ADVERTISING
 
Sunday, January 26   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Society
Should Christians join social protests?



SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Darrell Jackson
 

Re-imagining Europe

It might be more helpful to talk about Europe in the plural, to accept that there are probably several different versions of Europe.

FEATURES AUTHOR Darrell Jackson 13 DECEMBER 2019 10:43 h GMT+1
Photo: Joel de Vriend. Unsplash (CC0).

Long after the UK had joined the European Union (on New Year’s Day, 1973) it was not uncommon to hear Brits tell me they were ‘going to Europe for their holiday’. To be fair, when I started visiting the Scandinavian countries, I heard people using similar language.



I was completely thrown, however, when friends from Italy, Spain, and Greece, also told me they were ‘going to visit Europe’. This was confusing! Where did they think Europe was? Other contributors to this edition of Vista have noted similar confusions about the nature of mission in Europe.



Some see it as something done by Europeans in other places, not within Europe.



African Christians, on the other hand, challenge their European sisters and brothers to think of Europe as precisely a mission field. They are shocked at Europe‘s descent into secularity and are not afraid to describe Europe as a post-Christian continent.



Others might consider Europe a ‘dark’ continent. But, if this is so, is Europe uniformly dark? What happens at its edges? Does the light that (apparently) shines more brightly in Asia or Africa, spill over into the parts of Europe that border these continents? More particularly, which Europe is darkened?



The metaphor of ‘people walking in darkness’ is certainly biblical, but its use needs a little more care than is often shown in some of the examples found on mission agency websites and in their literature.



While some of our European contributors agree with the diaspora perspective, several of them express hopeful views. They acknowledge the challenge of secular humanism to the Gospel but point to signs of God at work, challenge Christians to bridge the cultural gap between church and European society, issue a call to make disciples of younger generations, and, as Alex Vlasin suggests, urgently find new ways to ‘voice the gospel’



Evangelical authors, writing about Europe, have used a wider variety of biblical imagery over the last decade or so. David Smith (Mission After Christendom, 2003) suggests that Europeans are like the disciples on the Emmaus road, who have forgotten the Christian story.



Jeff Fountain has described Europe as a ‘prodigal’ continent. Others, including Duncan Maclaren (Mission Implausible, 2004), suggest that belief in contemporary Europe is implausible.



The mission of the church in Europe is to make faith credible through vital communities of Christians who live and demonstrate the plausibility of the beliefs they profess.



The loss of Notre Dame cathedral, in Paris, was described by Mark Thiessen, in the Washington Post (24th April, 2019), as a reminder of the need to rebuild the European church using ‘living stones’ (1 Pet 2:4-5).



Broadening the imagery helps, but so too will expanding our vision of what constitutes Europe. If deciding which countries count as ’Europe’, and which don’t, is a tricky business, then it might be more helpful to talk about Europe in the plural, to accept that there are probably several different versions of Europe.



This might then explain why there are some versions of Europe that we like and others that we don’t.



The sheer diversity reflected across the forty-seven member states of the European Council can be confusing, and is often seen in the wide differences of political history, language, religious heritage, cultural identity, climate, proximity, regional variation, political vision, economy, geography, industry, and so on.



Lumping all 47 into the same ‘dark continent’ category seems either clumsy or lazy, and possibly both.



Of course, there are barely indisputable facts that European mission agencies and churches must face and, to be honest, many of them are painfully all too aware of the facts.



The 2017 Pew Research report (Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe, 2017, p.5-6) noted that ‘Central and Eastern Europeans display relatively low levels of religious observance’ although it also reports that ‘religion has reasserted itself as an important part of individual and national identity’, and ‘solid majorities of adults across much of the region say they believe in God’.



Maybe it’s better to say that Central and Eastern Europeans are not god-less, rather that they are not too concerned with what God might expect of them.



This is the background for comments in this edition from Alex Vlasin, for example, that the churches of these regions often see themselves as insignificant, under-resourced, and subsequently determined to work in East-West partnerships.



In Western Europe, the Pew Research report Being Christian in Western Europe (2018, p.7) describes European Christians as mostly non-practising rather than non-believing; ‘most adults surveyed still do consider themselves Christians, even if they seldom go to church. …non-practicing Christians […] make up the biggest share of the population across the region.



In every country except Italy, they are more numerous than church-attending Christians.’



Across Europe, the greater majority of people who identify as ‘Christian’ are simply de-churched. Many of them were baptised as infants. Many of them are geographically close to a church where Sunday worship still happens.



But, sadly, they’ve forgotten the Christian story; they’ve strayed from churches that have disillusioned, ignored, or betrayed them; they no longer find Christian faith plausible; they find Sunday worship boring, irrelevant, or unengaging.



Do these facts alone make Europe a ‘dark continent’ without distinction or difference? The biblical passages that refer to people ‘walking in darkness’ also refer to the light shining upon them.



Wherever we imagine Europe begins and ends, even though it may be darkened, the light of Christ still shines there. De-churched Europeans may stumble in the darkness but the light of Christ has not been extinguished.



It’s  possible  that  missionary  efforts that  are  only  directed  towards  rekindling  the  light  of  Christ  through planting  more  new  churches, misunderstand  the  nature  of  the missionary  challenge  in  Europe. 



We may  not  like  some  of  the  ways  that Europeans  have  chosen  to  work together  (the  EU,  for  instance?),  and we  may  think  these  should  be  located on  a  scale  somewhere  between strange  to  oppressive,  but  when God’s  people  found  themselves  in similar  situations,  we  read  that  they learned  to  ‘sing  the  Lord’s  song’  in strange  lands  and  though  this  was painful,  they  persisted. 



The  early church  also  learned  to  live  as  pilgrims in  a  foreign  land,  a  world  that  was  not their  home.  This  required  a  major reimagining  of  the  world  in  which they  had  previously  lived  as  fully engaged  heathens  and  loyal  subjects.



Maybe  a  deeper  understanding  of Europe  will  help  missionaries  avoid making  a  common  mistake.  That  is, the  mistake  of  assuming  that  they understand  Europe  without  really studying  and  finding out more about it. 



Every one of  the  contributors  to this  edition  of  Vista  shows  the  hard word  of  thinking  carefully  about Europe.  They  collectively  underscore the  need  for  new  visions  of  Europe, for  a  reimagining  of  the Europe that we thought we knew. 



It  might  be dark  in  places  but  to  consider  it  dark verywhere  is  unimaginative  and shows  a  lack  of  vision  and understanding.



Christian  missionaries in and  to Europe  are  called  to  engage  the Gospel  with  a  more  appropriately imagined  Europe;  a  Europe  that  is wonderfully  yet  frustratingly  diverse.



Europeans  might  believe  they  are Christians,  but  the central  missionary challenge is to be the body of Christ in  such a wa  that Christian faith is seen to be  plausible, memorable, and transformative!  To  believe that is possible requires us to reimagine Europe!



Darrell Jackson. This article first appeared in the October 2019 edition of Vista magazine.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Re-imagining Europe
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels

An interview with the socio-political representative of the European Evangelical Alliance about how evangelical Christians work at the heart of the European Union.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Testimony: Wildfires near Athens Testimony: Wildfires near Athens

Nico Spies, a Christian worker in Athens, gives details about the wildfires in Greece.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Photos: European Week of Prayer Photos: European Week of Prayer

Christians joined the Evangelical Alliance Week of Prayer in dozens of European cities as local churches came together to worship God. 

 
Photos: Students at ‘Revive Europe’ Photos: Students at ‘Revive Europe’

Photos of the student conference that brought together 3,000 European Christians in Germany. ‘Revive our hearts, revive our universities, revive Europe’.

 
Min19: Childhood, family and the church Min19: Childhood, family and the church

The first evangelical congress on childhood and family was held in Madrid. Pictures of the event, November 1-2.

 
IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’ IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’

Students, graduates and staff of the global evangelical student movement reflected together on how the books of Luke and Acts apply to today's universities.

 
Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission

Photos of the Lausanne Movement Global Workplace Forum, celebrated in Manila.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Christian candidacies in Taiwan increased by 40% in 2020 election Christian candidacies in Taiwan increased by 40% in 2020 election

Many hope their effort will inspire a new generation of political representatives with a strong Christian faith. “God has a long-term plan”.

 
Why does the Roman Catholic Church mandate that priests remain celibate? Why does the Roman Catholic Church mandate that priests remain celibate?

“There is no biblical reason for the imposition of celibacy as the status of pastors or priests”, says Vatican expert and evangelical theologian Leonardo De Chirico.

 
Video: Highlights of ‘Revive Europe’ Video: Highlights of ‘Revive Europe’

A video summary of the student conference that gathered 3,000 in Karlsruhe, Germany. 6 days in 6 minutes.

 
Families forced to leave homes in Chiapas Families forced to leave homes in Chiapas

Requests for government intervention were ignored, and nearby churches are providing the displaced believers with emergency supplies and lodging.

 
‘There’s a dragon in my nativity’ ‘There’s a dragon in my nativity’

“At this nativity, arose another player. The baby wrapped in swaddling cloths — He was a dragon slayer”. A Christmas story by Speak Life.

 
World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly highlights World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly highlights

The World Evangelical Alliance's General Assembly 2019 in Jakarta, Indonesia, brought together 800 evangelicals from 92 countries to pray, worship and cast vision for the new decade of holistic discipleship.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.