The European Evangelical Alliance, an Alliance of 35 national Alliances and 12 Christian agencies, held its General Assembly in Warsaw, Poland, in partnership with the European Evangelical Missionary Alliance and the Hope for Europe Round Table, from Oct. 17-21, 2006. The following are excerpts from an interview with Gordon Showell-Rogers, the General Secretary of the EEA, about the conference, holistic ministry, and his hopes for the future of evangelicalism in Europe.
In your keynote address to the assembly, you mentioned the need to balance both the spiritual and physical aspects of ministry. Can you elaborate on that thought?
Truly radical discipleship is a combination of deep spirituality and a deep commitment to real life in the real physical world. True spirituality is about prayer, worship, evangelism, community life in Christ, and engaging with poverty and injustice and other needs in the world.
We want to remember both that life is about more than the here and now, and to avoid withdrawing into a spiritual enclave without engaging in real life problems.
N my presentation, I was trying to encourage us to continue to work hard at that radical combination.
It’s very interesting that in Scripture, there is a lot of repetition. I think that’s because God understands that we learn from hearing things regularly. This was not a ”we’re getting it all wrong” session, but rather a reminder of how we need to live (now) in the light of the resurrection and the final re-creation. .
Part of my concern is that it is too easy to dichotomize the spiritual from every other part of life. Jesus died for our sins and rose physically from the dead, and I believe this shows us that the Living God is concerned about touching our lives fully and wholly.
What are some concrete hopes you have for the future of Evangelicalism in Europe?
I hope that we will become an increasing force of good in terms of helping our societies be tolerant and show mutual respect and encouragement between different races and religious groups. I believe we have a particular calling because we are a multi-racial people of strong faith conviction who have as strong tradition of living in harmony with others of strong faith conviction.
We also have a particular calling toward contributing to racial harmony in our communities, and I hope that Evangelicals in our countries will choose to work together for the glory of God and the good of the church and the welfare of societies.
The EU Commissioner from Poland was an invited speaker for the opening night. Do you have any comments about this?
We are very grateful indeed to Dr Huebner for her gracious willingness to come and speak to us. I’m very hopeful that the EEA will continue to represent Europe’s Evangelicals to the European Union. We are keen to engage with the EU’s institutions and to help with many others to shape the direction in which our continent grows.
What is the importance of meeting here, in Poland, at this particular time in history?
The evangelical movement in Poland is growing closer together and churches are increasingly choosing to work together within the orbit of the Polish Evangelical Alliance. Our coming has helped this process and has led to many other things, including the launch of the ”Year of the Evangelicals,” launched this week.
Can you give us a little insight into this new project?
The ”Year of the Evangelicalism” is a national effort to co-brand evangelicalism in Poland. We hope that this will lead to a growing awareness of the way the living Jesus changes lives today, here as well as elsewhere.
We are hopeful that our presence here will be an encouragement to Poland’s small Evangelical community, to persevere and to work more closely together, in serving their country.
I’ve noticed that the European Alliance includes evangelical alliance of Kazakhstan, and other countries that lie outside the geographical boundaries of Europe. What are the benefits of this connection?
It’s been very good for us to have a strong connection with Central Asia. One of the things we are learning from a vibrant young church is the vital importance of loving Christ and being prepared to suffer for him.
I think the resurrection proves that things are not as they once were. God is already at work changing things, and the resurrection proves that. We have a tendency within Europe toward pessimism, and we sometimes need reminding that there is every reason to trust God to change our lives and our communities, countries, and continents.