Here at last we come to the final chapter for Part II of Brave New Europe.
Part I explains why Europe may be headed for a neo-pagan future as it jettisons its remaining “baggage” of Christendom.
Part II suggests 10 imperatives for God’s people to recover faith, hope and vision for the Prodigal Continent.
The first was to: ASK! … what is God’s will for Europe?
The second: REJECT! … the enemy’s disinformation
The third: REMEMBER! … what God has done in the past
The fourth: ADMIT! … honestly the sins and mistakes of the Church
The fifth: FACE UP! …to the truth about the present.
The sixth: LOOK! … what God is up to.
The seventh: RECOVER! … the Gospel of the Kingdom.
The eighth: EMBRACE! … our responsibility and role.
The ninth:TRANSPLANT! … the church into the 21st century.
The tenth and last is:
SYNERGISE! … locally, nationally, regionally
“If you want to travel fast, travel alone.
If you want to travel far, travel together.”
On the last day of HOPE.21 in Budapest last month, Ernie Addicott quoted this African saying to the 1000 leaders gathered from 38 European countries. Participants had spent two days together spread out over the city in a dozen hotels, meeting in over 25 ministry network consultations, building ministry links with Europeans from other nations. Now in the sprawling Budapest Congress Centre, Ernie was preparing us to meet in national groupings, to spend a day exploring how to build unity and partnership in each of our lands.
Inspired by these words of African wisdom, we all went off to our respective national meetings, the latest phase in what had been a long process of unity-building underway since before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
For in the late-80’s, Stuart McAllister, then working with Operation Mobilisation, had invited a number of leaders of European organisations to meet to plan together towards the evangelisation of Europe. In the spring of 1989, we were meeting in Vienna when to our great surprise we heard that the barbed wire between Austria and Hungary was being cleared away. Further unimaginable developments quickly followed and by the end of that year, the Wall was gone.
Greatly encouraged by the onrush of this historic moment, we began to meet regularly in what we came to call the Coalition for the Evangelisation of Europe (CEE). Our organisations shared a common goal, yet reflected many differences – some were charismatic, others not; some worked with Catholics, others not; some were committed to church planting, others not. I remember the sense of reserve in our first meeting as we rather gingerly introduced ourselves, wondering what the others thought about our own organisation. Too often we had foolishly viewed these other movements as rivals for recruits and resources, instead of as sister movements in the battle for Europe’s future.
A word that often peppered our conversation in those early days of the CEE was synergy, a buzz-word increasingly used in business circles over the past decade. Management guru Steven Covey did much to popularise this word in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It described the increased competitiveness and efficiency gained when two or more enterprises pooled their strengths in partnerships. We were asking ourselves, how can we pool our strengths as movements towards the goal of shaping Europe’s future together? This word synergy captured what we were aiming for.
But ‘synergy’ is more than just a modern buzz word. Paul used this very word in Greek when he wrote that ‘all things work together (sunergeo) for the good of those who are called according to his purpose’ – Romans 8:28. He uses the noun derived from this verb, sunergos, to refer to his ‘fellow workers’ or to ‘workers together’ – 1 Cor. 3:9, Phil.4:3, 3 John 8.
Synergy is combined energy, united action, parts working together as a whole. One dictionary definition is: the combined healthy action of every organ of a system. This speaks of the Pauline imagery of body life, when the parts are properly related to each other. Together we can do far more than the sum total of our separate efforts.
Synergy is also more than simply a biblical concept – it is a principle built into the very nature of the universe. One oft-cited example of synergy is the claim that one draft horse can pull two tons of weight – but two can pull 23 tons! I have never tested the truth of this assertion, yet nature is rich with examples of the amazing inter-relatedness of the cosmos.
Two computer giants ran full page newspaper advertisements announcing their partnership with the slogan: “Synergy at work!” In medical circles, the word has long been used to describe the effect when two or more medicines are used together to produce a result that could not be accomplished by separate application of the individual medicines. When we use a two-pot glue, we apply the principle of synergy by bringing the two components together to achieve something which would not happen if the components were never mixed.
Ultimately the concept of synergy stems from the nature of the Godhead! The Father, Son and Holy Spirit exemplify body life, operating in perfect harmony, perfect synergy.
Unity and diversity
The task of shaping Europe’s future demands synergy in the Body of Christ – locally, nationally and across the whole continent. Europe is looking for models of unity with diversity. That’s what the whole European Union experiment is about. Only when the People of God live and operate in synergy will we have the spiritual authority to disciple the nations of Europe in unity and diversity.
Early in the ’90’s Stuart was asked to become the general secretary for the European Evangelical Alliance. We kept on meeting as the CEE and Stuart continued to meet with us as a kind of ‘kitchen cabinet’, a think tank for his ‘gen-sec’ role. We scoured the European landscape looking for men and women with vision and passion for Europe, but were discouraged to find few leaders looking beyond their own national borders. We asked ourselves what it would take to create a climate of unity and partnership across Europe.
One day in 1993, as we were meeting in my office in Holland, we took a red felt-tip pen and wrote the words “Hope for Europe” on the flip-over. “What if there was a broad umbrella big enough to embrace all the various networks – EEA, Lausanne, DAWN, AD2000, March for Jesus, etc. – with ministry networks linking people with like ministries across national borders?” we posed. “Such an umbrella could help foster a climate of synergy, of unity and diversity.”
After further brainstorming, we later brought these ideas to a gathering of leaders in Prague, which has since developed into the annual Hope for Europe Round Table. A number of ministry networks began to form, linking those working in church planting, politics, evangelism, prayer, youth ministries, among women in leadership, among the disabled, and so on. Later we agreed we needed a Europe-wide event early in the new century to give a common focus to evangelicals east and west, and to explore the hope of the gospel for Europeans in the 21st century.
So HOPE.21 was born, to be held in the spring of 2002 in Budapest. Drawing primarily on the resources of CEE partners, HOPE.21 was in itself an exercise in synergy. No new organisation was set up, but rather resources were pooled among partner organisations to make such a congress possible. The congress had three main aims:
1. to promote ministry networks across Europe transcending national borders;
2. to stimulate national strategies by effecting synergy between ministry networks in each nation; and
3. to deepen and broaden vision for hope for Europe, by recognising God’s past acts of faithfulness and his plans of hope and a future.
Now on the last day of this congress, every room and h
all in the modern Budapest C
ongress Centre was buzzing with reports in each national gathering. Participants shared new vision they had received for their own country in the two days of network consultations. Across the hall from the British were the Dutch and the Russians; further down the corridor were the Ukrainians, next door to the Bulgarians, next door to the Romanians; the Spaniards and the Portuguese sat in circles in the aisles of the exhibition hall; the Croats gathered under the large stairways in the foyer. And so on, 38 European countries represented in intense consultation. All were addressing the same question: how can we work together to help shape our nation’s future?
At a dinner that evening, several national facilitators shared excitedly how that they had thought they knew what God was doing in their country – until they began to hear the reports from their fellow-countrymen. God was up to far more than they had imagined, they admitted! A powerful spirit of unity and cooperation promised new initiatives and partnerships in the near future.
African wisdom had taken root in Europe: If you want to travel fast, travel alone; if you want to travel far, travel together.
As individuals, as congregations, as denominations, as nations, we must learn how to complement each other’s giftings. As long as our adversary keeps us territorialised, competitive, divided through nationalistic thinking and denominationalistic thinking, we have been robbed of synergy and of spiritual authority. Together we have been called to disciple the nations of Europe. Apart we cannot. We will not have the authority for it.
God does not give the full picture to any one group. If we want to regain vision, faith and hope for tomorrow’s Europe, we need to be in proper relationship with other parts of the Body of Christ. We can have a role in stimulating synergy in the Body, promoting unity and cooperation locally, nationally and regionally. We have not been called to do it alone!
Barry Austin, a YWAM colleague, explains that a football team gives a good example of synergy, or lack of it:
When footballers are selected to represent the nation, we have a team of the most skilful individual players in the country; but they can play a club team and still lose. This is because the club team normally has better synergy; they play together better. Because they have better co-operative skills they beat the team with better individual skills.
As we examine how a good football team operates we see that two sorts of skills are necessary: individual skills, and equally, co-operative team-work. Individualists don’t win football matches, teams do! Likewise with the Body of Christ. Each person needs to develop their individual gifts, but also, should know how to work together with others. Individuals working on their own are not going to win the world, but bodies of God’s people working together in unity have the potential to do it.
Spiritual synergy is the power behind concerted prayer, united prayer. Jesus spoke of the power released when two believers agree in his name (Matthew 18:19). Not that all prayer meetings achieve spiritual synergy – they often don’t. But when we experience unity in prayer, we know know when we have touched heaven. The disciples experienced this in Acts 4:24-31, as the very building the were in shook.
How can we apply these principles to the task at hand – of shaping Europe’s future? Hope For Europe is a movement that stands for synergy among God’s People in Europe, for building relationally across national borders, but also for encourging partnership, cooperation, a climate of unity in diversity at local, national and continental levels. But at all levels of European life, God’s people must take the initiative to work together to shape the future.
HOPE Awards were presented at HOPE.21 to highlight such models of cooperation and unity, both to individuals who had contributed significantly to a climate of hope in Europe, as well as to projects promoting partnership of service and proclamation.
Sir Fred Catherwood, former vice-president of the European Parliament, received a HOPE Award in recognition of a lifetime of public service reminding his fellow Europeans that God’s second commandment was to love one’s neighbour. “We should do all we can to make it easier for different people – especially those who are neighbours (as the Jews were to the Samaritans) – to live together in peace and concord,” he had urged. “With God’s grace, common to all of us while we are in this world, and with the help of the divinely ordained institutions of government, we believe it is possible.” (Pro-Europe, IVP, Leicester, 1991, p52)
The Albanian Evangelical Alliance also received a HOPE Award for the united action of Albanian believers to extend warm and selfless hospitality towards the Moslem Kosovars fleeing before Milosevic’s troops in 1999. Germany’s YMCA, World Vision and Evangelical Alliance were also recognised for their creative partnership in conceiving and executing at Hannover’s E XPO 2000 the Pavilion of Hope, a huge whale-shaped construction judged by the German public to be the best exhibition.
Elisabeth Mittelstaedt, editor of the women’s magazine Lydia, and initiator of the Hope for Europe Women in Leadership network, which has brought thousands of European women together in rallies from Paris to Budapest, was yet another recipient of a HOPE Award.
Yet it could just have easily been awarded to the unknown Danish teenager, Marianne Larsen, who catalysed a people movement in Denmark to change public opinion about the widespread pornography in shops and gas stations. Or to Swedish artist Janeric Johanssen whose art inspired hope in citizens of the Baltic states in the tense days of the early 90’s as they opposed the repressive Soviet authorities. Or to many other anonymous European believers from all walks of life who are realising that shaping tomorrow’s Europe is our collective responsibility, and that together we can make a difference.
Undreamed of and unrealised potential is waiting to be released from the Body of Christ in Europe that is held back by division, jealousies, unforgiveness, rivalries, hurt pride and petty quarrels. The future of our continent – and beyond – requires us honestly to face up to these hinderances and release the power of synergy to demonstrate once more to Europe the ultimate source of our hope: the Three-In-One.