Experiencing the Love of Jesus in the Heart of Marseille

Matt & Christy Rasch are American missionaries who moved to France in 2009 to study at an intensive language
school for almost a year before moving to Marseille to plant a church.

I invite you to walk with me through my week on the bustling streets and in the cafes of Marseille, France. Particularly, the week leading up to the October launch of our church, “Evolution 13,” and its first public meeting at “Le Paradox,” a bar/restaurant in the heart of “Cours Julien,” the arts sector of Marseille.

Monthly Student Dinner

Once a month, we gather with university students for a student dinner at a church facility directly across the street from a dormitory. The facility belongs to a local church that has partnered with us. Tonight, over twenty students, ages eighteen to twenty-two, half French and half international, are gathering to enjoy an evening of food, music, dance and games. Someone from Gabon, Central Africa, gets up to sing a song with some dance moves, so the students join in. Then we play a few games and just have fun in a relaxed atmosphere.  A few elders from the church we partner with showed up and said, “We have never had non-Christian students coming to our church, Matt, thank you for coming and asking us to help you.” They were blown away. The students who came said it was the highlight of their week. One said, “this kind of stuff doesn’t exist in France and I just love it.’”

__The students who came said it was the highlight of their week. One said, “this kind of stuff doesn’t exist in France and I just love it.”

Family Day

Children in France who aren’t in middle school yet don’t have school on Wednesdays. So, this is our family activity day at Chez Rasch, our home on a hill in the suburban Valentine area. It’s a flurry of activity as we take our three daughters and son to violin, dance, and tennis lessons. I also do administrative work throughout the day.

Student Bible Study

Tonight, I’m headed to our Bible study near student housing on campus. A lot of Tunisians live in this area, so it’s like France meets North Africa. On the way to the grocery store to buy snacks for our study, I pass a pizzeria on the corner and greet two Tunisian men who work there. “Bonjour, Matt!” they say, “how are you?” They love me because in the past, I’ve bought over one hundred pizzas from them. We used to meet in their breezeway and sing. They are Muslim, but we would still talk about Jesus, which is a huge deal.

At Bible Study, we mingle over refreshments and then I crank up some music and we sing in French, then in English so the students can practice their English-speaking skills. I give a short teaching, followed by discussion and prayer, and I’m off to the city center again. As I drive, people are stopping in the middle of the road, talking to their friends and blocking traffic. Cars are honking. It’s 10:30 at night, but there are people everywhere, especially in this North African section. Cafes and bars are open, and North African men are everywhere in Muslim garb and traditional Tunisian and Algerian hats. I drop off a few students, then head home.

__If you create a rigid, religious system, people won’t stay, especially French people.”

Discipleship at a local café

I enter the café, look around for my friends, and give them the traditional French greeting, a kiss on each cheek. As we go to the counter to order coffee, we chat about how their classes and work are going. Today, I’m meeting with two students, one who gave his life to the Lord at the end of June.

We start talking about what they’ve been seeing in the news, then arrive at our question of the day, asked by a student: If someone does something bad, but the end is good, does that justify it? They mention a film they saw that raised ethical issues, so I bring the question back to the Bible. We talk about the justice and wrath of God and paying the consequences for wrong choices. And then I ask, “What is the role of a person who is trying to walk with Jesus?” I bring up my own testimony of how I used to go out, get drunk, and do whatever I wanted. But I had to pay the consequences. Then Jesus revolutionized me and set me on a new path.  Finally, I bring the testimony back around to them giving their lives to Jesus, and one of them has.

Evolution 13 launch in the Art Quarter of Marseille

We show up at 2pm to set up inside “Le Paradox.” Once inside, however, problems meet us around every corner: the tables and chairs were all upstairs, the cleaning lady was mopping under our feet, etc. But the event went well. From families to college students, we had a total of twenty adults and kids. The message was a word of encouragement from Genesis about all of us being on a voyage together, like Jacob. He didn’t know God personally at the beginning of the story, but became intimately acquainted with the Lord by the end. We ended with fellowship. The owner of “Le Paradox” lowered his space rental price by fifty euros, so we were all smiles.

Thank you Jesus, we are already starting to make headway.

Evolution 13 meets at “Le Paradox,” a bar and restaurant where live music is played throughout the week.

Why Evolution 13?

Churches here can be boring and rigid, so we wanted to create a place that, by contrast, is warm, friendly and inclusive. If you create a rigid, religious system, people won’t stay, especially French people.

When a French person hears the word “evolution”, they often think of the broader meaning of the word: Development. Change. Becoming. Transformation. And, as Christians, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re all growing and becoming more like Christ. None of us are perfect or have arrived, so at Evolution 13, we invite others to come on a journey with us as we discover our great God, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The word evolution seemed like a good fit. And we threw in the number of Marseille, the zip code, just for fun

My philosophy of evangelism in this context is extremely relational. It’s not about having the right tract in my pocket or having a Gospel presentation ready to go. Certainly, it’s crucial to know God’s Word and be able to explain the Gospel, but my agenda when meeting with people is to love them where they are in life first. Conversations always come around to the Lord. If you come in with an agenda, people smell that from far away and say, ‘I don’t know about all this’ and they turn away.

Evolution 13 is a place for our atheist, agnostic, and Muslim friends, who we’ve been loving for the last two years, to feel like “Hey, I’m welcome here and I like these people, so I want to come every week.” We want to create a community where they’re welcomed and loved as if they were Christians already, because that’s what Jesus did. He loved people where they were.

12 Responses to “ Experiencing the Love of Jesus in the Heart of Marseille ”

  1. Piet Stassen
    November 14, 2012

    Dear Matt & Christy, Thank you for having received our daughter Cecilia with such remarkable hospitality during her recent scouting trip to Marseille. May your ministry, and especially the ‘Evolution 13’ project, revolutionize the way people from Marseille think about GOD and help them to ‘rediscover’ the humble Carpenter from Nazareth as the true Messiah and mighty Lion of Judah.

    With deep appreciation,
    Piet Stassen
    South Africa

  2. Dave Hess
    December 8, 2012

    It’s so exciting to hear what the Lord is doing there in Marseille! I took a short term “Ten Days” missions team there to help with the Rasch’s ministry a couple years ago. It’s so cool to hear about all the amazing happenings since then! Praise God!

  3. Matt Rasch
    January 27, 2013

    Hey there, great comments. Thanks everyone for your support and prayers. Things are continuing to heat up. More students coming to Christ in the last two months and people being touched through healing and the supernatural as well. Come be part!

    @Piet: You are very welcome!

  4. Steve Shank
    June 5, 2013

    Matt and Christy I am the strategic Coach for Eastern Mennonite MIssions. We, (about 5 or 6 of us) would like to do an exploratory trip to Marseille from November4 -8th or 9th. Would love to meet with you and seek your advice.

    running the race with you,


  5. Steve Shank
    November 14, 2013

    Hey Matt, it was great connecting with you in Marseille. Great atmosphere ,good food, and great people! Hope Cara reconnects with you this week. Love what you doing. Hope we can continue to connect as we follow the Lord to Marseille!

    steve s

  6. Barbara Wilkinson
    February 4, 2014

    Matt and Christy, what an amazing work you are doing. I am so glad you just love the people as they are and share Jesu’ amazing love story when He gives you the opportunity. I am currently living in Phuket, Thailand, and I’m attending a transformation church with pretty much the same philosophy. I’ve been to France two times and believe God will take me back there again. Marseille is the city on my heart. Please tell me more about what is currently happpening. God bless you so very much!

  7. Willy Duister
    July 24, 2015

    Hi Matt and Christy,

    Let me first introduce myself: you prayed with me in Ghent some weeks ago. You had a vision how I was slain in the face with manipulation and domination. I should stretch out for the joy of the Lord and it is very close for me to reach.
    Just wanted to ask you if it is possible for me to visit you in August. I have like 5 days holiday from about 14th of August.
    Hope to hear from you!
    Greetings from Ghent

  8. Christine Nunez
    July 27, 2015

    Hi I just found your blog. I am in California, hosting students from Marseilles. One young lady just gave her heart to the Lord last night and will be going home this Tuesday (to Marseilles). Are you still active in the “Evolution 13” church there or do you have any contact information I can give her so she can be discipled? Thank you and may God richly bless your ministry.

    • Christy Rasch
      July 30, 2015

      Hi Christine,
      Christy here. Yes, there are lots of things happening here in Marseille right now with Evolution13 and the EveryNation Marseille church. Our website is http://www.enmarseille.fr
      Looking forward to hearing from her!

    • August 4, 2015

      Absolutely! Sorry I just saw this. Send her my email mrasch@mac.com and our website is ENMarseille.fr there she can find all vital info and get connected. Blessings and great work!

  9. Eva Marie Ng
    September 11, 2016

    Dear Pastor Matt and Cristy,
    My husband is a pastor here in Manila, Philippines. pastor Nixon Ng. I know you will see each other in World Conference this coming October. By the way Pastor Matt, we have a host son from Montpellier and he’s been here for almost 2 months. He will be leaving on thursday to go back and attend his school. Hughes is 15 years old and went here as an exchange student from AFS orgnization whose goal is to bring students abroad to learn English and immerse in our culture. He became like our son and concerned about him to have an encounter with Christ. He attended church here and my husbnd shared the gospel to him. He understood a little but there are things not clear because of his Catholic belief and language barrier. One of the things he adopted is to pray food before he eats without signing of the cross, he loves praise and worship and kids church. We are eager for him to know God and receive salvation which he is very open to.I Hope you can help us engage to him when he goes back to France. Thank you Pastor. We pray that the Lord will continue to bless your ministry there.

    • Ariel Benjamin
      September 15, 2016

      Hi Eva,

      Good to hear from you! I have sent your message on to Pastor Matt. Also, here’s the contact information for their church in Marseilles and their location if your exchange student ends up in that city:

      28 Rue Armand Bédarride
      Marseille, 13006
      France, Europe
      +33 (6) 22 33 03 00

      Praying with you that your student will be saved!

      Blessings, and see you at the World Conference.


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