Recently I had the privilege of spending 5 days with leaders from churches representing 28 different nations across Europe. It took place in Lisbon, Portugal. Before you ask, let me tell you, the weather was dreadful, it rained most of the time and was very stormy. I was there due to my contact with churches in Spain. Despite the weather, it was an inspiring time, hearing about what God is doing across our continent, as well as being realistic about the challenges we face.
Amongst the highlights for me were –
Meeting two church leaders from Poland who are willing to come to Luton to help us reach out to Polish people in our town. I have also been invited to support hem in Poland.
Hearing a powerful sermon on mission and prejudice, based on how Samaritans are represented in Luke and Acts. (I’m even considering turning this into a series of sermons, it was so powerful and relevant to us.)
Talking to a church leader from Greenland, there are only 36,000 people living on the island and they are spread out across the coast, people travel mostly by boat. There are no foreign missionaries left and the church is totally indigenous. It was inspiring to hear what the church is doing, including working with the many abused people on the island.
A church leader from the North Caucuses area of Russia shared about the work they have been doing amongst addicts for decades, over 3,000 have been through their programmes and 10 are now leading churches.
I listened to an Italian church leader who had been involved in joint meetings with the current Pope. He talked very positively about what God is doing within the Catholic Church generally and in Italy in particular. He said this wasn’t without its difficulties. He shared a letter he had received from the Pope supporting the work that is being done by Pentecostals and evangelicals in Italy.
A church leader from Serbia brought a powerful call to build churches that don’t just gather existing Christians but seek to grow through conversion growth. He humbly brought his observation that in his experience of the UK much church growth wasn’t through conversions!
Another church leader from the Ukraine spoke about how all his expansion plans were stopped by the war that drove him and many others from their homes and forced churches to close. He talked about the anguish of this but how several years later God has done much more than the original plans. The persecution has resulted in many more churches planted not just in the Ukraine but across the world.
A very valuable week, inspiring and helpful far beyond my original expectations. I was able to spend time with the guys I work with in Spain but was also benefited in so many other ways.
I came home feeling strengthened and encouraged.
God is doing good things, praise Him!
Written by Tony Thompson