PARIS, FRANCE – A Parisian church named for American civil rights hero Martin Luther King unites black, white and other races, racial reconciliation, wins government support and becomes one of fastest growing evangelical churches in France.
In a communist, socialist and conservative suburb of Paris, a song of reconciliation and unity rises. And with it, a message that attracts 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 the Martin Luther King Church here in the Créteil district of Paris after being inspired by the civil rights leader’s message of unconditional love.
“Love people as they are and don’t try to make them look like you, but just love them and introduce them to a God, and it will change them.
Like Martin Luther King, Carluer says he too dreamed of creating 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 minister, He asked me to be a minister in the Paris region. So when I arrived, I realized that over 50% of children in the Paris region have an African father or mother, so over 50% of newborns are mixed, and I love that.
Carluer’s dream is now a reality.
“We now have about 20% black. 10 percent all white. 10% Asian. And 60% cannot be defined,” he laughed. “The color of Jesus!”
And this message of love shared across racial lines has been a unifying force for positive change.
Tiffany, MLK Church Participant:
“That’s what I think is the most touching and extraordinary aspect of this church. Everyone is mixed. All cultures are represented.
Baron, MLK Church Participant:
“I have been here since the church started. And to see how much he has grown is amazing. The work is enormous and it is a blessing for many people.
MLK is now one of the largest evangelical churches in the country, prompting French newspaper Le Monde to call Ivan Carluer a rising figure in the French Protestant movement.
george thomas (standing), Paris:
“MLK, which is about seven miles southeast of Paris, is rather remarkable for its size. Throughout France, there are about 2,500 evangelical churches. The average church has about 100 people. MLK has grown from 20 people 17 years ago to over 3,000 people today.
During a recent weekend service, 76 people from different backgrounds and racial backgrounds professed their faith in Jesus Christ in water baptism.
“And we haven’t seen as many people come to Jesus as we do now. God is moving in France like never before.
Evangelicals make up only 2% of the population here, and their numbers keep growing. A recent report revealed that evangelicals are rapidly becoming the 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’re already reaching over 30-40,000 every week and when you look at Google Analytics we see what’s great is that a lot of non-believers are watching.”
Due to the growth, Carluer says the church needed a bigger place to meet. Thus, in September 2021, the new Martin Luther King space opened its doors in the south-eastern suburbs of Paris. At a cost of $30 million, a foundation operates it as a church and community center.
And because of his community influence, Pastor Carluer said local government officials were only too happy to contribute more than three million dollars to the building fund.
“That’s why we can have money from the state, government, county, etc., they all give to the foundation, the foundation owns the building, and the church leases the building.”
Church services are held on Saturdays and Sundays in the building’s 1,000-seat auditorium. The rest of the week it is open to the rental community.
Companies 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 usually drawn to a “church building” per se to present to the Gospel.
“My goal is that I want Jews, Muslims, atheists, politicians, artists, all of them, they all need to be loved by God, to be transformed by His Holy Spirit, and to become, love each other, like Martin Luther King did.”
Despite its staunchly secular traditions, Pastor Carluer says God is on the move in France and takes to heart what he is doing in churches like MLK.
“So now it really is a taste of heaven.”
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