whites, and people of other racial backgrounds, could come together and reflect the diversity of Paris.
“When God asked me to ministry, He asked me to be a minister in the Paris area. So, when I came, I realized that more than 50 percent of the kids in the Paris area have an African dad or mother, so more than 50 percent of the newborn babies are mixed, and I love that.”
Carluer’s dream is now a reality.
“We have now like 20 percent all black. 10 percent all white. 10 percent Asian. And 60 percent cannot be defined,” he laughed. “Jesus’ color!”
And that message of love shared across racial lines has been a unifying force for positive change.
Tiffany, MLK Church Attendee:
“This is what I think is the most touching and most extraordinary aspect of this church. Everyone is mixed. All cultures are represented.”
Barron, MLK Church Attendee:
“I’ve been here since the church first launched. And to see how much it’s grown is amazing. The work is enormous and it’s a blessing to many people.”
MLK is now one of the country’s largest evangelical churches, prompting French newspaper Le Monde to call Ivan Carluer a rising figure in France’s protestant movement.
George Thomas (standup), Paris:
“MLK, which is about seven miles southeast of Paris, is rather remarkable for its size. In all of France, there are about 2,500 evangelical churches. The average church has about 100 people. MLK went from 20 people, 17 years ago, to over 3,000 people today.”
During a recent weekend service, 76 people from different walks of life and racial backgrounds professed faith in Jesus Christ in water baptism.
“And we haven’t seen so many people coming to Jesus like right now. God is moving in France like never.”
Evangelicals make up just two percent of the population here, and their numbers are growing. A recent report found evangelicals rapidly becoming a majority within the French protestant movement. Carluer says the pandemic led to even greater numbers as new people flocked to the church’s online services.
“We already reach more than 30 to 40 thousand every week and when you look at Google analytics, we see what is very good is that a lot of non-believers are watching.”
Because of the growth, Carluer says the church needed a bigger place to meet. So in September 2021, the new Martin Luther King space opened in the south-eastern suburbs of Paris. At a cost of $30 million, a foundation operates it as part church, part community center.
And because of its community influence, Pastor Carluer says local government authorities were all too happy to chip in more than three million dollars toward the building’s fund.
“That’s why we can have money from the state, the government, the county, etc, they all give to the foundation, the foundation is the owner of the building, and the church rents the building.”
Church services are held Saturday and Sunday in the building’s 1,000-seat auditorium. The rest of the week, it’s open to the community for rent.
Companies have held fashion shows, car shows, and music concerts. Members of other religious groups have also held their events here.
Carluer sees it as a model for people who are not typically drawn to a “church building” per se to be introduced to the Gospel.
“My goal is that I want Jewish, Muslim, atheists, politicians, artists, all of them, they all need to be loved by God, to be transformed by His Holy Spirit, and to become, loving each other, like Martin Luther King did.”
In spite of its staunchly secular traditions, Pastor Carluer says God is on the move in France and takes heart in what he’s doing in churches like MLK.
“So now, it’s really a foretaste of heaven.”
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Source: Global News Alliance, Martin Luther King Church in Paris Features Racial Reconciliation