Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Vista 20: ‘Set my people free’ – human trafficking and exploitation in Europe

January 24, 2015

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.”  Exodus 9:1

trafficking pictureIn 2007 Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery. Or so read the headlines at the time. But making slavery illegal does not make it disappear, and we don’t have to go to Africa to find it.

This edition of Vista takes on the thorny issue of slavery in Europe: people trafficking and forced labour.  Our lead article is by Jennifer Tunehag, an expert who has spent more than a decade helping victims and campaigning on this vital issue. She sets out the dimensions and the dynamics of people trafficking with authority and clarity.

Darrell Jackson has written a very thought- provoking article on the missiological aspects of human trafficking. He asks some challenging questions about the engagement of evangelicals in this area, in particular as it relates to forced labour.

I have contributed a short piece on the statistical challenges associated with this topic and highlighted the huge discrepancy between the number of victims registered by the EU (around 30,000) and the 880,000 that are estimated to exist.  And Jo Appleton has pulled together a set of resources to allow you to investigate the issues further.

It is shocking to think that there are men, women and children in slavery in many of the liberal social democracies of today’s Europe. The church must engage with this enormous challenge, to speak to the Pharaohs of our age on behalf of the oppressed.  But the victims live in many of our towns and cities and, in the name of Christ, we must do what we can to find and help “to set the captives free.” (Luke 4:18)

Jim Memory

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Yeast in the East: 25 years after the Wall came down

October 31, 2014

Berlin wallThe kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” (Matt. 13:33)

The parable of the leaven is one of the shortest of Jesus parables but one of the most powerful. It’s diminutive size, just nineteen words in the original Greek, seems to echo it’s message: that God’s Kingdom may seem small, invisible even, but given time it has such power that all around it is transformed.

Those who were privileged to observe the events of 25 years ago in Berlin and across Eastern Europe saw an extraordinary transformation unfold before their very eyes. All-powerful regimes crumbled before the irresistible force of individual acts of faith and courage.

As we approach the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on the 9th of November, the editors of Vista wanted to dedicate this issue to the events of that momentous year and its enduring impact on mission, particularly in the East. But to do it justice we felt it best to invite an older brother who was active in mission at the time to serve as guest editor.

We are truly grateful to Jeff Fountain who has not only contributed the lead article, but has drawn together most of the content through his network of contacts of those who were eye-witnesses to the transformative power of the yeast in the East!

Our prayer is that this issue of Vista encourages you to believe in the transforming power of the gospel of the Kingdom in today’s Europe; and that we might show the same faith and courage as the Christians of the East a generation ago.

Jim Memory

Vista Issue 19 Oct 2014

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

Vista 17: The Cross over Europe

May 3, 2014

The Cross above EuropeIn my experience there are two common fallacies on mission in Europe. The first sees all Europeans as broadly the same: all of Europe is said to be thoroughly secularized, or pagan, or devoid of vibrant Christian witness. The second considers the context of each nation or region as so unique that only those who have a deep appreciation of the language, history, culture and religious traditions of that place can possibly engage in authentic Christian mission. The first ignores European diversity and the second disregards Europe’s many common features. And when it comes to mission the first makes few allowances for contextualization whilst the second blinds us to opportunities to learn lessons from elsewhere.

As Alexander Dumas once said, “All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.” The problem, of course, is not the making of generalizations. We all do that as a step in our learning. The problem is turning those generalizations into absolutes so we don’t have think any further. But the opposite can also occur, where localisms are turned into absolutes, so that our thinking is closed to outside influences.

This edition of Vista seeks to trace a middle way between those two dangers. Evert van de Poll’s lead article explores some of Europe’s common regional features and this is followed by four responses, one from each of Europe’s four “corners”.

Vija Herefoss, writing from Norway, takes Evert to task for some of his generalizations of Scandanavia. Chris Ducker brings a Slavic perspective. Stephen March writes from the view of Catholic Europe and Kostake Milkov gives us a Balkan angle. Each emphasises the importance of understanding history and culture in contemporary Christian mission.

So whichever “corner” of Europe we are from, all of us can learn something if we are willing to reflect deeply on these stories of contextual mission in Europe today. And that is no sweeping generalization.

Download Issue Number 17 The Cross above Europe

Jim Memory

Spirituality and Religion in Europe: Philip Hughes

February 11, 2014

For some years, a number of scholars, such as Linda Woodhead and Paul Heelas (2005) and David Tacey (2000), have been arguing that the world, or at least the Western world, is going through a spiritual revolution. People are embracing ‘spirituality’ rather than ‘religion’. Recent research has enabled critical evaluation of this claim.

The Extent and Nature of the Affirmation of Spirituality in Europe
The International Social Survey Program conducted in 44 countries during 2008/2009 included a number of questions on spirituality and religion. In one of these questions people were asked whether they described themselves as religious and spiritual, religious but not spiritual, spiritual but not religious or neither. Table 1 below summarises the responses to this question for each of the 24 European countries in the study. It shows that the proportion of people who identify themselves as spiritual but not religious varies from 24 per cent in Slovenia to 6 per cent in Cyprus.


Table 1. Responses to the Question Whether People Follow a Religion or Are Spiritual, Both or Neither, and the Percent of People Under 60 Less the People Over 60 Affirming They are Spiritual by European Country (Percentage in Each Country)

This question about being religious or spiritual has not been asked before in a large survey program such as this. Thus, it is not possible to ascertain the trends by comparing it with other surveys completed at different periods of time. However, some indication of probable trends can be identified by comparing older and younger people. Assuming that comparatively few people change their sense of being religious or spiritual over time, a comparison of the responses of older people and younger people may give us some idea of how changes in culture are occurring.

A comparison of the responses of under and over 60s shows that in every country in Europe, older people are more likely to describe themselves as religious. In Croatia and Austria, the differences are not significant at 95 per cent level, but in every other country, the differences are significant, indicating a decline in people following a religion.

However, the patterns are quite different in relation to spirituality as shown in the final column of Table 1. In 12 countries, more younger people than older people saw themselves as spiritual. In 11 countries, more older people than younger people saw themselves as spiritual. In one country, Poland, there was no difference between older and younger people. It should be noted that in 14 countries out of the 24, the differences between older and younger people were not significant at the 95 per cent confidence level (no asterisk).

It will be noted that there is a tendency for the higher numbers of younger ‘spiritual’ people to be found in the northern countries of Europe with a Protestant history. The lower numbers of younger spiritual people are found mostly in the Catholic and Orthodox countries of south and eastern Europe.

Further analysis has shown that in most of the countries where spirituality is less among younger people, it is associated with belief in a personal God. In other words, in these countries, spirituality is understood in terms of personal devotion, or belief in the supernatural powers of God. In those countries where spirituality is found more among younger people, it is usually associated with belief in a higher power or spiritual forces in nature, rather than with a personal God. In other words, ‘spirituality’ means quite different things in different countries and there is no one ‘spiritual revolution’ across Europe.

What is evident is that in a number of countries in northern Europe where there is a Protestant heritage and in which the making of meaning is approached more individually, there are more young people than older people embracing spirituality as something individual and associated with higher powers rather than with the God of religious institutions.

The Origins of ‘The Spiritual Revolution’ in Northern Europe
It is highly likely that the northern European kind of spirituality has its roots in the individualism of post-modernity that has arisen from those types of child-rearing that emphasise meeting the needs and interests of each individual child rather than focussing on the wellbeing of the whole family. This has been shown to be connected to the reduction in family size and changes in technology in the home which allowed greater attention to the needs of individual children in the 1960s and 1970s (Berger et al, 1974). Along with other social processes such as an increase in the pluralism of beliefs and life options that came through migration, world travel and television in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a significant change in the way people sought meaning in life.

Heelas and Woodhead (2005) have argued that, prior to the 1960s, meaning was primarily sought through the fulfilment of those roles which one had inherited through birth or through one’s social situation. Married women sought meaning, for example, in fulfilling the duties of being a good wife and a good mother. Men sought meaning in providing economically for their families. Both men and women sought meaning in fulfilling the duties of the religion which they inherited by birth. Such a sense of finding fulfilment by fulfilling one’s duties in life is still common in the southern and eastern European countries. Most southern and eastern Europeans have a strong sense that their religious identity is given to them by birth and that being a good person means fulfilling those religious duties.

However, children who grew up after the 1960s when thinking about their own needs and interests looked for fulfilment in what Heelas and Woodhead call their ‘subjectivity’. Life consisted in finding what was personally fulfilling, what gave a sense of personal authenticity, rather than the fulfilment of external duties laid upon them by birth or their social situation. It is in this situation that many have turned away from the traditional duties of religion and have sought meaning in the spirituality which they have personally constructed for themselves. In the terms of the social theorist, Anthony Giddens (1991), life came to be lived more reflexively, as a constantly developing biography, rather than as a fulfilment of a specific set of duties and responsibilities.

‘Spirituality’ means a great many things to different people. But common characteristics include the fact that it is seen as developed and owned individually rather than by institutions. It is often developed from a range of sources rather than one particular source. It is found expressed in the recounting of experience rather than in expression of dogma. It tends to focus on this life rather than the next, and is oriented towards human wellbeing rather than towards a transcendent God (Fisk, quoted in Geels 2009).

The Implications of The Spiritual Revolution for Mission
The development of such forms of individualised spirituality in Western Europe has many important implications for how mission is conducted in those places. There are a number of features of contemporary spirituality which many Christians can affirm, and, indeed, in some of those features there may be helpful correctives for some ways in which Christianity is expressed.

Firstly, contemporary spirituality recognises that there is ‘something beyond’ this material world. A number of commentators, such as Antoon Geels (2009), have noted that many forms of contemporary spirituality recognise the mystery in human life and in the universe as a whole. It is, in part, a protest against reducing the world to that which is material and mundane. Geels argues that this sense of mystery is very much in line with that described by the mystics of many religions including those in the Christian tradition. The recognition of mystery in contemporary spirituality may be an important antidote to the Protestant tendency to anthropomorphise God, as Karen Armstrong (1993) has argued.

Contemporary spirituality also reminds people of the fragility of the earth and the need for its care. It reminds Christians of the important of recapturing respect for creation and dedicating themselves to its care. Associated with the sense of the mystery of God is the emphasis on the experience of God. Again, this fits with many Christian traditions, and has been a feature of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

Where Christians need to make a stand over against some forms of contemporary spirituality is in arguing that such fulfilment in life is not found primarily by focussing on self-realisation or obeying one’s inner impulses, as Heelas and Woodhead seem to suggest, but through one’s contribution in relationship with others. In contemporary society, each individual can develop their own biographies but they will not find those biographies meaningful until they make their own personal contributions to the lives of others and to the wider society. Ultimately we find fulfilment in life when we focus on the wellbeing of others and not just ourselves.

To put it in Jesus’ terms: the purpose of Christian mission is to call people to love God and to love their neighbours as themselves. Love of self, love of our neighbour – not only our friends and relatives but also the members of wider society – and love of God is the spirituality to which Jesus calls us.
Contemporary spirituality can remind us that Jesus’ call is to relationship. It is not primarily a call to church attendance, even though that may be a significant basis for relationships with others. We are likely to see increasing numbers of people looking for ways in which they can explore faith or express faith through short-term activities such as involvement in social welfare or social justice activities, through music and drama, through small groups and large festivals, rather than through the weekly congregational worship. We may still want to uphold weekly congregational worship as part of the nature of the church, but we may need to see it as the end of a path, rather than the start of an exploration for the love for God, for one’s neighbour and one’s self.

Philip Hughes
Christian Research Association, Australia

Armstrong, K., A History of God. London: Random House, 1993.
Berger, P., Berger, B. & Kellner, H., The Homeless Mind. London: Pelican Books, 1974.
Geels, A., “Glocal Spirituality for a Brave New World.” In Postmodern Spirituality, edited by Tore Ahlback and Bjorn Dahla. Abo, Finland: Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History, 2009.
Giddens, A., Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991.
Heelas, P. & Woodhead, L., The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion Is Giving Way to Spirituality. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.
Tacey, D., The Spiritual Revolution: The Emergence of Contemporary Spirituality. Sydney: Harper Collins, 2003.

Data Source
International Social Survey Program (2008-2009)


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