The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Evi Rodemann, director of the Mission-Net Congress (December 28 - January 2), talks about the role of youth in church and missions, the challenges Europe is facing, and the importance of real discipleship.
From December 28 to January 2, the fourth Congress of Mission- Net will take place in in Offenburg, Germany. Around 2,500 young people coming from 50 different countries will gather to share and enjoy plenaries, seminars, Bible studies, mission exhibitions, local outreaches, and more.
“The topic is `connected´, so we look into what does it mean today to be connected with God and with each other”, Evi Rodemann, director of Mission-Net, tells Evangelical Focus.
Now that Europe is struggling to get out of its social and economic crisis, Rodemann and her team expect to “see Europe once again being transformed, and Europeans going out and really causing a change in this world.”
Question. What will young people find if they decide to participate in Mission-Net?
Answer. If they come to the congress, they will find encouragement through lots of other European young people, we have people between the ages of 16 and 30, older ones who serve them, and lots of exhibitors.
It is a very special European family spirit, specially today when we see Europe so divided, and the crisis we are in. It is so important to find like- minded people, Christians who stand for their faith.
They will find people interested in them, who want the young generation to succeed, to find their calling in this world. So we look at what God is doing globally and how can you be a part of it, what is God´s dream for you, and how can we help you to implement the dreams He has for you life. It could be taking a different route in your job career, helping translating a Bible, going back home and planting a church or engaging against human trafficking. Many different things to challenge young people to live a missional lifestyle and be part of transforming our world.
We will love to see Europe once again being transformed, and Europeans going out and really causing a change in this world.
The topic is “connected”, so we look into what does it mean today to be connected with God and with each other. There will be a great exhibition, a “Dream Centre” to work on your calling, personality profiling, about 70 seminaries, outreach to the area, engaging with refugees. Various topics, great speakers, an atmosphere where God is celebrated, and we will celebrate New Year!
Q. How does Christian youth see mission?
A. I found that there are many different opinions. Some just think world missions is out there and not relevant to their lives. And often when the church itself is not focused on mission, the youth in those churches does not really capture its importance.
But I also see other young ones who are so interested in seeing a change, they want to become world changers themselves, they are upset about what they find back home, they like to see the church much more engaged with the needs. So for them, mission is going and bringing Christ through word and deed.
When young ones feel that we entrust them with a task as well, not just let the parents or the older generations do the job of missions. They are very eager, hungry. If you give them a cause to live for, they will do anything to get it going.
So we do not have to let missions to the specialists. All of us can have part in it: giving money, being engaged in a project, or whatsoever, but the young ones are doing amazing things, and we need to enhance that.
“OUR IDENTITY IS IN CHRIST”
Q. You expect around 2,500 young people coming to Misision-Net from almost 50 different countries, most of them from Europe. What are the challenges European Christians are facing today?
A. We could look at all the crisis we are facing: it could be the financial crisis, which has a huge impact, or the unemployment, climate change, refugees. For me, looking at Europe, if we know who we are in Christ, if we identify our spiritual needs, we can actually encounter other needs. But if our faith is not grounded on something solid, we are going to lose the other things.
I personally think that the spiritual crisis is the worst we are in right now. So it is a great opportunity to show young ones what is a spiritual mother and father who walks with them in their journey, who teaches them what it is to be a disciple.
Sometimes we become so programme-oriented. But when we disciple people it is a process, it is walking with them. So that is one of the biggest things we have in our hearts now to teach the young ones what does the Bible say on these various topics. How can we as a church respond and work on our identity in Christ.
The EU works on the European identity, and I might think they can teach us about it, but we have it in the Bible - which is very clear for us to live according to His will. So if you discover that, I think it will be the way to deal with all the other challenges, which are huge, around us.
Q. As Christians, every place is a mission field. How can we impact our society at school, in our jobs, or anywhere God places us?
A. The first thing that always stands out for me is to be founded in God. Not trying to change the world from our own way of seeing the needs around us. For instance, the refugee crisis tears my heart apart, and I want to go and feed them, but I know that it is more than that.
First, it is coming to God and say: “God, you has chosen me to be a part of your kingdom and family, so, out of my being, what can I do? If each of us prays each day: “God, who do you want me to bless today?”, then you can impact your society.
It does not matter where God places you, but to have this open attitude of saying: “God, I want to be a blessing because you have blessed me.” That is what makes us salt and light in society, to understand where God has put you, and from there bring it into the global perspective.
“WE WANT TO SEE THE YOUTH NOT JUST BEING EQUIPPED, BUT BEING MULTIPLIERS”
Q. Many times we organize events, evangelistic campaigns, etc. But we forget the next step. How important is the discipleship for you, and why?
A. Conferences are great, they attract, help people to be united for one cause. But if we are not prepared for a followup, you just have created a “hype.” But then they come back home, they can be even more devastated than what they were before.
So we in Mission-Net think a lot about 'movement.' We have great advisors who help us know how to train youth so that they can bring back home the DNA of a missional lifestyle. So it is essential when we do events, conferences, to prepare a plan to follow up.
Right now we are creating a tool to give the participants an input every month in between conferences: 24 things you can do with your youth group. Have a refugee experience, go and have an act of giving, learn about missions in the Bible... Things that create a rhythm in us, so that we are not just driven by events and conferences.
We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers. If that becomes the focus, then ultimately our conferences will still be fantastic, as good as they can be. But always having in mind how to enhance the discipleship of young ones, how can we mobilise and train them to actually think bigger.
Q. Do you still have places available for Mission-Net? What do people have to do to register?
A. On our website you will find the registration button, and we love to get many, many people to come. You can be very spontaneous and register on the last day and pay on-site. We have enough space for accommodation.
The congress fee includes accommodation and food, so you also have to pay for the ticket or the transportation. The 28th you can come and register. But of course it helps if you do it in advance, so we can put you with your language group.
We expect 2,500 people, we will have translation on-site in 15 different languages. People are in what we call “family groups”, so you are not alone. You are a part of a “family” with whom you can walk the journey of the 5 days of the conference. You need to bring your sleeping bag and a little mattress.
So, look at the website to see the speakers, the seminars, the various cafés, the mentoring we offer. Inform yourself, consider and pray if that is the place where God wants you to come for New Year.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add?
A. I can only encourage each of us to make use of the opportunities God has provided. And maybe I can finish with one of the latest stories coming through in Mission-Net. At the last Congress, people donated money. And we said: “How can we use that money? Is there any language in Europe which has not their own Bible?”
And at this conference, we are launching the Roma children´s Bible. We are very excited that people can give something small - and God can multiply all this and do something big out of it. So I want to encourage everyone to use the Christmas season and go out to refugees, or families who do not know Christ, and have that faith that God is transforming the lives because of the power we find in Jesus.