Today is graduation day in Birmingham for the masters students completing our European studies programme, alongside other electives. Can you picture yourself in a gown and mortar board in the not-too-distant future?
Most of those graduating today are already involved in some kind of ministry or professional work. Of course, the mortar board and the letters after their name are not what it’s about. They have chosen the three-year part-time masters programme to become better equipped for mission in today’s fast-changing world.
We all do well to ask ourselves: are we adequately trained to make a difference in our place of work or ministry? Or do we need re-tooling, re-training, re-freshing? Bringing the hope of the age-old gospel message to our crisis-ridden society with contemporary relevance is why we in the Schuman Centre partner with ForMission College in Birmingham. Together we can better offer training in mission today and understanding of our larger European context, past, present and future.
The location of today’s ceremony underscores contemporary mission rooted in a rich biblical heritage. St Martin in the Bull Ring is a 19th century neo-gothic sanctuary built on an inner city site of continuous Christian worship since the 13th century. Martin of Tours, its fourth-century namesake famous for his service to the poor, was a converted Roman soldier who became a monk and a bishop, with a huge influence on the Gaul of his day. His life continues to inspire church staff and volunteers as they offer healing, help and hope to the urban poor. Martin is one of many historical figures who come to life in our modules, offering inspiration for today’s challenges as we trace the emergence of a Europe fundamentally shaped by the faith of creative minorities.
Our European studies elective is the only masters level programme I know of attempting to trace God’s fingerprints in Europe’s past, to discern God’s action in Europe’s present, and to explore God’s purposes for Europe’s future. (I would love to hear of other such programmes!) We believe the story of Jesus is the single greatest factor in shaping Europe’s past. Even an atheist like Richard Dawkins declares that we cannot understand European history without understanding Christianity and the Bible.
Wyn then can’t the story of Jesus be the greatest factor in shaping Europe’s future? While many seem resigned to Europe’s ‘irreversible’ post-Christian state, philosopher Charles Taylor concludes his monumental study of our times, A secular age, with these pregnant words: We are just at the beginning of a new age of religious searching, whose outcome no one can foresee.
What is our mission task in a Europe which is paradoxically the continent most shaped by the Bible and by the rejection of the Bible? Nearly two decades ago, I wrote a book suggesting ten imperatives for God’s people to recover faith, hope and vision for our continent, called Living as people of hope. While presently out of print, it’s not out of date. Here’s a brief summary.
- Ask! – what is God’s will for Europe? Why be negative about Europe’s future when Jesus has taught us to pray for God’s kingdom to come, his will to be done in Europe as it is in heaven?
- Reject! –the enemy’s propaganda. His methods of intimidation, distraction and seduction have paralysed many like rabbits in a car’s headlights
- Remember! – what God has done in the past. Ignorance about God’s action in history breeds unbelief and passivity about the future.
- Admit! – the sins and mistakes of the church, which too often have negatively shaped the course of European history.
- Recognise! – todays’ realities. Europe is today a spiritual dwarf compared to the dynamic growth of the church on other continents.
- Look! – what God is doing. Bad news may dominate our headlines, yet God is still quietly at work behind the scenes with fresh expressions of church, mission from the majority world and a spiritual hunger unfulfilled by liberal materialism.
- Rediscover! – the gospel of the Kingdom. Evangelism is proclaiming the good news of Christ’s lordship over every area of life affected by sin – which is every area of life.
- Accept! – our responsibility and role to be agents of the Kingdom, helping to shape the future of our cities, countries and continent.
- Transplant! – the church into the 21st century, as new wineskins responsive to their cultural context.
- Synergise! – as churches and networks, co-laboring together across cities, nations and Europe.
Would a masters programme based on these imperatives interest you? You could start with our next module in March 2023, with hybrid sessions of lectures and field exposure on the ancient streets of Utrecht and Zwolle, the historic canals of Amsterdam and the open countryside of Friesland.
Write me for details.
Till next week,
Thank you Jeff!
This is exactly the preaching we need to do now: the Bible, Jesus and evangelism.
I am visiting churches throughout the year, 1 per week, on Sundays. All kind of denominations, sharing about the situation of persecuted Christians around the world. It makes me wonder how many churches are not alarmed to the utmost by hearing and learning about the tribulations of their brothers and sisters. But … some do. thank God.
Why are we in such a poor shape? Because our preaching and teaching is not focused enough on the above mentioned 3 points: Bible, Jesus, Mission.