Saturday, April 19, 2008

I often will be asked in the states "where do you live?"
I tell them Western Europe. They really feel sorry for me.

Of course I could not imagine why. grin.
I think we suffer in other ways like the 1.62 exchange rate. When we moved to Europe in 2001 we could go to the grocery store and spend 100 euros and only 70 US dollars came out of our account. Now 162.00 dollars comes out. The views are expensive for sure.

But this is not why we are here. We have a desire to see people here come to know, experience and live abundantly by as followers of Jesus.

So while we may have some cool views. We most certainly have beautiful castles and churches however it does not take long being here to realize that for all of the "Coolness" of Europe it is a place in need of Jesus.

Check out this article that a co-worker passed to me this week. It helps paint a picture of the spiritual condition of the young people here. While there are glimpses where we see how young people desire spiritual conversations it is not the Christian church where they are going to find their answers. In fact they are going almost everywhere but the church. This presents a problem if your church is trying to "attract" young people (I would add anyone for that matter).
If you are trying to attract people to your church then you are assuming that you have people wanting to come. I think that day is over here. The church (people not a building, place or just the pastor) has to find ways to live out their faith in their daily lives (incarnationally) so that they have natural opportunities to share Jesus in a every day context.

I would also add that even though this article speaks of how some German youth are seeking spirituality I do not think it is the norm. For many spirituality is not a bleep on the radar screen. in Europe. I hope as you read this article you might say a prayer for the youth in Europe. Say a prayer for the people that are serving over here both as internationals trying to make a difference and for nationals who are trying to reach young people for Christ in Europe.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

day one

"The church is suffering from mission amnesia. It has forgotten why it exists. The church was created to be the people of God to join him in His redemptive mission to the world. The church was never intended to exist for itself. It was and is the chosen instrument of God to expand His kingdom".

Those are some words in the book The Present Future by Reggie McNeal. The book is a few years old but it is right on. I highly recommend the book. It is a good read and a quick read. You will not be disappointed.

I cut my church planting teeth in the 90s. I worked hard at starting churches that would be relevant to the culture. Some of them were cool. I tried to start churches that would reach lost people and disciple them. But did I start churches that were focused primarily on their own growth or did I start churches that were concerned for the kingdom?

My "aha" moment was when I was working on my post graduate degree in missiology and planting a church at the same time. I started to see that the church was not to be just concerned about itself but also about it's community, city and world. We were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but we tried to make a difference in our little part of the world. As I look back I do not know if I really took that far enough. In fact I know I did not. I kept thinking "when we get this size" or "when we have more staff", etc... then we will go to the world. I was always in the future tense with that idea.

I was wrong. We needed to do that from day one.

So I have decided that I need to do something about that. I want to help new churches think and act missionally from day one. I want to help new churches not exist for themselves but to see themselves as McNeal says... the chosen instrument of God to expand His kingdom. I am still figuring out how this will look but I have some ideas. If you have any let me know.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

the first step

Do you ever get nervous about taking that first step in a spiritual conversation? I know I do. You just never know where it may lead.

About a week ago a man came to our door and told us that another man would come the following morning at 7 am to start work on our porch. Our landlord has promised that our really cool deck would be finished last Fall. We live in the Black Forest area of Germany so we really need our porch when it starts getting warmer. We have a good view. The next morning at 7 am a guy shows up at the door and says in simple English "good morning". I return the greeting. He then askes if I speak English and I then recognized his accent. I said - "si, pero yo hablo espanol tambien. Tu hablas espanol?" (I speak English but I also speak Spanish. Do you speak Spanish?) He said in Spanish - "Yes. I am from Spain. I am from Andulacia". We both lit up. I was so happy to find a Spaniard in Germany and he was happy he could speak his home language even if it were with a person (me) who mostly thinks he knows spanish. smile

I told him about my secret stash of spanish coffee. I still prefer the strong spanish blend. I am a coffee snob. I made him a cafe con leche and we had coffee together. At that point I did not care about my porch and that I was keeping him from working on it. I was having a blast. I felt a nudge and I think it was the Holy Spirit asking me to take a step and to talk to this guy about spiritual things. So I was dusting off my spanish and was preparing to go down that road. He asked me where I work and what I do. I explained my job. I do not use the word missionary but I told him that I work for an organization that is Christian. He then lit up again when I told him that my kids went to a certain school. He said that his pastor's kid attended that school. He then proceeded to talk to me about his church and Jesus and invited me to his church which is a German church. I was floored.

Susan and I attended that church the next Sunday and we talked more. It was great fun and I hope to spend some more time with him in the future. I tell this story for it speaks to me loudly. It was totally unexpected. In reality I thought that the Lord was wanting me to talk to him to help him see Jesus. Afterall less than two percent of the people in Spain are Christ followers. This time I actually did what the Lord asked me to do and that was to initiate a conversation with the guy. The Lord took care of the rest. I would like to think that I encouraged him that day but I know that he encouraged me.

An important facet of living life intentionally is to be ready to listen, act or speak as the Lord leads in whatever moment you are in. I am so far from being an expert at this but I hope I am learning "poco a poco" (little by little).