**Belief in the gospel truth is spreading.
AS THE piano strikes up, the congregation sways, fists in the air, murmurs of hallelujah punctuating the music. Pastor Franck Lefillatre, bathed in the spotlight on his podium, intones into a microphone.
‘‘Let out the words that are in your heart,’’ he urges. His whispers crescendo to booming rhetoric. Behind him, emblazoned in gold lettering, are the words: ‘‘Jesus Christ: the same yesterday, today, eternally.’’
As evangelical services go, this gathering on a rainy Sunday is nothing unusual. In countless churches across the US and many countries, it would be a staple means of Christian worship.
But this is not the American Bible Belt. It is the Church of Paris-Bastille, and this congregation is one of a growing number of evangelical communities spreading through France and prospering in spite of its secular - and Catholic - traditions.
From a postwar population of about 50,000, French evangelicals are now estimated to number 450,000 to 500,000. According to the Evangelical Federation of France, the number of churches has risen from 800 in 1970 to more than 2200 today.