A Camel, A Needle, and Religion in Europe

I think we’ve invested too much attention on water, orphanages and third-world missions.

Wait, too bold?

Ok, let me try again. I think we’ve invested too much attention on water, orphanages and third-world missions.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that those are bad things. I think they are absolutely essential. In fact, I have the highest, highest regard for those who have given their lives to live in places where living is difficult, and who take care of the “least of these” in obedience to Jesus.

So maybe I stated it too strongly before. Maybe we’ve given the right attention to medical missions, human trafficking campaigns, and evangelism in tribal cultures. But we’ve under-appreciated the needs in other developed parts of the world.

Why is it that in America, we talk about “taking the gospel to where it’s needed the most?” Isn’t it needed everywhere, and needed by all people, as the first three chapters of Romans would suggest? Furthermore, why is that statement usually code for “where people are poor?” Usually that statement means the urban ghettos in our country or the trash-heap slums of Mumbai, India. Somehow we have tied a string that connects stuff to “not needing the gospel as much” and lack-of-stuff to “needs the gospel.”

I’m not trying to villainize, here. This is a common mistake. We see the hardship people go through and we are moved to action by the struggle to live comfortably, or at all. Our hearts break for parents losing kids, kids losing parents, epidemics, starvation and oppression. I’ve never been on a mission trip to the developing world, so I’m on the outside looking in, but it seems like everyone I know that has comes back and says their own version of:

“I thought we would go and share Jesus with them, but they understand faith in such a tangible way that they shared Jesus with me.”

See, to some extent, the people who are in the deepest poverty understand the gospel at a much more tangible level, because their lives are not as comfortable and they don’t make the correlation between gospel and wealth. Simply put, they know what it means to really trust God from day to day because they have nothing else. Meanwhile, the developed nations—especially those in Europe that are officially Christian—have fewer and fewer Christians in them. They get very little missionary attention because we assume that churches on every corner and a relative level of wealth equals, “reached by the Gospel.”

The reality is that Jesus talked about this very issue, and he told his disciples, “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Wealth (personal or federal) does not salvation make. My fear is that we’ve decided that it does. Maybe those that “need the gospel most” and those “who have the most needs” are not the same group.

So consider this a plea. A plea to remember our brothers and sisters that are doing mission work in Europe. A plea to pray for those that are not simply building buildings and bridges, but relationships and trust. A plea to encourage your church’s missions committee to “diversify” who you are supporting. And a plea to pray for those who have given up a life of comfort in the states to reach the lost for the gospel overseas, no matter where they may be.

#PrayForEurope

Religion: A Relic

This little 12×12 ft (or 4m x 4m!) chapel was not far from where we stayed in Germany. We passed it almost every day. In much of Europe, Christianity is a relic of the past, and church buildings the memorials that honor that heritage. As we pondered this little chapel, we wondered, does it ever open? If so, who has the keys? Our suspicion is that it is just another architectural artifact. Fittingly, the inscription above the door reads:

“the Spirit, that hovered above the water,

the son that lived with fisherman,

the father who gave us this lake,

which were worshipped at this location.”

The Hills Are Alive!

Church in Mittenwald, GermanyI recently went on a mission trip to Germany. Yes, Germany. The land of the Protestant Reformation. And yes, mission trip. As in, working with missionaries who have devoted their lives to taking the gospel to those who live there.

While we weren’t doing evangelical ministry (we were primarily serving the missionaries), we had an opportunity to speak with many of them and pick their brains about what ministry looks like in Europe. 

There is so much I could say that one post just won’t cover it, so over the next week or two I will be sharing thoughts from our trip and observations about the landscape of Christianity in Europe.

1. The Hills are Alive!

2. A Camel, A Needle, and Religion in Europe