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October 20, 2015

Refugees and the Church Plant

By Phil Metzger

Europe is changing. As I am writing this, the face of Europe is being re-written as hundreds of thousands of refugees flood onto this continent.

Some believe this is the death of Christianity in Europe. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban believes that this will undermine the Christian identity of Europe.

Ironically, when the gospel first came to Europe, the crowds worked hard to kill “Christianity” before it could even take root. In Acts 16 and 17 we read about Paul’s first ventures in Europe. Needless to say it was not the most inviting group.

Having lived in Europe for about 18 years I can say with a degree of confidence that the Muslims alone won’t be the death or even the undermining element of Christianity in Europe. That’s already happened!

The factors that have led to this are plentiful: secularism, religion, and a general godlessness, to name a few. But at the top of my list of things killing Christianity in Europe… compartmentalization. When we place boxes around each part of our lives.

Work, play, family, marriage and faith are each kept in their own box. “So, of course I’m a Christian but I also cheat on my wife.” “Yes I believe in God but how does that have anything to do with my workplace or family life?”

What does this look like when we compartmentalize our faith? Bible truths never make it into everyday living.

Into this changing face of Europe, church planters need to come with a strong sense of calling, determination, and a unified Christian life. This doesn’t mean the church planter needs to be perfect to be effective!  The apostle Paul was far from perfect yet he had no problem calling others to “follow me as I follow Christ.” Paul was seeking to live out his faith in every part of his life. Even when he was wrong, humility and repentance, had their place in his Christian witness.

Most people are sick of talking religion but my experience is that they are more than willing to hear about a Person who can genuinely change their lives.

I’m certain this is true everywhere but it bears repeating when you are talking about European church planting: We cannot “play” church. We must live out our faith, with strong conviction, in every part of our lives.

Church planting is extremely relational. It is grassroots before “grassroots” was even a thing! Starting a church from scratch has so much to do with opening every part of your life for inspection. Let the people see that you are trying to live out what you say you believe.

1 Thessalonians 2:8 “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”

The power of the gospel is genuine life transformation. We can be forgiven and changed from the inside out. This reminds us that Islam is not the primary problem for Christianity any more than homosexuality, secularism or anything else is. A darkened heart is our first problem. And darkened hearts come in many forms. Sin doesn’t compartmentalize. It infects and invades every part of our being.

This is why we need the gospel so desperately. The gospel is God’s power over sin.

Will there be an impact upon Europe after bringing in this many refugees? Definitely, and most certainly in good and bad ways. It’s into this new narrative that the church planter can reveal the power of God through one changed life: yours.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phil Metzger

Phil Metzger (@metzgerphil) is the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Budapest, as well as, the ministry director of Calvary Chapel Bible College Europe in Vajta, Hungary. He has served as a full-time missionary since 1998. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he oversees Calvary church plants throughout Eastern Europe, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. His heart and ministry is focused on making disciples and seeing the church impact the world for Christ. He would like to see more churches planted in order to bring the Word of God to the lost. Phil and his wife Joy have four beautiful children: Niki, Karina, Judah, and Hannah.

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