Europe, the spiritually dead continent. Statistics suggest that there is little ‘spiritual life’ in many European countries (Operation World pp79–81).
Most continents have registered a steady, sometimes dramatic growth in the number of believers over the last 50 years. However, the line for Europe appears to be flat. Yet, quietly, the Spirit of God has been at work.
Over New Year 2013/14, more than 2800 young people from almost 40 European nations gathered in Germany for Mission-Net, a biennial European mission congress. As expected, there were several hundred young people from Germany and Switzerland present. More surprising, however, were the 400 from Italy, 200 from France and almost as many from Austria. Countries like Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Poland and Portugal were all represented.
What’s been happening?
While churches in many traditionally protestant countries have been on the decline, there has been a steady growth in Eastern Europe. The fall of communism two decades ago brought a new freedom of religion, and the formerly persecuted churches could start to operate more openly. Faithful perseverance is now bearing fruit, the church is coming of age and having increasing impact on society.
Evangelical churches in the countries of Southern Europe are also entering into a new era; missionaries have now handed the church leadership to local leaders. The influx of immigrants from countries like Brazil, Nigeria, Philippines and China have had a positive impact on churches. These churches are now asserting themselves in a positive way. No longer a minute minority, they are making their voices heard with bolder proclamation and a desire to be involved in missions.
Romania, Ukraine and Italy now have a large and growing evangelical population. Believers from these countries are quickly expanding into a new and dynamic mission force. Initially it was mission to the neighbouring countries, but now they are beginning to look further afield.
In OMF, we have been getting inquiries from young people from all corners of the continent, inquiring about short- and long-term possibilities in East Asia; we want to be available to those whom God has called.
A new unit called ‘OMF New Horizons’ has been created for that purpose. It seeks to partner with local mission organisations in countries where OMF doesn’t have an existing presence. This might be more straightforward in Scandinavian nations where there has been a long-standing mission tradition, but more complicated in countries in Eastern and Southern Europe, where there are few mission organisations that have the experience of sending people. OMF New Horizons hope to work with the local believers, to create a mission infrastructure that produces appropriate media and helps with the practical and legal aspects of sending people to join teams in East Asia.
Here are some of the local believers OMF are working with. Please pray that OMF New Horizons would continue to support individuals and groups who have a heart for mission in East Asia.