Last week Tuesday I listened to Dr. Johannes Reimer, a professor at the Free Evangelical Seminary in Germany. At a danger of oversimplifying what he shared with the enthusiastic group of joyful theologians at the FEET conference (I perhaps overstated this one), here are a couple of highlights on the topic of challenges to bring the Christian message to a contemporary Europe.
It appears that the evangelism efforts in the former Soviet Union did not yield the expected results, Dr. Reimer said. Many people were speaking of conversions and reported that they found their Lord and Savior in Jesus, but later these statements did not reflect in a day-to-day life. There is no visible changing of the social milieu; there are surmounting problems in today’s Russia, and the local church appears to be weaker than in the past. In the Ulyanovsk (Lenin’s birthplace on the Volga river) area, in the past there were 12 Baptist and at least 10 Pentecostal churches – and nowadays there are only 4 Baptist churches left, and no Pentecostal whatsoever. But, there are at least 83 Russian speaking Baptist churches in Sacramento, California… and Dr. Reimer asked the present, challenging our missiological thinking, whether we were bringing people to Jesus, or to the Immigration services of the US? Reimer said that in order to dominate one society spiritually, we also need to dominate one society intellectually, and asked the Evangelicals of all colors and shapes, to engage in socially relevant church transformation, develop a contextual church concept and a contextual theology of mission.
To impact a local community we need a socially relevant church. What happened in the Eastern Europe in the Post-Communism phase was that we believers became very individualistic, while the Bible speaks of believers being the members of the Body of Christ – and thus not only individuals, but members of the collective.
Interesting and challenging, don’t you think? I recently spoke with our TWR Russian ministries team leader and learned that the immigration of many Russians and thus also believers indeed occurred – but mostly in the 1990ies, while nowadays it is not so apparent. Nineties were the years of chaos and empty shops, many problems that follow the societies in transitions – and those who were losing its belief system. And also, the days of ‘power evangelism’ are long gone.
Wait a second, not all of us were doing the same mistakes. For example: TWR. The program structure and its content were never oriented at quick evangelism, but mostly at discipleship and growth. Is that not what Matthew 28 speaks of: discipling? TWR is broadcasting programs that speak to the fabric of society in Russia: to the substance abuse people, to the dysfunctional families, to the estranged youth, to the elderly and alone, and to those who seek God day and night,, along the programs prepared for the local church believers. Yes, we can and should do more, but don’t you think we have a good choice of programs already?
See (plenty) more on TWR Russian programs at www.twr.org