When I first came to Europe I thought that the absence of intelligent spiritual formation and soul care in local churches could be corrected by raising awareness, creating new resources and pursuing meaningful relationships. Now I believe that the problem is located deeper in the structure of the European church. It comes down to the basic teaching of the church. When the pastor/priest stands up on Sunday morning (or at other times) and says “This is what it is all about. This is why we are here.” It is my assessment that what we are telling people (the words) is not going to lead them fullness in Christ.
2. ENCOURAGING OTHER MINISTERS
There are many ways to describe this work which is often goes unseen. But basically I mean visiting other ministers with a listening ear and an observant mind in order to Spiritually support them in the work they are engaged in. Being in ministry is difficult. Very often ministers have no one who takes an interest in them and what they do. Younger ministers often think that older ministers (senior pastors and the like) will do this but it often isn’t true. Older ministers are often so busy that they are simply glad that the younger ones take work off their plate.
Generally we think of the schools as the place where the research which the church needs will happen. But that isn’t true. Some of the most pressing research projects are things which no school will touch. For example, we need research devoted to how sanctification (spiritual formation, growth in grace) best functions in local churches. We need to get the best minds on this topic. We need to find churches who are succeeding with ideas which can be shared. We need to coordinate our discoveries and publish them in a way that churches can learn from them. But no school is ready to do this. Why shouldn’t the churches do it? They need it.
4. OVERCOMING LANGUAGE AND CULTURAL BARRIERS
Europe is not a big place. My home state of Ohio (11.6 mill) has more people than Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, Slovakia, Hungary . . . You get the picture.
But these countries are isolated by distinct languages and subtle cultural differences. In government, European countries are crossing these borders and learning to work together. In business and the arts, the same is true. But churches and ministers remain very provincial – bound by their language and even their political borders. I think this is an opportunity lost. After Pentecost, the church, which is the most international and culturally diverse body on earth, should be taking the lead in crossing borders. I hope to do my part by constantly pushing my language and cultural learning forward. The next step: learning French and becoming trilingual.
Writing is really hidden work. Look how boring the above pictures are. Who wants to get newsletters from a writer?! (Just give us to book already!) But writing is what is needed in Europe. By and large, Europe is a private culture. In comparison to other continents like South America or Africa which live life on the street, Europeans keep to themselves and only talk to each other on “official business.” That doesn’t mean that they aren’t open however. Books are something which actually get behind the private walls. There are other things too like websites, videos and publicly-offered courses. These mediums show to Europeans that thought and effort was put into the matter.
Though I’m interested in writing myself, I’m not just interested in my own writing. I would like to see a new generation of European writers arise who produce high-quality, profound texts for the European context. I’ll know Europe has arrived when publishers start saying of our books, “Please translate that into English. We need that book.”