Another Halloween/All Souls Day/Reformers Day has come and gone – and I’m puzzled! A front-page article in our newspaper covered rituals in Amsterdam commemorating the dead, complete with letters to the deceased fluttering from branches in the moonlight.
These events of course are not held in the name of organised religion but are expressions of popular spirituality. Another article highlighted the growing number of spirituality magazines available, offering insights from massage techniques and household altars to how Unilever became a spiritual company.
The same paper ran a story on how a conservative branch of the Dutch Reformed Church celebrated Reformers Day, the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church in eastern Germany, signalling the start of the Reformation in 1517.
For October 31 is a celebration shared by neo-pagans, Catholics and Protestants alike. That’s why last year we chose that date to start the first annual Evangelism in a New Age consultation in Basel, Switzerland. Our aim was to explore opportunities for evangelism offered by Europe’s renewed interest in spirituality.
October 31 also represents the choices which may shape Europe’s future: a choice for a return to the pre-Christian spirituality of neo-paganism, or a return to Biblical spirituality.
The location for the consultation was also a strategic choice. Once a Reformation city, Basel has in recent years become home to the world’s largest New Age healing fair called the Psi Tagen. European seekers and visitors from other continents will be converging on the city again this coming weekend for this year’s event. Daniel Hari, one of our speakers, will hold seminars on healing the Jesus way as part of the programme.
That finishes on Monday afternoon and then our second Evangelism in a New Age consultation begins, entitled “Equipping the European Church for a spiritual age” (Nov 13-16).
So what’s puzzling me?
Well, with the obvious growth of interest in non-institutional spirituality on many fronts in Europe, I’m puzzled by the apparent lack of response from the Body of Christ to spiritually-seeking Europeans.
If enrolment for this year’s consultation is any guide, there seems to be little growth of awareness and interest in such ministry.
Of course, that could have everything to do with our publicity and organisation of the event. One factor is that the dates this year are two weeks later to link the consultation with the Psi Tagen. Two of the sponsoring organisations unfortunately already had events planned for those dates. But that’s only a partial explanation. And it leaves me asking the same question I wrote September last year:
· 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?
I also wrote then: “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.”
Since then I have learned of only a handful of ministries active on the continent. One of them is led by Ole Skjerbaek Madsen in Copenhagen – another of this year’s speakers. I would still like to hear from anyone who knows of others.
A very reliable missions source recently quoted to me a researcher on Buddhism in Europe (whom I have met personally) that for every European converting to Islam, hundreds convert to Buddhism!
So let me close with the same questions I posed last year:
· How long can we afford to ignore the changing spiritual climate?
· What concrete steps is (y)our church, denomination, organisation taking to equip members for ministry to spiritual seekers?
· If none, when do you plan to start?
· Why not-even at this late stage-join us next week at the consultation in Basel, with Ole, Daniel and Lars Johansson?
(For information and registration: www.hfe.org/newsandevents/events.php)
Till next week,
Till next week,