This week I'm joining with pastors in Europe to pray for the advance of the gospel in the "prodigal continent." This is one way that LBC partners with front-line churches in Europe, in line with our vision to bring good news to the nations.
But why Europe? Here are three surprising things I've learned as I've worked with church mission leaders over the past few years.
1. The opportunity is greater than I thought.
The big surprise here is the opportunity afforded by the English language. I knew that English speakers living abroad needed churches. I did not realize that opportunities to worship in English could reach nationals, such as the Germans and the French. This week I'll be praying with Steve Henderson, pastor of the international church in Munich, Germany. The church is slightly larger than LBC, and 25% of the participants are Germans.
But the gospel opportunity has grown even more, as refugees are flooding into Europe from the Middle East. What do people from these nations have in common? Quite often, it's the English language. There is a growing missional niche in the cities of Europe, and international churches are seeking to fill that void.
2. Our front-line church partners are more effective than I thought.
At LBC we believe the gospel of God's grace is powerful. In the cold spiritual climate of Europe, the gospel is thawing hearts. Our partner church in Prague has seen their first professions of faith by individuals from Middle Eastern backgrounds. In Nice, Marseille, Athens, Geneva, and Istanbul, the love of Christ is compelling believers to reach out to refugees and to care for them.
Another visible sign of gospel power is the gathering and uniting of people from many countries and cultures. The international church in Geneva has 55 countries represented. In a world fractured by selfishness and strife, he gospel is breaking down walls and teaching love of neighbor.
3. The challenges are greater than I thought.
In this age of people on the move, church members can be short term and transient. In Europe, Christians are a small minority, with a church attendance rate of 3% in some countries. Laws are not always favorable to Christians. Some pastors feel isolated, and the rigors of ministry can take a toll on marriages and families. Churches can be blind-sided by sin and spiritual conflict, just like anywhere.
So our friends in Europe often need an infusion of hope.
That's why International Christian Community (ICC) plays a vital role in the lives of pastors and churches in Europe. Pastors' retreats and prayer events bring these faithful mission leaders out of isolation and into community. Prayer events like the one this week in Lyon warm the icy resistance on this continent. You can check out the mission of ICC HERE.
While these three surprises inspire our European partnership, we need not be surprised at God's gracious providence in orchestrating these gospel opportunities.
"The God who made the world and everything in it...made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him." (Acts 17:24-27)
Mike Tilley is the senior pastor of Lake Baldwin Church, and has lived in Orlando since 1994. He and his wife, Molly, worked with a core group from the Baldwin Park community to plant Lake Baldwin Church in 2006. Mike loves teaching the Bible in a way that relates to real life. In his spare time, Mike enjoys good movies, long dinner with friends, snow skiing, hanging out with his kids and two granddaughters, and travel.