Building the Kingdom of God in Europe – the Challenge

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Young people in Amsterdam, Netherlands. / Photo: Anna Hunko, Unsplash CC0.

By Evangelical Focus

A transcript of Gavin Calver’s introductory keynote at the EEA General Assembly 2021. Part one of two.

Let us be honest, we are all facing a secular tsunami. There`s all kinds of problems going on in culture. We have got morality all over the place. You know, even within the church this weekend in the UK a bunch of faith leaders set up a group to support assisted dying, where there is another bunch of faith leaders that we would be part of against allowing assisted dying. No one knows what we are believing.

We have also got a generation who are listening with their eyes and thinking with their feelings. Therefore, what we are getting is people, who are basing all of their views on their experience, which in itself is quite dangerous. We have got scripture being undermined. We live in an instant culture.

You know, people make decisions, yes or no, all the time on different things. And unless it is your football team, people change everything throughout their life […]. I wonder whether within the church we still believe in sin and conversion anyway.

You know, I think it is interesting that us Evangelicals, driven by a desire to see people come to faith, [believe that] you do not come to faith via gnosis. You get on your knees, and you meet the Savior; and yet so much of the sin we’re saved from, we’re trying to [call] okay. You know, there’s so much baptizing of our culture.

When I took on leading the UK Alliance about 18 months ago, and I took over from a great man, Steve Clifford, many of you will know him, I felt the Lord say two things. I felt him say that in this next decade, the Evangelical Alliance in the UK needed to be braver than it has ever been.

And this is proving to be true already […]. We need to stand firmly on God’s word. We need to be prepared to stand out in our culture. If that makes us social lepers, we have got to deal with it. We have got to be braver than we have ever been.

But at the same time, as it has well affirmed, we have got to be kinder than we have ever been. You see, we have got to treat people well, we have got to love people.

The world thinks that bravery and kindness cannot go together, but they really can. The culture’s understanding of kindness is “Accept everything about me, otherwise we cannot get on”, whereas the biblical model of kindness is really loving people.

An example of this for me would be: When I was commissioned into my role leading the [Evangelical Alliance in the UK], my best friend from growing up, who’s an employment lawyer and an atheist, came to my commissioning and he said to me at the end, “I literally could not disagree more with everything you’re doing, with what you’re giving your life to, and with all that you’re taking on in this new role. But well done, mate. I am proud of you. You’re a good fellow!”

For me, that sums it up; we can do brave and kind. We do not have to agree with everything that everyone around us believes, but we do have to treat everyone with love.

It was in my first week in this role, when I was interviewed by a secular journalist. And her first question was this: “Why is the Church dying?” Now, I found that a bizarre question. So, I said to her, “The Church isn’t dying. More people became Christians yesterday, than at any day since Jesus rose from the dead. Even better news: More people will become Christians today than did yesterday. In fact, the Church has never grown so fast in all its history. So why would you think it’s dying?”

She said, “Why is the UK church dying?” I said, “That’s a different question. You see in heaven, there’s not sections for British people, there’s just brothers and sisters. So right now, the Church has never grown so fast and I am part of a global family.

So, when you ask if the Church is dying, the Church is not dying, the Church has never been so alive! For those of us in Western Europe, that’s quite difficult in particular, but a new move of God is needed. I want to see that here too, don’t you?

An unleashed church, a church operating words, works, and wonders, empowered by the Spirit. How do we build the kingdom of God in Europe?

We need a new move of the Spirit empowering and equipping us to make Jesus known, in spite of the fact that we are living in hostile territory.

[…] We’re going to Acts 5:12-25, because I just want to share a few thoughts that we can take from the early church who lived in very hostile territory and who really were on the margins of society. How can we see some of what they did in order to build the kingdom of God in an increasingly secular Europe? […]

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to. Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.

I really think this is a moment for us to step up. As we seek to build the kingdom of God in Europe, as we face the challenges in front of us, it is a chance and an opportunity for us to step up.

I also think it is important as we look at this, […] that we extend our prophetic imaginations for what is possible. But [if we hold to the following] three things I genuinely [believe] we can see anything happen in Europe. […]

Gavin Calver, CEO of the Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom (EAUK).

Part 2 of this article will be published next week.

This article was first published by the European Evangelical Alliance and re-published with permision.