This article is coming to you from Southern Germany where I am involved in a congress for the European Association of Urban Missions (EAUM). More than 100 leaders of Christian ministries to poor and powerless people from cities across Europe are meeting to report on their work, share perspectives, learn, and worship Christ Jesus together.
In each plenary session, up to five people, each from a different country, talk about what they are seeing happening in their homeland. Interestingly, it often closely parallels what we are seeing, or could soon see, in North America. Here are some takeaways from yesterday:
Spain: The warm and hospitable Mediterranean lifestyle no longer exists. In our churches, we thought we were good at “making community,” but that only lasts a few hours on a Sunday these days. Now we go out and live parallel lives. In 2018, we had 75,000 immigrants from Venezuela. We were not ready for them, and now it appears we cannot make up the relational ground we lost with them.
Norway: We used to be proud of our prosperity and economy. Today, one out of ten children are in low-income families. In Norway, you bring your lunch to school. So many children, particularly in our cities, have empty lunch boxes every day. There is a sharp contrast in many neighborhoods. It’s easy to tell the “haves” from the “have-nots.” Minorities are becoming the scapegoats for many of the problems we are facing.
England: We used to talk to each other; now we talk about each other. We used to live with each other; now we live beside each other. We have let our backgrounds and beliefs separate us. Separation of people groups brings crime between people groups.
Czech Republic: When the rest of Europe was taking in refugees fleeing Syria and other hot spots, we chose not to. Our mission took in 153—and the NIMBY outcry was loud, particularly from those who called themselves Christians.
Germany: In one city, we have launched 2,600 initiatives to help people focus on our neighbors. The goal is to get people talking together and getting to know each other.
A reoccurring theme is that you can’t mess with community. Christian community is the mortar of our ministries.
Action steps: 1. Talk with your staff about ways you can bring a sense of community to the neighborhoods you serve. 2. Figure out what you can do to enhance the sense of community with your own staff. 3. Figure out where there might be places that Psalm 133:1 needs to get a new foothold within your organization.