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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Smelliest City Of Europe

As we continue our look at the transformational effects of applied Christianity on cities and countries, we would be remiss if we didn't look at the history of Geneva, Switzerland.

Dr. Lowell Bakke, a Professor at Bakke Graduate University, once told me the godlessness of the world system thrives because Christians are not “engaging ethically, morally and courageously in their spheres of influence.”

The flip-side is also true. When followers of Christ do engage ethically, morally and courageously in their spheres of influence, the godlessness of the world system does not thrive.

Consider Geneva of the 1500's.

Thomas Bloomer wrote an insightful piece about the spiritual, economic and social history of that city in Calvin and Geneva: Nation-Building Missions. It appears in the excellent book, His Kingdom Come: An Integrated Approach to Discipling the Nations and Fulfilling the Great Commission, published by YWAM Publishing.

Bloomer relates that in the early 1500's, Geneva was called the smelliest city of Europe. The walls of the city had fallen into disrepair, the people were poor, and families were falling apart.

The condition of the church was also in great disrepair. Priests operated houses of prostitution, and they were immoral themselves. The voice of the church had lost its authority. The people ran the bishop of Geneva out of town in 1530, and most of the city's nobles left with him.

Geneva was in spiritual, economic and social crisis.

William Farel, a fiery French evangelist, came to Geneva in 1531. While preaching in the marketplace from atop one of the market tables, he cried out, "We must reform the church in order to reform the nation!" Bloomer writes: "That offended the authorities so much they arrested him and then kicked him out of town."

But around that time, something significant took place in Geneva: "Businessmen [emphasis mine] whose salvation was rooted in the Reformation had migrated to the city; they began small groups to meet for study and prayer."

The city leadership was taken up by new leaders who subscribed to "the simplicity and disciplined lifestyles of the Protestant reformers," as Bloomer puts it.

On the 26th of August, 1535, the electors of the city voted unanimously, and courageously, to proclaim Geneva a Reformed Protestant city. Courageously, because in 1535, as Bloomer notes, "they were risking excommunication and eternal damnation."

The ramifications of this decision were enormous.

To be continued...

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