What will it take?

September 26, 2005

WW resumes after a six week break, mostly spent in Brazil, 60 hours of which on buses, 30 on planes and over 100 in meetings…

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO AWAKEN THE BODY OF CHRIST to the changing spiritual climate in Europe today? What will it take to arouse us as followers of Jesus to engage evangelistically with contemporary spiritualities?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a spiritual revolution spreading quietly across Europe under the radar, gathering more and more followers from all sectors of society. This revival of old pagan spirituality, often called New Spirituality, is more likely to shape Europe’s future than is Islam. It is much more attractive and resonates with Europe’s pre-Christian past. That’s why we are organising the consultation, Evangelism in a New Age, in Basel next month: Oct 31-Nov 3. (see www.hfe.org/newsandevents/events.php)

Yet I know of only two ministries on the continent attempting to engage with these new realities: both in Switzerland. Do you know of any others? If so, please write to me and let me know. We in YWAM have not started to take this seriously. None of our many training courses equip people for such ministry. And as a senior leader in our mission, that concerns me greatly. Why does this not grab our attention? Are we so caught up in the momentum of our own programmes that we have become insensitive to the spiritual climate around us? Businesses with that approach go bankrupt very quickly.

My observation is that this is typical for the Body of Christ across Europe. Some ask if there really is such renewed spiritual interest. Well, stop and take a look at your local bookstore. One bookshop chain in Holland reports sales of spirituality books being triple that of any other category. Just around the corner from where we live is a thriving Reiki centre, in the conservative Dutch countryside. The children’s book week in Holland this year is on theme of magic – with diplomas in magic being offered to children who complete certain courses. Glance through the magazines on the rack and see how many articles reflect a growing interest in spirituality. Look through the television guide and see how many programmes touch on spiritual issues, including healing, mediums, fortune-telling, ghosts, angels and witches.

We need to wake up! Sometimes our first reaction is to pray against this and warn against that – a natural and sometimes necessary reaction. But we need a more proactive response as well. Followers of Jesus shouldn’t just be those who are against this and against that. But what are we for? We should be for vital spirituality, and should be encouraging those who are seeking spiritual help. But for many, the church is the last place they expect to encounter spirituality. They only expect to be confronted with religion in church – and that’s not what most people are looking for. They don’t want simply to hear a lecture about God. They want to encounter spiritual reality.

“I think the established Church could be tried in a court of justice and … found guilty of killing off spirituality,” said one outsider, when asked her views on the spirituality and the church.

Yet last week on a brief trip to England, I made a happy discovery. Many churches there are waking up and responding in all sorts of creative ways to the new spiritual climate. A broadly-based Group for Evangelisation, embracing all the mainstream denominations and major agencies, has produced several resources to help believers to ‘review the spirituality of their own locality, to reflect upon the implications for their current church activities and to consider new methods of engagement with our spiritual age’. One such resource is a photocopiable workbook, ‘Equipping your church in a spiritual age’, with very practical instruction and ideas on how to reach out to ‘those searching on the edge’. A website with more resources is referred to repeatedly in the book, www.churchinaspiritualage.org.uk, but the book seems to be so new that the website is not yet fully operational – so watch this space.

The contrast between how the Body of Christ in England is responding with broad cooperation to contemporary spirituality, and the apparently minimal awareness among leaders on the continent, is unsettling. Hence my opening question: what will it take to awaken us to engage evangelistically with contemporary spiritualities?

Let me pose a couple of other questions.
· Can we afford to ignore the changing spiritual climate any longer?
· What concrete steps is our/your church, denomination, organisation taking to equip members for ministry to spiritual seekers?
· If none, when do you plan to start?
· How about next month, at the Evangelism in a New Age consultation in Basel?

My question to YWAM readers, will you raise this issue in your leadership strategy sessions? Will you send a delegation to Basel?

The consultation, at the St. Chrischona Conference Centre, is initiated by the HOPE FOR EUROPE Evangelism Network, with the support of organisations including Agape, OM, YWAM, Greater Europe Mission, Janz Team International, Proclaim International and others.

As indicated above, for information and registration, go to: www.hfe.org/newsandevents/events.php. Note the discount deadline for October 15!

Speakers and contributors include:
· Dr John Drane (Aberdeen, Scotland), New Testament scholar and lecturer, author of ‘What the New Age is (still) saying to the Church’; Faith in a Changing Culture; The Bible Phenomenon, The McDonaldization of the Church and Beyond Predictability: the Tarot and your spirituality (co-author);
· Olive Fleming Drane, (also Aberdeen, Scotland), story-teller, clown and writer, mission networker with the Baptist Union of Scotland, author of Spirituality to Go: rituals and reflections for everyday life; Clowns, storytellers, disciples; Family Fortunes: Faith-full caring for today’s families;
· Dr John Warwick Montgomery (Strassbourg, France) Lutheran theologian and lecturer, author of over 50 books, including Principalities and Powers: the world of the occult;
· Daniel Hari (Adligenswil, Switzerland) Salvation Army Evangelist to new agers, author of Healing Jesus Style/ Heilen wie Jesus – Einf√ºhrung ins Christozentrische Heilen;
· Stefan Dreiss (Manchester, England) Healing evangelist to new agers (ex-football hooligan and medium), author: Finding the light.

See you there?

Till next week,

Jeff Fountain

Till next week,

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