Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tending or Sending?

I spent the first half of the week at a conference in Lyon that brings together leaders from 9 different French denominations to work to accelerate the rate of church planting in France. This conference is part of a three-year project, where participants gather every six months for a little teaching and a lot of figuring out how to understand and apply what was taught so that, working together, the National Council of French Evanglicals can reach their goal of tripling the existing number of churches in France. This was the third of six gatherings over the three-year period, and I came away, once again, blessed  and amazed by the work that God is doing here. 

It will take more than one blog to summarize even just the high points! Let me start by telling you about the first speaker, Jeff Fountain. Fountain is the former director of YWAM Europe and the founder of the Schuman Centre for European Studies. He talked about the history of Christianity in Europe and its relationship to the the state of Europe today. Missiologist Lesslie Newbingen says (and Fountain agrees) that the difference between the pre-Christian pagan and the post-Christian pagan can be likened to the difference between a virgin and a divorcee. Europe was fundamentally shaped by the Gospel, and subsequently by its rejection of the Gospel. But Fountain is not discouraged. He sees how these roots of Christianity have benefitted Europe and believes it is time to reclaim those roots!

Fountain talked a lot about "soft powers" and the "powerful minority," harkening back to how Christians in Europe have succeeded in impacting their continent through powers like forgiveness and reconcilliation. The demolition of the Berlin wall in 1989 was the result of some such efforts. He encouraged the church to persist in these efforts, bringing life and truth into the comunities where they are planted. He also reminded us that Church Planting was not the end goal--God's Kingdom coming on earth is the end goal. Church Planting is just one of the means we can use to achieve that goal. In fact, Jesus spoke very little about the Church, and a great deal about the Kingdom of God. Which  one are we pursuing?

Finally, Fountain pointed out that we, the church, tend to prepare people to work in the church and not in the world. Those who are celebrated and considered faithful are the ones building up the church--when really the church is called to be serving the the world, not itself. We train pastors to tend their flocks rather than send their flocks. And we create churches that are ends in themselves. This needs to change.

I'll be reading Fountain's book, Living as People of Hope, over the Christmas break. This man has important things to say to the Church today, particularly to the Church in Europe. 

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