Mission-Net director of communications Henriette Froehlich spoke with The Christian Post recently about the group’s conference that took place in Erfurt, Germany, from Dec. 28 to Jan. 2. A total of 2,500 participants from 40 nations participated in the biannual conference that is the only pan-European mission conference for young people.
Froehlich spoke about the Mission-Net Congress and Christianity in Europe.
CP: What was the overall message of the Mission-Net Congress?
Froehlich: The slogan of this year's Mission-Net congress was “Transforming our world.” As Christians we want to display God's transforming power in society through the credible witness of our public and private lives. It is not about individualism but about doing it together. As we act in this way, we model to the world the unity of the Body of Christ. It starts where we live, but a missional lifestyle goes beyond my neighborhood, to my country, my continent and ultimately to the ends of the world.
CP: Why did this event need to take place?
Froehlich: Commissioned by the European Evangelical Missionary Alliance (EEMA) and the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA), Mission-Net exists to encourage and promote Mission-Net movements at a national and regional level across Europe, and to bring young Christians together for mutual encouragement, teaching, training and mobilization. Mission-Net is primarily aimed at 16 - 30 year-old Europeans who are willing to consider living a Christian missional lifestyle which allies spiritual expressions of faith with practical contributions to the common good of society. Mission-Net is uniquely European, intercultural, missional, church-orientated, relevant, holistic, Jesus-centered and prayerful.
CP: Is there any big issue(s) with European Christianity at the moment?
Froehlich: There are over 830 million people living in Europe – less than two percent are followers of Jesus. In recent years the continent has witnessed increased secularization of the nations and massive growth in the migrant population. Today’s European culture is multicultural and therefore demands an intercultural lifestyle. We live in exciting times – the ends of the earth are now our neighbors. Many people come to Europe from countries where they have no access to God’s truth, providing a great opportunity for the church to engage in the mandate of the Great Commission in its local communities. Who, if not we Christians as part of one body – the Church – can be a prime example of an intercultural lifestyle, appreciating our differences without giving up our cultural distinctiveness?
Two opposing trends can be witnessed in Europe: One is very much characterized by a growing nationalism often linked with ethnocentricity, while the other is the preference, especially amongst the youth to define oneself as European rather than as a citizen of one’s respective country. Both of these trends are strongly influenced by a vibrant migration within Europe such as Poles working in the U.K., Romanians in Spain and Portugal, Albanians in Italy. In addition there is evidence of a growing and constant migration to Europe, mainly from Africa and certain parts of Asia. As many of the migrants from the Global South are believers, an inflow of new vibrant and authentic expressions of biblical Christianity is emerging in Europe.
Europe is also a post-Christian pluralistic society. Whilst traditional mission outreaches are still a great discipleship tool, the focus needs to be more on “everyday mission,” encouraging and equipping participants to live a missional lifestyle 365 days a year (transforming our world). By recognizing and accepting that our story no longer shapes society at large, the church (and mission organizations) should adapt its approach in every day mission. Living in a post-Christian society means that we are pilgrims in a culture where we no longer feel at home, although we have a great hope that we are called to share. In Christian community we need to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Gospel. Pray for, love and serve one another and your community. We need to re-discover our missionary context, getting to know our local community. Who lives there? What are their stories, values and culture, needs? With this as our starting point, we will be able to witness our message of hope in Christ and its implications. And yet, spending time in another culture can be equally challenging and rewarding. Stepping out of our comfort zones allows God to stretch us and enlarge our vision for the nations. Mission-Net is not about creating an institution, but rather about creating a movement of young people who influence the world they live in by living out the good news of Jesus.
CP: Do you believe there aren't enough young Christian missionaries at the moment? If yes, why do you think so?
Froehlich: It has often been said that every generation needs to be won for Christ. This is the same for Europe, and for the rest of the world. As populations around the world grow, so does the need for Christian workers grow. But the face of missions are changing, as previously sending nations have become receiving nations and receiving nations have become sending nations. Mission-Net exists to challenge young Christians in Europe to embrace a missional lifestyle wherever God has placed them in order to reach the nations – whether at home or abroad.
CP: What efforts are Operation Mobilization currently doing or planning in order to reach more people?
Froehlich: OM Europe seeks to transform lives and communities in more than 30 nations by reaching neighbors, caring for the marginalized, loving Muslims, empowering kids and youth and partnering with the Church in Europe. For more information: http://www.om.org/europe.
CP: What is your message to young Christians who are still deciding on becoming a missionary?
Froehlich: Over 100 Christian organizations, mission agencies, Bible schools and theological seminaries exhibited at the “Global Market” at the Mission-Net congress in Erfurt, Germany, from the 28 of December to the 2nd of January 2012. We were encouraged to see 1500 participants fill in a personality profile and 500 participants do a gifting exercise at the Mission Advice Centre during the week. Over 400 young people also participated in two outreaches in Erfurt on Friday afternoon. Missions are still very relevant to young Christians in Europe, and opportunities in Europe and beyond abound. Those who sense God calling them to full-time missions are encouraged to put time aside to pray, meet with leaders in their church and connect with missionaries on the field. But whether God has called you to stay at home or go, you have a part to play in God's story. True transformation starts from within.