From Vista Magazine
When Vista began ten years ago we believed there was a need for solid research-based information on mission in Europe. Europe is such a diverse and dynamic context for mission. Each European situation is unique yet, at the same time, subject to influences and changes that are common across the continent. Where can busy pastors, mission leaders and practitioners find reliable information to help them to think about the key issues that are affecting mission in Europe today?
Our dream was that Vista might meet that need.
When we considered what Vista’s brief should be, we quickly agreed on its key features. Each edition would focus on a single topic with articles from multiple perspectives and authors. The authors would be chosen to reflect different evangelical perspectives and, where possible, we would seek to give voice to authors whose points of view were rarely heard. The content would be robust, driven by solid research and analysis, but written in easy prose and free of in-text academic referencing. And the articles themselves should be brief, illustrated with graphics and charts where possible. For ten years we have remained true to those guiding principles.
Looking back to 2010, we were already wrestling with topics which have gone on to define the decade. Issue 1 in April 2010 dealt with Migration and Nationalism. Issue 2 was on Islam. Issue 3 tackled Secularisation. Unsurprisingly, we have revisited these topics a number of times over the last ten years.
Monographic issues have marked milestones like the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall or Brexit. And we have also explored more practical topics like church planting and multicultural church.
The Danger of Generalisation
We have often said there are three dangers when thinking about mission in Europe. The first is over-generalisation; treating Europe as a more-or-less uniform context for mission. So we think that what is true for one part of Europe will be true everywhere and what works in one part of Europe will work everywhere. We ignore regional differences. We apply urban solutions to rural problems. And we take literature, courses, and methodologies that have been effective in one part of Europe, translate them into other European languages, and consider that is sufficient for these ideas to be contextualised.
Yes, globalisation has homogenised culture across the world. And yes, the European Union has created political and cultural bridges between countries. But every single European country and region is unique with its own distinctive missiological context and particular spiritual history.. There is no book that can tell you how to reach your town or city with the gospel in 2020. You will have to write that book for yourself!
The Danger of Hyper-localisation
Another equal and opposite danger is that of hyper-localisation. In business, this means the marketing of selected products because of their particular local relevance or customer preferences. A similar thing can happen when engaging in mission in a city, town or district. We know, or we think we know, what is happening in our locality. We are suspicious of any ideas, materials or insights that come from outside. “Oh, that would never work here”, we say. “That might be true in your part of the country, but not in this town”. “You don’t understand. You weren’t born here”. We have heard all of those from Christian leaders at some point or another.
All mission is local mission. It is about real people in real communities. And its primary manifestation is the local church. But the days when local communities could exist in glorious isolation are long gone. Today, news and ideas are communicated in an instant to every household from London to Lesbos, Lapland to Lisbon. The issues of Migration, Nationalism, Islam, Secularisation and others are issues across all of Europe. There may be associated local challenges but all of Europe needs to wrestle with these issues. We cannot afford to be short-sighted.
The Danger of Parallax
From its inception, Vista has tried to balance global and local visions of Europe. Both are vitally important. But when getting a proper view of Europe, a third danger we must avoid is that of parallax,
In a Vista editorial from 2013, I explained this challenge in the following way:
“Such is the diversity of today’s Europe as a context for mission that any individual viewpoint necessarily suffers from a certain degree of parallax. Parallax is defined as the apparent displacement of an object caused by a change in the position from which it is viewed. Even the letters of this page of Vista appear in a different place when viewed through one eye than they do through the other. Fortunately, most of us have two eyes enabling us to enjoy stereoscopic vision which gives us not only greater acuity and depth but the ability to precisely locate the object under observation.
In an analogous way, when researchers are seeking to understand a reality they often engage in triangulation, where data derived from many different sources is used to integrate, verify, and interpret the subject under consideration. That is what we have sought to achieve since our very first edition of Vista, to gather considered perspectives on mission from around Europe which might enable us to achieve greater acuity, depth and positional understanding: “where we are”.”
As we enter a new decade, the editors of Vista are more convinced than ever of the need to hold continental and local perspectives in tension, and to include articles by authors whose perspectives on a given topic are different so that we see something of the complexity and depth of the issues across Europe.
For the next twelve months, Vista will be partnering with Lausanne Europe to support the Conversation around the Lausanne Europe 2020 Gathering in Poland in October 2020 https://www.lausanneeurope.org/. Vistas 35, 36 and 37 are planned to contain articles on different issues, each written by key speakers from the October 2020 Gathering.*
Each month, delegates to the gathering will come together with ten or twelve others from within their networks to reflect on the crucial issues for mission in Europe today, to engage with Scripture, to consider aspect of discipleship and mobilisation for mission, and to pray. The key tool for missiological reflection will be articles from Vista. If you are interested in joining one of these groups do let us know and we will try and link you up with a delegate from your country.
To celebrate this ten-year milestone, the editors decided it was time to give Vista a fresh look and a redesigned website.
As before, every issue is freely available for download. But now, all the articles are accessible and searchable independently, not just as part of a single issue. There is a wealth of knowledge and valuable insights on many different themes so we would really encourage you to check it out: https://www.europeanmission.redcliffe.ac.uk/ If you find something of interest, please do share it on social media, or forward it to your colleagues.
Our vision for Vista has always been to make solid research-based information on mission in Europe available to everyone who needs it. Darrell Jackson, Jo Appleton and Jim Memory have been with Vista from the beginning. Chris Ducker ably assisted us for a number of years, and more recently Evert van de Poll has brought a much-needed alternative view. Ten years on, the editors of Vista give thanks to God for the little miracle that is every edition, and to the dozens of contributors whose insights have made Vista what it is. Soli Deo Gloria.
Jim Memory, on behalf of the Vista editorial team
* Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Lausanne Gathering is postponed to November 17th-21st 2021. A virtual event is being planned for October 2020. (For more information, please visit https://www.lausanneeurope.org.