Archive for the ‘mission’ category

Church Planting Movements in Europe

August 12, 2014

Vista 18 Catching a wave: church planting movements in EuropeDefinitions are not fixed. The meanings of words are always in movement—even the word “movement” itself.

Although it was David Garrison’s work on church planting movements (CPMs) which both popularized the phrase and set off the search for generalizable principles drawn from CPMs around the world, it was Roland Allen who first drew attention to the Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes which Hinder it (1927).

Certainly the language of “movement” has become very popular in recent years. Authors and conference speakers often refer to “missional movements” or “kingdom movements”. Yet it is worth remembering that Roland Allen kept the church at the centre the vision for growth.

Yet here in Europe does it make any sense at all to talk about CPMs at all? Joanne Appleton’s lead article seeks to answer that question. Drawing on conversations with leaders of rapidly reproducing churches and “kingdom movements” she raises a number of crucial issues for reflection.

The remainder of this issue of Vista is given over to case studies of European church planting movements. Darrell Jackson tells the story of the development of a vision for church planting in a traditional denomination, the European Baptist Federation. It is followed by an interview with Peter J Farmer, an influential leader in the Simple Church network.

We then look at two ways in which a mission agency, specifically ECM, the European Christian Mission, has contributed to church multiplication. The first is my own story of supporting a collaborative church planting in the south of Spain. And Stephen Bell concludes the edition with a story of revival in the Balkans where ECM served as a channel for Brazilian and Ukrainian missionaries to support churches.

Download Vista 18 here

Jim Memory

Aspects of Urban Mission in Europe

November 21, 2012

Did you know Europe’s historic cities are only three per cent of the world’s land mass, and  could comfortably fit inside South Africa?  Nevertheless, European cities have had a disproportionately massive influence on the rest of the world, through both urban history and Christian identity.

Urban history

Harvie Conn says two of the four big ‘urban waves’ began in Europe.  In the second urban wave of commercial and feudal cities from the eleventh century, Europe’s walled cities gave protection to its citizens and enabled commerce that would takeover the world.  In today’s fourth wave of global cities, Europe’s great metropolitan areas of London, Paris and Berlin are linked. Rotterdam connects the Randstad of the Netherlands to the Rhine-Ruhr of Germany. There are urban corridors between London and Frankfurt and between Milan and Barcelona.  Europe’s sheer number of multinational companies, banks and organisations suggest it is still a continent of influence, if not inspiration.

Christian identity

Crucial points of development in the historic church have been in Europe. Think of Celtic Christianity, monastic mission movements, the Reformation and the World Missionary Conference in 1910, and today of church planting networks, the migration of new Christians and emerging churches.

Today, Europe is made up of about fifty sovereign states (mostly democratic republics), each with their own histories, cultures, languages and a wide spread of Christian traditions. Western Europe (Protestant/mixed) is different from Southern Europe (traditionally Roman Catholic), Nordic Europe (Lutheran), Eastern Europe (Orthodox) and Central Europe (largely atheist). Through migrant Christians, Pentecostalism is everywhere.  The contours of Europe’s map of faith is not so much being withdrawn as being redrawn.

Understanding urban ministry

Photo credit: European Commission

Today’s cities are a dazzling constellation of global cultures, a kaleidoscope that resembles a world atlas.  In the urban centres of Europe today, we meet the whole world. There is more Christian ministry going on in them than we usually give credit for, ranging from serving people in pain, developing leadership, community transformation, to church renewal and multiplication.

I believe that:

  • Christ is already present in the urban world. We do not bring Christ for the city. Cities have had their share of leaders with messiah complexes. In dark places is God’s presence.
  • Church is the agent of God’s mission in the city. God has not given up on his people, whether local churches or missions, new or old forms, European or African/Asian partners.
  • Cities are more of a gift than a problem. The city is a gift of grace. The church is often sick and unhealthy but where hurt and pain is engaged with there is hope of renewal.

Cities are extraordinarily successful and overwhelmingly destructive.  David Harvey’s recent book “Rebel Cities” is a Marxist critique of urbanism, and although secular, has more zeal for a healthy urban world than do many churches.

Though Europe is home to large numbers of Christians, we do not think spiritually about cities, either blaming them for what is wrong with the world or taking a glossy view that ignores its darker side.  Harvey’s critique, based on the work of sociologist Robert Park, is that cities are under the control of wealth producers who have dispossessed masses of people to any right to the city. Power is kept in the hands of small political and economic elites who shape the city after their own needs and heart’s desires.

Urban mission needs a similar but biblically informed critique if it is not to be condemned to putting patches on the sores of the broken in the city. Bible-believing Christians are increasingly aware that the Gospel is not only about personal sin and individual salvation, but are still slow to recognise public sin and corporate spirituality.

Lausanne III affirmed that there is a mission to the market place. Recently Dr. Chris Wright spoke about the Lausanne III commitments in the Netherlands and concluded with the urban mission commission.  Jeremiah 29:7 says “Seek the peace and prosperity (shalom) of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”  I never heard a European evangelical leader speak like that before.  So can our broken churches change peoples and cities?  This is the Gospel.

The Good News redeems people

All people are created in God’s likeness and they all need faith and life. We seek deep change. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) The Gospel is not anti-urban but is transformative of people and worlds. Urban ministry serves and heals, prays and forgives, preaches and teaches, trains and empowers., reaching the parts of people that others (including Marxists) cannot reach.

The Good News redeems cities

God cared for Nineveh more than Jonah. Jesus cried over Jerusalem. What are cities but created human institutions and environments? A Church of England bishop recently spoke of his PhD entitled: “Can companies sin?” You can guess the answer!

All human structures are accountable to God and we need to call the city’s human service departments to serve the people they were intended for. We must confront principalities and powers through prayer and action. The city longs for human institutions and an urban environment that is liberated to serve. “Creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:12)  Since Christ has overcome Satan, we can confront and call these structures to their true purpose.

References:

1.   Harvie M. Conn and Manuel Ortiz, Urban Ministry, Downers Grove, IVP, 2001, 33-79.

2. David Harvey, Rebel Cities, London, Verso, 2012.

3. Urbanization is about the density of people whereas urbanism is about the values of the city. Urbanization has reduced space but urbanism has recreated it. Urbanization has condensed space but urbanism has conveyed it across the world.

4. “In 2010, 73% of Europeans live in urban areas. 72% of these urbanites adhere to Christianity. 49% of the fifty largest European areas have Christian majorities.” Todd M. Johnson, Kenneth R. Ross, eds., Atlas of Global Christianity, Centre for Study of Global Christianity, Edinburgh University, 2009, 248.

  Robert Calvert is minister of Scots International Church Rotterdam with more than forty nationalities.  Over the decade he has co-ordinated a European network for urban ministry practitioners. Robert organizes consultations and trails, supervises student placements and teaches on urban ministry.

Missional responses to the financial crisis

May 22, 2012

Homelessness, debt and human trafficking that have become even bigger issues since the onset of the economic crisis. How are churches and mission agencies responding? 

The figures make depressing reading. In 2010, around 23% of the EU-27 population – nearly 116 million people – were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This means they met at least one of the following criteria: they were below the poverty threshold, experiencing severe material deprivation or living in a household with very low work intensity. But while less than 15% of those living in the Czech Republic, Sweden and the Netherlands were at risk, over 40% of Bulgarians and Romanians and more than 30% of Latvians, Lithuanians and Hungarians struggled with these issues.

Responding to need – working with volunteers
Serve the City was founded in Brussels in 2005, and “inspired by the life and message of Jesus Christ”, the movement now spreads across Europe and beyond, with the most recent launch being Athens, Greece. As an organisation, they connect volunteers with the local charities or associations working with people in need. Carlton Deal is Serve the City’s founder.

“Today we see more homelessness, more refugees, more people with no certain future,” says Carlton. “They have lost their families or their jobs or they are still pouring in from even more difficult circumstances elsewhere.”
“Single men in particular receive very little support. Last year Afghan refugees told us stories of approaching the police and identifying themselves as illegal aliens, asking to be arrested just to have a meal and a place to sleep indoors. The police ignored them.”

Anyone can volunteer with Serve the City – and Carlton considers helping volunteers who are not yet Christians to recognise Christ’s love in action to be part of the organisation’s missional response.

“We see a decreasing satisfaction in delegated compassion and an increasing desire for personal involvement,” says Carlton. “We believe these are Kingdom values, giving volunteers a new access point to the message of Jesus. People are increasingly motivated to acquire and spend the currency of the kingdom, whether or not they yet recognize Jesus as its King – in fact, I’m not sure we see as much growth in generosity from Christians as we do from those who are not yet followers of Jesus.”

Responding to debt – local churches get involved
One of the indicators of severe material deprivation mentioned above is “the inability to face unexpected financial expenses”, with 36% of the EU-27 population in this category. More than 85% of the Swedish population are able to cope with sudden strain on their finances. Over 75% of people in Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands are similarly prepared. At the other end of the scale, only 20-40% of people in Lithuania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Latvia could withstand this kind of financial pressure.

There is a clear East-West divide to these statistics. Interestingly, figures for the ratio between household debt and income also display a divide across East/Western lines, but in the opposite direction. While in 2009, it would have taken two years of disposable income for the average household in Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark to pay off their debts, in Central and Eastern European countries levels of household debt are such that it would take less than a year. Given that these countries also have a smaller average disposable income, personal debt appears to be a much bigger problem in the more affluent West.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a UK-based organisation offering local churches a practical way to help people around them in debt. In contrast to Serve the City, each CAP centre is set-up and resourced in direct partnership with a specific church in an area, so it becomes a ministry of that church. CAP centres offer a free debt counselling service helping clients to work out a realistic budget and negotiating affordable payments to creditors, as well as support if people go bankrupt. Clients have a professional case worker in the main CAP office but they are also befriended by trained volunteers from the local church.

Since beginning in 1996, the charity has grown rapidly and its vision is to see a local church-based centre in every UK town and city. Their free CAP Money money management course teaches people “the skills to get more in control of their finances, so they can save, give and prevent debt” and is on offer in Norway as well as the UK.

Responding to trafficking – joined up thinking
“The global financial crisis is having a marked impact on human trafficking… its effects are felt within the EU” (OSCE, 2009). Potential employment in another country is a major pull factor for migrants from areas of high unemployment. In desperation, they are tricked by traffickers who promise them a job – only to end up in prostitution or slavery of some sort when they eventually arrive.

There are many grass roots projects organised by churches and mission agencies across Europe reaching out the victims of trafficking, as well as advocacy movements such as Stop the Traffik.

At a pan-European level, the EEA’s European Freedom Network (EFN) connects ‘active and emerging ministries and other stakeholders across Europe…providing the encouragement, advice, resources and prayer that they need for effective action and cooperation’. A host of resources for prayer and information are available on the EFN website, and they produce a partners’ newsletter with more resources and contacts.

Responding as ourselves
This article highlights just three of the hundreds of ways Christians across Europe are responding to the financial crisis. But the Christian community is also feeling its impact. A 2009 survey amongst over 2800 UK Christians found that almost a quarter struggled with debt or financial issues, and more than half of those in employment “faced high levels of time pressures and fatigue”.

57% of people answering the questionnaire saw themselves as ‘an apprentice of Christ’ and a similar number were ‘’praying about how God could use them to make a difference’ – but 63% felt the church equipped them at best ‘only a little’ to face the pressures in the workplace.
In response to these needs, the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity’s Engaging with Work project seeks to resource Christians to ‘honour God in their work and bring Him into their workplace’. Their Imagine project goes further, aiming to help churches change their focus from ‘what happens on a Sunday’ to equipping people to live as disciples the other six days of the week.

And so, when considering mission in a time of crisis and our role as individuals and churches, our challenge is to respond in distinctive, counter-cultural ways, drawing our strength from God and his amazing love for the world.

Joanne Appleton

Sources:
Eurostat epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu
OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) http://www.osce.org/what/trafficking
Serve the City Intl. http://www.servethecity.net
Christians Against Poverty UK http://www.capuk.org and Norway http://www.capmoney.org/nb_NO/home
Stop the Traffik http://www.stopthetraffik.org
European Freedom Network http://www.europeanfreedomnetwork.org
London Institute of Contemporary Christianity http://www.licc.org.uk – download the survey of UK Christians from http://www.licc.org.uk/about-licc/resources/licc-resources/?parent_categoryID=39

Malawian-German Baptist partnership for growth and planting

June 22, 2011

Regina Claas

During the next five years, German Baptist Churches hope to be inspired by the example of the Baptist Union of Malawi. A partnership agreement was signed during the recent  Annual conference in Kassel. The German General-Secretary Regina Claas (from Elstal, Berlin) assured delegates that there were many things that the Baptists of Germany could learn from their Malawian sisters and brothers. One matter would be on how best to plant a church. Malawians are planting new churches on nearly a daily basis. The Baptist Union of Malawi has
200.000 members in 1.500 congregations.

The church’s General-Secretary, Vincent Chirwa (Blantyre), called on German Baptists to testify of Christ in everyday life and not feel hampered by the general opinion that one should not speak publically about matters of personal faith.

Claas expressed her longing for a new mission awakening. All members are called on to utilise their talents and expertise ‘in order to win others for Christ’. She based her concern on the fact that membership in Germany’s largest non-state church has been shrinking slowly for years. What is to be done? According to the Federation’s President, Hartmut Riemenschneider, congregations need to open their hearts to new people. The claim that they were already doing so is in many instances only a hollow phrase, for congregations are often not concerned about the desires of their visitors.

(Adapted from the EBF news source at http://www.ebf.org, original text by Klaus Roesler)

Baptist Church Planting in Croatia

May 26, 2011

There have been Baptist churches in Croatia since the 1890s. Over the last 20-30 years the Croatian Baptist Union has doubled in size and the number of congregations in still increasing. At present there are 1,900 church members attending a total of 50 churches and mission stations. The size of what could be termed the ‘Baptist community’ is likely to be two or three times this size (when family members and children of officially registered ‘members’ are taken into consideration).

The Baptist Union currently has a church planting goal of seeing one Baptist congregation planted in every one of Croatia’s 21 counties. The European Baptist Federation’s Indigenous Mission Project reports on the work of a church planter in Novi Marof, about 100km from the capital, Zagreb. Twenty people are meeting regularly there for prayer and worship.

The IMP co-ordinator, Daniel Trusiewicz, writes:

‘The meetings take place in a rented hall and are led by indigenous church planter Jonatan. The group has been meeting there for about one year and a good deal of growth has been notified since. There are counseling sessions twice a week in the same hall where the group meets for a Bible study on Friday night. People can come to talk or find advice about some spiritual or practical issues.

Jonatan says: ‘There are only two reasons that prompt me to plant a church in Novi Marof: the Great Commission and God’s love towards lost people who need to be saved. The target group is especially the young people burdened with various problems (addictions, unemployment, depression etc). In order to accomplish this goal we have started the Christian counseling. This ministry serves all who need advice and encouragement, and who seek the true meaning of life.’ Jonatan is married to Daniela and they have two small children.

The church plant in Novi Marof is supported by the church in Varazdin, some 15km away. The church in Varazdin was itself planted only 15 years ago and now has a building seating 50 people with an apartment for the pastor. Varazdin enjoys an educated congregation that is mission-minded, hence their enthusiastic support for the church plant at Novi Marof plus another at Ivanec. There are 15000 inhabitants in the town of Novi Marof and the new group is the sole Evangelical fellowship there. In the region of Varazdin – Novi Marof there are about 200,000 people but only three Evangelical churches.’


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