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Left behind?

TIME magazine recently featured the popular American rapture-mentality book series called “Left Behind”. In this series, believers are raptured into glory leaving non-believers on a planet headed towards apocalyptic disaster.

Personally, I think the far greater danger is that we, the people of God in Europe, are the ones being “left behind” right now, when it comes to shaping the future of our planet.

Our mandate, as expressed in the Lord’s Prayer, is to see God’s Kingdom come, his will being done here in Europe – and globally – as it is in heaven. The future of this planet is our business. We are to take hold of the future, and pull it into the present. J√ºrgen Moltmann puts it this way: the church is an arrow sent out into the world to point the way to the future.

Most Europeans would consider that statement a joke these days. The church in Europe has the unfortunate image of pointing the the past rather than to the future. But Moltmann was not trying to be funny.

Information is power
In politics and business today, information is vital for facing the future. One of the credal beliefs of the Information Era is “Information is power”. (S)he who has accurate and relevant information has a head start on the competition. Governments and businesses set up think tanks to prepare for the future. The European Union has a special Forward Studies Unit.

But what about us in the Body of Christ? What research are we doing in Europe?

You may remember me getting upset some months ago in this column with statistics about the church in Europe. Various figures used by the World Christian Encyclopedia (David Barrett and Todd Johnson), Operation World (Patrick Johnstone) and Future Church (Peter Brierley) set the number of Christians in Europe at between 537 million and 435 million. That’s at least 60% of the European population!!

Such figures, I complained, are out of touch with current realities and merely hide the desperate spiritual condition of this continent. They do not give us accurate and relevant information needed for strategizing for tomorrow. They relate to yesterday’s categories, generations and social conditions.

Since then I have been in email dialogue with Todd, Patrick, Peter and others trying – so far, unsuccessfully – to set up a forum where we could try to identify the kind of information needed for effective strategies, especially relating to Hope for Europe. I did get to meet with Todd recently in China, who defends the WCE approach by asking how else we can measure things?

Banana-skin
However, encouragement came this week in the form of Bob Waymire who stopped by in Heerde en route from India. Bob is a pioneer in global research, founding Global Mapping and playing seminal roles in both the DAWN and AD2000 movements. (I’ve known Bob for some 15 years, but only this week discovered his aerospace background – he used to troubleshoot the Polaris missiles on nuclear submarines in secret US bases in Scotland. I also learned how Bob’s shortlived career as the “Camel man”, which guaranteed him a lifetime’s supply of cigarettes after photo shoots on a submarine, was abruptly ended by his conversion.)

Bob has picked up my concerns, and those of Lynn Green and others in Europe. In his own words, he believes that too much statistical information “has one foot on a banana-skin and the other planted firmly in mid-air”!

Elsewhere Bob has written:

The main body of Church research and information does not paint a true picture of the quantity or distribution of true believers. This kind of research is of minimum value. A significant percentage of believers do not fall within the current patterns and practices of research and analysis.
Today, most Church analysis and statistics paint the picture of the distribution and growth of the traditional, institutional Church which is more or less marginalized from society. Further information of this type is of minimal value, except to depict the status of the traditional churches.
New research and analysis is needed, which should be guided by a broad spectrum of individuals, many of them visionaries, apostles and prophets, whom God is using to launch a new revolution in the Church worldwide. We need to reorder our fact-finding to stay paced with what God is doing in the world.

In a paper calling for a “new era in research”, Bob paints a scenario:

“where the masses of mankind are marching down a broad road toward some uncertain terrible destiny. Along the way a few needy souls are sidelined into a variety of ‘salvation houses’ – some authentic, some not. Analyzing these salvation houses, their size, structures and methods, and those that are in them, provides some useful information. However, the much more important information would be that pertaining to the worldview, mindset, social and cultural distinctives, felt needs, and aspirations of the individuals/peoples in the mass march. Knowing where they are in these areas provides the information we need to determine how best to bring them to an understanding of God’s revealed truth and plan of salvation and hope. It will provide guidance for how to reach and involve them in Biblically based fellowship and instruction.”

In both YWAM, the University of the Nations, and Hope for Europe, we need reliable, accurate, up-to-date, relevant information to tell us “what needs to be done,” and “how to do it.” We could not run a government or a business without such information.

Will we make this a priority, and produce the needed researchers?

Or will we continue to be “left behind”?!

Till next week,

Jeff Fountain

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