Several years ago I met Jeff Roper in California. He challenged me to come work in the neediest mission field in the world… Europe. I tentatively agreed to come.
It turns out that the world’s ten people groups most resistant to the gospel all reside in Western Europe. It is the “dark continent.” But while that may be true there is real growth in other places.
Since my first visit to the continent I’ve discovered that Christianity is in the throes of re-birth in many European countries. The progress may be slow in some places but it is definitely there. I feel honored to partner with European pastors and church planters at this crucial moment in human history.
A Growing Tide Of Immigrants
In The New Faces Of Christianity, Philip Jenkins wrote that for every two Muslims moving from Africa, or the Middle East, into Europe there are three Christians making the same move. Aside from any work on the part of traditional Europeans, these people will change the spiritual map of Europe. We are fortunate that Christians are migrating in larger numbers than Muslims. This, by itself, bodes well for the gospel.
Even the crisis generated by ISIS contributes to this. It is obvious that the first people to run from the brutality were Christians. That was back when Europe still opened its doors freely to immigration generated by the slaughter and war. They will only contribute to the resurgence of the gospel in Europe.
As these newly arrived Christ followers naturally plant churches to reach their own people they engender surprising results. The new churches also evangelize and assimilate traditional European people. And, because the churches among new immigrants usually lack material wealth they have an unexpected effect on evangelical churches in the surrounding area.
Many traditional European pastors have held back from church multiplication because they felt too poor to make the investment. These people are re-learning faith from their newly arrived neighbors. I remember visiting one country about 12 years ago only to discover that every pastor I met was constrained by money worries. I visited the same place two years ago.
Every one of those previously depressed pastors showed up at the meeting. The better surprise was that each pastor had at least one new church in the pipeline. The reason they gave for the turnaround was, “If these immigrants can plant churches in their poverty we can do it, too.”
Good Times Ahead?
It is during times of cultural upheaval that the gospel has always prospered. With the world tilting on the edge of destruction we are in the midst of huge cultural upheaval. It seems that the partnership I am privileged to enjoy with Jeff was authored by God to help take advantage of a positive situation.
We’ve worked together in France, Ukraine, Greece, Russia, Turkey, Hungary, England and Holland. In each country, we train budding church planters and visionary pastors who intend to multiply their congregations by planting churches. This is exciting stuff that literally bends history.
Somebody’s Got To Start, Somewhere!
In all of history there has never been a spiritual awakening without the input of at least one ‘catalytic’ church planter. From the days of the Apostle Paul through John Wesley in England right down to Yonggi Cho in Korea the spread of the gospel has always started with one highly motivated individual. I’ve met one such leader in Kiev, Ukraine. This three-decade old church has launched dozens of churches.
In Russia the leader the churches we worked with is moving his family away from their largest church in order to plant a new one in Russia’s cultural capital of St. Petersburg. He wants to set an example for other pastors in his country.
This is what makes Jeff so important to the Kingdom of God. He has the ability and tenacity to search out those catalytic leaders. He befriends them and brings resources to aid them as they fulfill the vision God put in their hearts.
The really good news is that God is raising many such leaders at this moment. For me this means that am constrained to do just about anything to support the work he leads.