Six Current Trends in Europe (M. Robinson)

10 May 2017

Whenever I am travelling outside of Europe, Christian leaders often ask me questions that amount to, “What is God doing in Europe?  At first I thought that was a hard question to answer partly because Europe is a complex continent with many local differences.  But over a period of time I recognize that there are at least 6 trends that one can see all across Europe.  Some of these trends interact with one another in some fascinating ways.  What are these trends? 

  1. Church planting.  It might not always be called church planting, it could be known as the creation of missional communities, or fresh expressions of church or indeed just mission.  But unmistakably, all across Europe, there is an upsurge of interest in and actual activity around church planting of various kinds.

  2. Migration.  It is commonly said that across the world more people are on the move than since the end of the second world war.  It might even be true that in sheer numbers there have never been so many people migrating to places of safety or greater opportunity.  Certainly millions are moving to Europe and amongst those people at least half are already at least nominally Christian before they arrive.  Over the remaining half, a good number are open to exploring Christianity, in part because of their experience of another faith in their place of origin.

  3. Renewal from the margins.  Many churches are emerging, sometimes unexpectedly, from groups that we would not consider to be part of mainstream society.  Romany people, the homeless, the hungry, prisoners, asylum seekers, those with learning difficulties and many other groups are discovering faith and gradually developing faith communities.

  4. Intentional planning.  Some mainstream denominations are beginning to take a new stance in relation to an experience of unremitting decline.  In essence they are declaring that there must be a way of reversing decline and they are actively looking for resources, strategies and initiatives that carry the intention to grow.  Where that happens growth often follows.  There are some significant examples of such reversal of trends beginning to emerge.

  5. Exploring the local.  Church communities all across Europe are beginning to develop conversations with their local communities.  That suggests taking the local seriously to the point where an understanding of missional context begins to reshape the life of local congregations.  A realization that place is significant and demands a long term commitment to listen to and be shaped by context.

  6. A new imagination around the shape and character of a congregation.  Churches are emerging, some of them reshaped from existing congregations and some which are entirely new that are experimental, provisional in nature, unsure of what they are becoming but full of imagination that often flows from the new converts that they are attracting.  We could just call this church planting and in one sense it is.  But in another sense it is just mission in the raw that seeks to engage people in encounters with Jesus without a specific intention to create a new congregation.  That new congregations emerge is the consequence of mission not their first intent.

For me these are all hugely encouraging signs that God is up to something important and fascinating in the very complex culture and continent of Europe.