Academic journal article International Review of Mission

The Impact of Migration on Evangelism in Europe

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

The Impact of Migration on Evangelism in Europe

Article excerpt

Abstract

The extensive secularisation that eroded Christian belief and practice and that caused a drastic decline in church membership and the presence of an increasing number of non-Christian migrants in Europe today is not only endangering the future of Christian faith, but reminding us that there are millions of people in Europe who need to hear the gospel. But generally, there is a continuing decline of interest in evangelism among the local churches and theological training in Europe, with the exception of free churches and some mission organisations. Theological training in Europe, at least in its present shape, has not been successful in shaping, leading and equipping the church for the task of evangelism as discipleship: a life-transforming encounter.

Therefore, we need a renewed vision of evangelism to develop contextual evangelistic approaches that takes paradigm shifts of our time into account. Migrant Christians bring a remarkable new dimension to the understanding and practice of evangelism in Europe. They come from a context inhere evangelism is intrinsically interrelated to discipleship making and is seen as the central identity of a church and a primary goal of theological training. This can inspire, encourage and compel European Christians to rediscover a courageous missional identity and develop effective cross-cultural evangelism. Meanwhile, migrant Christians need the guidance of European Christians in order to use a proper and contextualised approach to win the trust of Europeans and succeed in evangelising them. Humility is the key element that is commonly needed in this win-win situation.

Positive theological and multicultural networks along with interdependence and mutual learning-oriented relationships between migrant and local Christians can help to develop ecumenical missiologies that are relevant to diverse contexts of Europe today.

The issue of the International Review of Mission focuses on the theme of Evangelism as Discipleship. This theme is held by most migrant Christians and congregations as the main interrelated aspect of evangelism. I will start by giving a brief background on the status of migration and evangelism in Europe. The main focus will be the impact of and contribution of migration on evangelism and some major aspects in which migrants may influence the search for new ways of evangelism and the development of ecumenical missiologies in Europe.

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Due to the continuing growth of migration, there are a number of migrant Christians spread all over Europe today. One may see a connection between the migration movement and God's plan to bring the good news to all. (1) The majority of migrant Christians come from a context where discipleship-making as a life-transforming encounter is intrinsically interrelated to evangelism and is part of the missional identity of every local church. This strong link between evangelism and discipleship has been the central idea of mission/evangelism right from the beginning, when Jesus, in the great commission, commanded his followers to make disciples of all nations.

   Authentic Christian witness is not only in what we do in mission
   but how we live our mission. The church in mission can only be
   sustained by spirituality deeply rooted in the Trinity's communion
   of love. Spirituality gives our lives their deepest meaning; it
   stimulates, motivates, and gives dynamism to life's journey. (2)

As a result of a paradigm shift (3) and a radical change in ecclesiological landscapes, the centre of gravity of Christianity has shifted from the global North to the global South

and East, and the concept of mission has changed from mission to the margins to mission from the margins. The fact that the reversal in the direction of international migration (from north to south up to the 1950s, and from south to north since the 1960s) took place at about the same time as the shift in the centre of gravity of Christianity is making it easier for Europeans to make use of the advantage of inspiration and challenges brought to them by migrants. …

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