Lynn said one of the biggest obstacles to the Gospel is a hallowed tradition of secular humanism that the French call "laicite." Rooted in the French Revolution by philosophers like Rousseau and Voltaire, it has evolved into a cultural mindset that tolerates any religion so long as it remains hidden behind the veil of an individual's private life.

This pluralistic dynamic negates the importance of religion while simultaneously making spirituality an open topic for debate. That, Lynn said, creates a carte blanche opportunity to talk about Christ.

"Conversation and intelligent dialogues are a type of art in Paris," he said. "Once a rapport is established, people will discuss most anything."

But laicite's influence also has created a kind of identity crisis among younger generations of Muslim immigrants because they are raised in Muslim homes yet are exposed to a secular humanist environment, said Gracie Couloir*, a Southern Baptist missionary from Virginia who has served in France for the past 17 years.

Volunteers Key

Lynn believes new, innovative approaches are needed to combat these kinds of cross-cultural disconnects and effectively share Christ among both immigrants and French nationals. He said Southern Baptist volunteers are key to making that happen.

Helping meet the need are churches like Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., which sent a volunteer team to Paris to share Christ's love with Muslim women through a ministry known as the Esther Project.

"We did manicures, facials and makeup on women in a predominantly Muslim area," Claire Hill, a member of Warren's volunteer team, said. "The women seemed to thoroughly enjoy the girly things we did as well as our company. Although we didn't know them ... they were women just like us and there was much we had in common."

Couloir said, "All we have to do as Southern Baptists is give them the Gospel in a way that they can understand it, and we can change the Muslim world.

"I think we really do have fields that are ready for the harvest here. We just don't have the harvesters."

*Name changed. Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.
© Copyright 2008 Baptist Press. Used with permission.