How Do We Share the Gospel In Europe Today?

On a day when I am depressed at the state of our nation, the state of the Church and a whole lot of personal stuff, I was reminded of the important things when someone linked to this – that we communicate the Good News to a society which is fast sinking into a confused dark morass.  Shine the Light!  This is a talk given at ELF on sharing the Gospel in European society today.

 

The Christian Ghetto Mentality

 

23 thoughts on “How Do We Share the Gospel In Europe Today?

  1. Not only is the term “evangelical” no longer meaningful to many; the term “Christian” is in the same boat! Wee Mrs McTavish, down the road, is a lovely person! She would give you the coat off her back; she’d give you her last penny; she’s a great Christian!

    Personally, I prefer the expression “disciple of Jesus”.

  2. Well Hillsong must have found a way, as they have created churches from nothing in Paris (2), Lyon, Marseilles, Geneva, Constanz, Zurich, Dusseldorf, Munich, Copenhagen, Malmö, Aarhus, as well as 9 in Norway, 3 in Holland, & others in the UK, Portugal, Spain, Sweden & Ukraine. Why don’t you ask them?

    1. Sheepstealing, Kim?
      It’s obvious how Hillsong get people (worship music) but I understand that the secret of their success in keeping them lies in their small group ministries.
      Yours,
      John/.

      1. Really, John?

        Sorry, but that’s a terrible accusation. If their numbers are bolstered by Christians leaving other churches, then it’s hardly the case that Hillsong is actively encouraging that. Anyone who has been to one of their conferences knows how they make it abundantly clear that their focus is on STRENGTHENING the local churches, which is the opposite of “sheepstealing”.

        Coupled with that is their strong commitment to & focus on evangelism.

        Besides, as this thread is about finding a way to evangelise in Europe where, according to David, society is “sinking into a confused dark morass”, yet they’re going into places where their music is virtually unknown, their culture & the way they “do church” is alien & even strange, & all you have is that?

        As the problem in Europe, including (still) the UK, is as serious as David says, at least for those denominations tied to traditional forms of worship & liturgy, & as I’ve seen you say that you’re a retired minister (I’m assuming from one of those denominations) I would have expected a serious response in line with the gravity required by David’s article.

      2. There was a question mark, Kim.
        Are they sheepstealing? It could be that Hillsong are actively establishing where evangelicals are leaving collapsing denominations, giving them somewhere to go and the pastoral care they need. That’s not been my observation. They begin by recruiting Christians with the technical, artistic and musical skills that they need for their style of celebration: where do they come from if not from churches already present in the city?
        Now maybe it’s just jargon but Reuben & Sarah Morgan have reportedly come to Liverpool to ‘build [their] Hillsong Liverpool community’: out of what will they build that community? It sounds like they intend to be a ‘commuter’ church so their evangelistic impact will depend on the small groups that they gather but at least initially, the people in these small groups will have to come from other churches.
        So I ask again: wouldn’t Hillsong, if asked, just have to admit that the reason they have been able to plant so many churches in such a short period of time is that they steal sheep? It was a serious response.
        —0—
        The problem of decline in the UK hasn’t been caused by any failure to be contemporary as well as conservative. Blame has to be laid fairly and squarely at the door of those in ecclesiastic authority who openly denied the gospel and of those others who approved of them doing so.
        On the other hand, we evangelicals do not have a great track record of helping one another if we slip below the viability mark (about thirty active members) nor of being willing to be helped.
        The Hillsong emphasis on singing is hardly an innovation in UK evangelicalism but we might need to revise our view of its usefulness in evangelism. When my wife was a child here in Liverpool, the typical family entertainment was as pictured in the Terence Davies film, The Long Day Closes but the transistor radio, etc. changed the way we enjoy music and the singing is no longer a way to get people to listen to the gospel. We’re slow to realise that in the UK.
        Yours,
        John/.

      3. It’s also worth noting that there are a large number of other churches within the Charismatic/Pentecostal stream other than Hillsong which are also experiencing explosive growth. Maybe there’s something to that Baptism in the Holy Spirit & an active pursuit of issues like healing & the fivefold ministries after all??

      4. Once again, Kim,
        in the UK at least, the explosive growth of which you speak has come at a cost. Not all new movements that — inadvertently or deliberately — attracted believers away from where they were, have subsequently left their new adherents high and dry, but way too many have proved to be clouds without rain.
        Church Growth — which was tainted IMO by an unhelpful preoccupation with numerical growth — has given way to a much more balanced interest in church health. At the same time, what I would think to represent ‘an active pursuit of … healing’ — it’s your phrase, you might have something different in mind — has become very much the hallmark of Prosperity-Gospel pedlars, here. Most actual healing takes place quietly, I reckon, with instances being dealt with as the need arises.
        (I remember feeling very discouraged when I’d just started to pastor a little Grace Baptist church in North London and a seemingly successful fellowship were advertising themselves in connection with Benny Hinn’s first visit to London that they’d arranged. In my naïvety, I imagined that the successful ministries of which they spoke, denoted something based on a solid foundation that was a reproach to what we’d become at the end of a two-hundred year history. Anyway, as the internet has developed and more and more archive material gets put there, I have from time to time, searched for evidence of that once explosively-successful church and I’ve never been able to find a scrap. High Road Baptist Church is still there, although, as it has been for the last century, numerical growth is agonisingly slow.)
        The so-called fivefold ministry model is seriously flawed; not least because it does not include deacons and ‘widows’; but even more so because it doesn’t recognise the historical handover from Apostles to Evangelists and from Prophets to Pastor-teachers. Nevertheless, we should learn from the proponants of this scheme rather than shunning them and seek to improve on the underlying text in Ephesians; to a certain extent just correcting their misimprovements.
        So, are Hillsong welcome to Liverpool? I’d say a qualified ‘Amen!’ to that. If a substantial proportion of their first set of small groups are within walking distance of the Baltic Quarter; and if they recognise the need to facilitate a church plant along the Merseyrail Northern Line within a couple of years, then there is every indication that they’ll be a blessing rather than a hindrance. God knows the plans he has for them also.
        Yours,
        John/.

      5. “There was a question mark, Kim.”

        Sorry, but to even suggest sheepstealing without any evidence is odious in my opinion.

        “Now maybe it’s just jargon but Reuben & Sarah Morgan have reportedly come to Liverpool to ‘build [their] Hillsong Liverpool community’: out of what will they build that community?”

        Does it strike you as at least remotely possible that they will work to reach the unchurched & build their church through them? And if Christians begin to find Hillsong a better fit than their previous denominational churches, what then? Do Hillsong actively “tout” for attendees from other churches? Of course not!

        “So I ask again: wouldn’t Hillsong, if asked, just have to admit that the reason they have been able to plant so many churches in such a short period of time is that they steal sheep? It was a serious response.”

        It was a very foolish response, if you ask me! This article by David is based on the question: how do we share the Gospel in Europe today? The fact that Hillsong, among others, is opening churches & growing in parts of Europe where there is no Protestant Evangelical presence to begin with was my response. So your allusion to sheepstealing comes across as rather snide & bitter. Do you really think that what they’ve done in evangelistically remote corners of Europe such as Barcelona, Munich, Moscow or Kiev is in general any different to what they’re doing in Britain?

        “in the UK at least, the explosive growth of which you speak has come at a cost. Not all new movements that — inadvertently or deliberately — attracted believers away from where they were, have subsequently left their new adherents high and dry, but way too many have proved to be clouds without rain.”

        Sorry, that’s just doesn’t wash. You’re criticising ALL “new movements” because SOME don’t live up to the hype. Why focus on those which DIDN’T work instead of focusing on those which DID?

        “The so-called fivefold ministry model is seriously flawed; not least because it does not include deacons and ‘widows’; but even more so because it doesn’t recognise the historical handover from Apostles to Evangelists and from Prophets to Pastor-teachers.”

        The Fivefold Ministry structure is laid down by Paul as a leadership structure which makes no reference to deacons because they are not leadership positions but serving positions. As for the “historical handover” you mention, I see no record of such in Scripture & regard any claim to such a “handover”, or Cessationism in general, to be unscriptural & ultimately harmful to the Body of Christ, not to mention our ability to fullfil the purposes for which Jesus came, & which, in the Great Commission He passed on “all authority in Heaven & on Earth” to us, “to seek & to save the lost” & “to destroy the works of the devil”.

        As a believer who has operated in the Gifts of the Spirit since I was converted over 45 years ago, & before I even knew the term “Charismatic”, & having witnessed & experienced first hand the full effects of both the ministries of healing & the prophetic, & over that long period of time seen them for the vital ministries they are, & noting the fact that these gifts are part & parcel of the explosive growth in the Body of Christ wherever they are operating, is it just slightly possible that one reason for the decline in the traditional denominations in Britain is not only, as you note, those in leadership “who openly denied the gospel and of those others who approved of them doing so”, but an insistence that the structure for church leadership defined by Paul in Ephesians 4:11-13 which he said was “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ”, has been superseded by a structure NOT defined in Scripture, means you have also “denied the gospel” & you have “approved of them doing so”?

        After all, can you identify that precise moment when that fivefold leadership structure became redundant due to the fact that it had successfully attained “the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” so that structure was no longer necessary?

        Surely, when all is said & done, we need to be aware of what & how God is working, & acknowledge the fact that sometimes we stick to models & practices which are no longer effective. So is it possible that the slow, inexorable decline in most traditional denominations is down to not realising where God was leading in the first place? Perhaps we need more of the mindset of John the Baptist to know which practices are increasing & which are decreasing, or like the sons of Issachar, in 1 Chron 12:32, “men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do”.

      6. Whoa, steady on, Kim;
        try re-reading what I wrote after telling yourself: ‘This guy is a well-meaning idiot who doesn’t take into account that people read what they expect to see into posts.’ Ask, ‘What if the comment I object to most was not snide or bitter at all; would that realisation alter the way the rest of the post is read?’ (You can renege on calling me an idiot if you choose; I don’t mind either way.)
        Let’s grasp the nettle of why it’s best to call all attracting of Christians away from existing fellowships, ‘sheepstealing’: why do that? Because you can’t draw a red line that puts ‘legitimate attraction’ on one side and ‘illegitimate attraction’ on the other; at least you can’t without the Holy Spirit presenting you with a case that logically sits on one side of your line but commonsensically, has to be treated as though on the other. (There is a long and honourable tradition in the church of taking ‘odious’ terms — usually applied by unsympathetic opponants of change — and making them shine. In the latter stages of our seventeen-year long sojourn in North Finchley, I was wont to say that I’d read a book about sheepstealing — and I had — but it didn’t tell me how to do it. Other people knew the predicament and did not immediately assume that I was contemplating doing something despicable.)
        You ask:

        Does it strike you as at least remotely possible that they will work to reach the unchurched & build their church through them? … Do you really think that what they’ve done in evangelistically remote corners of Europe such as Barcelona, Munich, Moscow or Kiev is in general any different to what they’re doing in Britain?

        Well, yes and no, to the first question and maybe/perhaps to the second.
        Yes, because in Liverpool they’ve located within walking distance of a couple of places where people live and I’m sure that they fully intend to evangelise in those areas. If they succeed in starting small groups in those areas then the chances of being a conversion-growth built church increase. However, there is clear indication that they do not intend to start with small group evangelism since they are making use of a venue — ‘Hinterlands’ — which lends itself more to their usual celebration events which, to repeat, need a crowd that knows what they are doing to begin with; so they are making it more difficult for themselves to depend on conversion growth. Furthermore, they are located a sixteen-minute walk from Brunswick Railway Station. Now, maybe you know of a model where commuting Christians bring their friends and neighbours to church with anything like the same frequency as people living locally; I don’t. People will come from a distance and Hillsong Liverpool could become numerically strong with no discernable local connections. As for your second question, I don’t think these cities have been as devoid of evangelical witness as you imagine but it is absolutely impossible in the UK that Hillsong can start in a metropolitan area without scores of people making their way to them, if only to see what the fuss has been about. Some of those will stay and the saving grace — if I can use that expression figuratively — for Hillsong is that they disciple in small groups. Perhaps differently from on the Continent: it is imperative that they look to plant at least one church to the North of Liverpool within five years, maybe sooner.
        —0—
        Leaving cessationism and continualism right out of the picture w.r.t. ostentatious healing meetings: because of the antics of prosperity gospel mongers here, it is probably both inexpedient and counter productive to have special meetings for healing in the UK. (c.f. Paul not being deterred from advising the Corinthians to restrict their use of the gift of tongues by the tremendous impact of tongues on the day of Pentecost.) Healing meetings can be associated by you on one side of the world with tremendous growth and associated here with something less edifying.
        The fivefold ministry model is based on Paul’s text but is only an interpretation of it. Paul does not mention either deacons or women-in-ministry because he is talking about word-ministries. Also he uses a couple of words that do the same thing as we use ‘On the one hand … on the other hand …’ for. Hence the idea of handing on. Your decision to

        regard any claim to such a “handover”, or Cessationism in general, to be unscriptural & ultimately harmful to the Body of Christ, not to mention our ability to fullfil the purposes for which Jesus came, & which, in the Great Commission He passed on “all authority in Heaven & on Earth” to us, “to seek & to save the lost” & “to destroy the works of the devil”.

        is sad but you probably have good grounds for reading more into Cessationism than I would lay claim to.
        Yours,
        John/.

      7. The general tone of the article, & your comments subsequently, are that the church is dying in Europe, or as David put it, are part of “a society which is fast sinking into a confused dark morass”, which in the context includes Britain. I put forward the fact that Hillsong have been successful in planting churches in areas I identified as having no historical Evangelical tradition, yet you bring the discussion back to your own local situation where there has been.

        But doesn’t the fact that their “modus operandi” wherever they set up is the same cause you to stop & think? If their success in those other centres is mirrored in your own, does that not suggest that the state of your own evangelical mission is no more successful than in Europe where it fundamentally didn’t exist? And instead of dismissing ALL Charismatic practice by using Benny Hinn as a model, & one from the past now well past its use by date (& one I particularly didn’t like) as a straw man, why not even momentarily pause to consider both contemporary expressions of the charismatic gifts & the way they are increasingly enriching both the life within the Body of Christ, & at least in Australia becoming more accepted & practiced in the traditional denominations, & its mission to the lost? After all, as the Lord Himself said, “you will know them by their fruit”. And when you so note that healing ministries can work here in Australia, but then put up cultural barriers to them being able to be effective there, is that not putting limitations on God’s ability? Even below that level, don’t you think that wherever you’re working there are cultural difficulties which need to be dealt with? If so, you need to be careful, as you may be like the officer of the King in 2 Kings 7, who doubted the possibility that God could “make windows in heaven”.

        Another church at the forefront of this is the ministry of Bethel Church in California. I have witnessed Bill Johnson’s teaching & healing ministry in Sydney on a number of occasions, & the contrast to the Benny Hinns of this world could not be any greater. I have never heard him raise his voice much above a monotone, & most healing is performed through either words of knowledge given to those so gifted, or through congregational laying on of hands (I have both received immediate healing & seen others experience it in these meetings). So it’s the opposite of the star miracle worker on the stage that goes back to Kathryn Kuhlman & probably even before, which had its day but is now past, as there is no risk of the glory being given to the human intermediary, but all glory goes to God.

        The people in the congregation at Bethel also take these gifts out into the streets to minister them to the unsaved, & see results there as well. So do you think it’s time to look & see what God’s actually doing through these ministries instead of treating them with suspicion? And who’s to say that, if ministries like Hillsong are going into areas where your churches are dwindling away to nothing, & you’re at the point where you have to consider where the point of viability lies, then isn’t it possible that the “sheep” aren’t being stolen as much as they’re choosing a new “shepherd” for themselves?

        I also fail to see any connection between any major Charismatic/Pentecostal ministry or movement that I’m aware of practicing a “prosperity Gospel”, one that promises wealth & success as an outcome for faithfulness. Of course there was a time 15-20 years ago where that idea held some traction, but it’s hard to find now. Instead, I see a lot of people speaking about the holistic meaning of the word “prosper” in the NT, which has no focus on any particular aspect of what it refers to, which is a far better way of treating the issue.

        Finally, as for what I said regarding Eph 4:11-13 being an “interpretation”, it is, in fact, a straight reading, taking Paul at his word by examining the context. For a start, I disagree with the view that the term “apostle” is restricted to the Twelve & to Paul. As https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/apostle/ points out, there are a number of others named by Paul in his Letters as apostles, few of whom can be said for certain to have known Christ as the Twelve had, or like Paul by means of a vision.

        In the passage preceding those verses in Eph 4 Paul writes:-

        “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

        ‘When He ascended on high,
        He led captive a host of captives,
        And He gave gifts to men.'”

        So he’s referring to gifts for “each one” in the body of Christ, though in various “measure”. Then, if you ignore the parenthetical mention of descending & ascending, he leads directly into identifying the structure of the leadership identified by those five particular gifts, & they ARE leadership gifts because of the context he gives them: ” for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ”. So whether or not they are “word-ministries” (even prophecy is not necessarily vocal, but of course teaching & evangelism are) is irrelevant to the clear fact that Paul intends for us to see them as leadership categories, with the rest of “the saints….the body of Christ” as their responsibilities, & to oversee a growth to unity in faith regarding “the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ”.

        By this means alone Paul envisions that, as a result of this structure “….we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

        In this way church leadership is a model of “primer inter pares”, a far more effective model than what it has become in most denominations, & one you now see being modelled in so many ministries, Hillsong being just one example, all over the world.

        So I reject the notion of “sheepstealing” on any level, & the fact that Hillsong, being at least the most prominent but certainly not alone, are making strong inroads into that “society which is fast sinking into a confused dark morass” should be sufficient cause to take a better look at the reasons why.

      8. Thank you for your tenacity, Kim,
        I’m well used to people ducking out of discussions for their various reason for doing so. (That’s why I hide away in the comments section of David’s blog and try not to exhaust his patience too much.)
        ‘Sheepstealing’ is a trigger word for you? Sorry, that it’s got in the road of what I’ve been trying to say. I’ve looked around and find no evidence on the Hillsong website that they have expanded anywhere in Europe by going to previously unevangelised areas. Quite the reverse. Admittedly, most of the places mentioned have high proportions of transients who might well join with the Hillsingers without ever having been part of another church. (For a telling example, there are not many evangelical churches in Paris where the meetings are bilingual so Hillsong, Paris and Hillsong, Massey will attract English speakers that don’t want to listen to too much prédication en Français.)
        I’m not part of the network of church leaders for whom David made the talk, How do we share the Gospel in Europe Today? but I imagine that his audience contained a large number of church planters. I’m not sure that Hillsong’s inter-city shuttle style would suit their needs. (again just an example, not many church planters could manage to be based both in Madrid and in Barcelona at the same time.)
        You keep telling me how decrepit our churches are and I can agree with you part of the way. Let me tell you a story that was repeated time and again. Someone, let’s say from somewhere in Africa, would find our chapel in North London and come on a Sunday morning. They would find our congregation of mainly single people and be shocked at how few of us there were. The conclusion that must have sprung to many minds is that somebody must have done something very wrong for that state of decline to have been acheived. They wouldn’t come back, try another couple of places and maybe stop attending church at all for the rest of their stay in England. On the other hand, some people after a couple of years living in London, found us and remained happily with us until they went back home. They had realised that North London is, for various reasons, a virtual desert, and that those Oases present were only growing with the greatest of difficulty. Being still there is an acheivement and we did some good for God’s Kingdom. (There are two reasons why most of the congregation were single people: the elderly ladies were all in the prime of life during the second world war and — apart from the disproportionate number of men their age who were killed in battle — the survivors were dispersed all round the country before being demobbed and a good many who would in the normal course of events have married other Londoners, married in the provinces instead. Some of the younger singles who moved into the area got married in due time and it was inevitably out of the question for them to have continued living anywhere near us because of house prices.)
        Liverpool is not like North London (nor, I believe is it like anywhere else in the country for the number of viable evangelical churches so that there are apparently well over a hundred places in the locality where you can hear the Gospel preached, albeit that the majority are vanishingly small.) Those denominations that have by and large departed from the Gospel have disappeared from view in many cases and Independent is a watchword in a way I’ve not seen elsewhere among Evangelicals.
        On healing, let me give two examples of my ‘red line’ being crossed where public healings have taken place despite the prevailing association with chicanery: 1. Terry Virgo (modern-day apostle by your reckoning and a first-rate evangelist by mine) started a while ago — and for all I know he continues to do it — to finish his sermons with a prayer in which he would pray for the sick with amazing brevity and palpable authority. 2. When revival came to Liverpool in the Thirties it fell upon a tent campaign in Tuebrook, where the Evangelist was one of the famous Jeffreys family, who had — after growing his ‘Bethel’ denomination to ~sixty churches — recently denounced the introspection of the 2nd Blessing experience and was hoping to preach without distractions. Word had got round the neighbourhood that ‘American Faith Healers’ had come to town and traditionally, the working-class people of Liverpool were suckers for that sort of a show. Remember, this was before the national health service and few had access to medicines that would have helped their conditions. On the opening night Edward Jeffreys said, ‘You have heard that we are American faith healers and I have to tell you that we’re not.’ A loud groan rang out in the huge tent and he then said: ‘However, we will do what we can.’ Many people were visibly healed during the weeks that followed but the preaching of the gospel was not impaired. The Hallelujahs that rang round the tent night after night stuck in the memory of those who heard. The church of which I am now a member is called Bethel and it was started to give a home to a large number of those who were converted then.
        Nor do I restrict the number of the apostles to the twelve + Paul but Paul says, ‘Last of all he was seen of me,’ so those who use the term of themselves are confusing the issue to my mind and those who insist on it are claiming authority that they do not have.
        Yours,
        John/.

      9. Sorry for the delay, John, it’s been that kind of weekend.

        “Thank you for your tenacity, Kim, I’m well used to people ducking out of discussions for their various reason for doing so.”

        Yes, it’s a thing I despise as well. And yes, I’m nothing if not tenacious, that’s for certain (sometimes to my wife’s despair!).

        As far as Hillsong not planting churches in “previously unevangelised areas”, that would, of course, go without saying in predominantly Protestant cultures like Britain & the Scandinavian countries for example, but what of the ones which are entirely Catholic, like France, Spain & Portugal, or those of the former Soviet bloc like Russia & Ukraine? And very recently they even planted a church in Tel Aviv!

        And one factor that I think sets them up on the most positive foundation ids that there is a guiding vision for the whole of Hillsong worldwide. Brian Houston has spoken a number of times about how, when they began over 30 years ago, he wrote down his vision for his church for the next 30 years, & how most of what he envisioned was exceeded.

        So, as Scripture tells us that “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov 29:18), then my wish would be that all other church movement & denominational leaders would similarly seek to be envisioned for what God is doing. If they were, can you imagine the revival that would break out worldwide?

        As for those who are self-styled apostles, yes, there’s a few out there, but there’s always been people within the Body of Christ passing themselves off as something they’re not. Even Paul had to deal with that, didn’t he. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that even all those who identify themselves as being apostles aren’t actually apostles. It’s not just a title, it’s a particular leadership function, in the same way that prophet, evangelist, pastor & teacher are particular leadership functions, or “offices”.

        So if they are in a leadership position with oversight over a number of churches, or even a very large megachurch, with a large staff comprising pastors, department heads, intercessors, etc., then that person is, as far as I’m concerned, filling an apostolic role.

      10. Thanks, Kim,
        I’m still appreciating the interaction and it came in very useful on Thursday afternoon when I had the privilege of standing round a big map of the North West of England with a group of pastors discussing Church Planting in this area in the last fifteen years. It is expected that Hillsong is intending to reach out to Liverpool’s huge University Community but we noted closeness to the railway lines and wondered why the Worship Leader/Pastor allegedly lives an hour’s drive from Liverpool. Nobody wants to stiffle the interests of others but sometimes — and this applies to people who have been on the ground in Liverpool for longer than Hillsong — it appears that focus on one’s own vision can lead to treating others as though they don’t have one.
        There was a time when an energising and enabling vision among UK Restorationists was of a rampaging herd of elephants making a way for the advance of the gospel by not being restricted with old rules and gentleman’s agreements, etc. It is not commonsensical to simply let oneself be run over because of someone-else’s over-enthusiastic interpretation of how a vision ought to be worked out locally.
        (Being pastor of a too-small church, meeting in a substantial building in North London, I was approached several times by people who thought that our building was the missing piece in their vision. One man came back to tell me that the Holy Spirit had shown him that our building was to be the place where his church would meet. He appeared to be utterly dumfounded when I replied that the Holy Spirit had not vouchsafed the same information to me, so I could not help him.)
        I can’t help comparing the pre-Restorationist vision of a herd of rampaging elephants making a way, with David’s view of himself as a darts player throwing far more darts at the board than the rules allow, hoping some will stick. The local conference I was at on Thursday followed on from a national conference where David took some seminars so it’s no surprise that page two of the local conference booklet headed Connecting with your community begins with a couple of quotes from David. My advice from Liverpool to Oz is not to turn visionary thinking into a shibboleth that keeps you from benefiting from how someone not in the tribe [e.g. David] views our common task.
        (As a Bible Teacher, myself, I consider it my duty to aspire to preach prophetically as part of the ongoing apostolic commission of the Church; taking a pastoral interest in those who hear; and neither disdaining to do the work of an Evangelist nor imagining that I could do better than those primarily called and gifted to evangelise. — It is ironical that the Bible Teachers are often the last ones consulted about what the Bible teaches.)
        Yours,
        John/.

      11. I was diverted, Kim,
        so thank you for the link. I don’t as a rule click on cookie permissions so I couldn’t get past the San Francisco Chronicle barrier. Nil desperandum, I tried putting ‘Joe Mathews Redding Church’ into google and found https://eu.vcstar.com/story/opinion/columnists/2019/03/16/redding-mega-church-force-community-building-and-controversy/3168928002/ but also this: https://eu.redding.com/story/opinion/2019/03/29/column-praising-bethel-journalistic-travesty/3310925002/ (Given that I am now a member of Bethel Church, Green Lane, Liverpool, I can’t help but be reminded of what it was like to have the same name as the pastor of Brownsville AOG Church, Pensacola round about the turn of the century; c.f. Australians asking you about your name.)
        The article criticising the journalism of the the article’s author is preceded by

        Editor’s note: Joe Mathews’ weekly Connecting California is syndicated by Zócalo Public Square, a journalism project based in California and sponsored by New America and Arizona State universities. The column runs in newspapers across the state, including the Record Searchlight, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Orange County Register. The Record Searchlight does not suggest or assign topics to Mathews.

        Over-enthusiastic endorsement of anything by a journalist is liable to be counter-productive in my limited experience, especially when done as an academic exercise. And, as with my namesake in Pensacola, those who stand — especially in financial matters — need to take heed lest they fall.
        Yours,
        John/.

      12. I really don’t know what to make of your response. It seems to me that you’re willing to take the word of one journalist being critical of another, yet without any real evidence to believe one over the other. Why would you do such a thing? After all, there is no criticism or refutation of anything in the article being not factual in the details.

        And to then make a comparison to Brownsville on the basis of finances is completely unwarranted. In fact, I find it rather snide & distasteful. After all, there are no shortage of very large churches in various nations with pastors in charge who are making all of their income from the books they write, or the CD’s of their worship teams. I don’t have a problem with that, & I don’t think it’s anyone’s business to question them on their incomes from such sources or to question how they use it without any knowledge of how they do, & especially to make comparisons on the basis of one who didn’t do well.

        So do you think that they just might have something they’ve discovered about how to grow by sowing into their community, being “salt & light” in ways that are sacrificial in a number of ways? If so, do you think that trying to find out how they do so from a Biblical perspective might have at least part of the answer to the question David has put to us regarding what’s needed for evangelising Europe?

        So perhaps it’s you who should “take heed”.

        Perhaps, instead, you should wonder how a church in a town of less than 100,000 can grow to have over 10% of that population enrolled as members instead of being so prejudicial.

      13. Once again, Kim,
        I manage to disappoint you by making ‘snide and distaseful comparisons.’ The thing is, I wasn’t trying to make a comparison: you were right in your initial reaction and you haven’t known what to make of my response. Nor, as it happens, was I taking the word of one journalist over another so — in a way that causes me some distress — I have once again not even managed to make a response that anything can be made of. Please take it for granted that all I was trying to say is that overenthusiastic journalism will inevitably sound like advertising and be counterproductive; possibly — I suspect, probably — doing more harm than good.

        There was a conference once and those who were at it came away shocked by what they’d been told about Graham Kendrick’s self-promotion on what was declared to be his website. The speaker — who was making a name for himself as a exposer of ‘new-age’ infiltration of the churches — climaxed his talk by telling how the website had a page from which you could make yourself a badge saying something like ‘We love you, Graham’ written round a smiling picture of the man himself. ‘So I’ve made one!’ he said and pinned it to his lapel.
        I have no idea how many other people did what I did when I heard about this but very few ministers of any background were particularly internet savvy at that time so I suspect that hundreds of them still think that the badge was something on Graham Kendrick’s own webpage. I can’t remember what search engine we were using then but I had to go through scores of hits before I found the offending page on an academic website. It seems that the whole furore was based on a spoof fan site constructed as a student project.
        Obviously, no blame ought to be attached to Graham Kendrick who is so obviously not a self-promoting showman: the website may even have been an exercise in mockery. The culpable heresy hunter —who did not know enough to spot an academic website — soon fell foul of his own bad internet habits and the last time I heard of him, was living abroad.
        Of course I take your rubuke about taking heed lest I fall, myself. But I’m hardly standing these days:-)
        Yours,
        John/.

      14. “Please take it for granted that all I was trying to say is that overenthusiastic journalism will inevitably sound like advertising and be counterproductive; possibly — I suspect, probably — doing more harm than good.”

        But by whose measure is it “overenthusiastic”? The only one who claimed that was another journalist, yet without rejecting the factual basis for the story’s content. So all I see is you accepting the second opinion in relation to the first, therefore dismissing the evidence of the great work being achieved by Bethel in their home town through giving honour & sharing with their community.

        I find it sad that we in the Body of Christ are so adept at tearing down people & churches which experience revival, breakthrough or growth, usually through finding a particular theological difference from what we ourselves hold to, & in doing so cast a skeptical eye on everything they do & stand for, instead of celebrating & looking to see if there’s anything they’ve done that we can appropriate or adjust to our own particular environment or circumstances.

        And it’s the former attitude which so erroneously lives in fear, or even casts a mere uncertain sideways glance, when churches like Hillsong arrive in their locality.

        Seriously, you should be laying out the “Welcome” mat, inviting them in, & finding out what you can learn from them.

      15. So, Kim,
        let’s start with examining what we can learn from them. (I’ve personally been learning from the ‘Neopentecostal movement’ on and off for over forty years so this is not a novel concept for me.) Since you seem to be less familiar with the indigenous British new Apostles, you might like to read http://www.davidmatthew.org.uk/restorationpage.htm which I discovered in this little spell of research. It fills in a lot of gaps for me and I think you might enjoy it, also.
        (One thing I learned a decade ago from a New Frontiers church planter is that Bible Teachers ought not attempt to be church planters. The picture he painted was compelling: The Bible Teacher sets up shop, so to speak, and immediately, six or seven fellows who love Bible teaching start attending on the ministry. By the time the first family walks in, the pattern is set; the sermon-junkie congregation do not tend to welcome the intrusion of real people and the new church is cut off at the knees before it begins. It was, I believe an important thing for me to realise and I’ve come across nothing to contradict it.)
        As for inviting them: it’s a moot point that I’m not in a position to invite anyone to Liverpool, because Hillsong are here already. But I suppose that doesn’t preclude welcoming them and it’s probably a personal deficiency but I have no idea as to how that might be done.
        (Sticking with the personal note, I remember with great affection prayer meetings in Dundee when I was studying there. — http://www.gatechurch.co.uk/history — and, although I was not part of that prayer meeting for more than a couple of months, for years I yearned to be part of a fellowship where I could feel as much ‘at home.’ Nearly thirty years after, I finally realised that the Spirit of adoption interrogates us about where God has placed us: ‘Where would you rather be than right here, right now?’
        Yours,
        John/.

  3. “Preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.” That statement makes a lot of sense although it is, by itself, inadequate. However, it was never, ever said by St Francis of Assisi.

    As Pope Paul VI said in 1975, in his Encyclical ‘Evangelisation in the Modern World’:
    21. Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness. Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one. Here we have an initial act of evangelization. The above questions will ask, whether they are people to whom Christ has never been proclaimed, or baptized people who do not practice, or people who live as nominal Christians but according to principles that are in no way Christian, or people who are seeking, and not without suffering, something or someone whom they sense but cannot name. Other questions will arise, deeper and more demanding ones, questions evoked by this witness which involves presence, sharing, solidarity, and which is an essential element, and generally the first one, in evangelization.”[51]
    All Christians are called to this witness, and in this way they can be real evangelizers. We are thinking especially of the responsibility incumbent on immigrants in the country that receives them.
    22. Nevertheless this always remains insufficient, because even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified – what Peter called always having “your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have”[52] – and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.

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