June 6, 2011

Lessons Learned in Europe, Part 3

So far, in my reminiscences on two weeks in Europe, I have reflected on the value of Christian history and on the sadness of forgetting that history. For this third article, I’d like to fast-forward to the present day. For the work of God in Europe, though so obviously evident in days gone by, is not limited to the past. Yes, Europe (like America) is becoming more and more secular with each passing decade. Yes, when looking at the continent as a whole, the gospel light seems to be growing dimmer and dimmer all the time. And yes, as a future article will detail, Europe is really the 21st century mission frontier (the least evangelical continent on earth). But … when you look at the content and its various cities up close, there are still some marvelous works of God taking place. And we were definitely privy to some of them in mid-May.

In specific, what we saw was what Christians so often experience when they travel – the communion of the saints; the way in which Christians who have never met one another before can instantly recognize and treat one another as brothers and sisters. In this regard, the trip was a great encouragement to me!

It started on the first Sunday in Germany (our second day there). After having spent Saturday evening in a former family hometown, the plan was to hop on a ferry, cross Lake Constance, and try and find a church to attend in the city of Konstanz. I had found an evangelical church online, which advertised that their services were sometimes translated into English. But I hadn’t written down the address and we didn’t know how easy it would be to find it. So there we were on the ferry, steaming along, and falling into conversation with a young German woman who spoke near perfect English. It turns out she is an evangelical believer who was on her way to church in Konstanz that morning, where she’d be translating the service into English for some Nigerian guests! So guess where we went to church? And guess whom we sat next to? It was really marvelous to see God provide, and to experience the welcome from Heidi and a congregation of probably 50 or so German believers meeting in a house for the singing of praise and preaching of Christ! For those two hours, we were part of their family!

We had the same experience the following Sunday at Musselburgh Baptist Church, near Edinburgh. Pastor John Shearer and his wife Jan graciously picked Justin and me up at our transportation hubs, hosted us overnight, fed us the best meals we had the whole trip, and made us feel very welcome in their church home. In addition, John took us around Edinburgh, seeing some of the aforementioned historical markers, and even climbing Arthur’s Seat with us just before dusk! And all of this, in my case, for a ‘chap’ from America whom they didn’t know from Adam!

The worship service at Musselburgh was no less warm and encouraging! Lively singing, lively preaching, and a reverence for the Lord’s Supper that we’d do well to import to this side of the Atlantic!

From there we went on to Glasgow where the good folks at St. George’s-Tron Church and the Cornhill Training Course worshipped with us, fed us, invited us into their homes, toured us around, and so on. Especially bright was the evening invitation to the home of Ross and Ann McMahan. Ann is the secretary at the Cornhill center. Before she’d ever met us or seen our faces, Justin and I had an invitation to spend an entire evening in the McMahan home, where we were treated wonderfully and shown around their church building and their city of Greenock.

Again I repeat that all of these things were done for us, in spite of our being complete strangers! It was the perfect illustration of 3 John 5-6, in which God’s people are urged to send visiting Christians “on their way in a manner worthy of God”, and “especially when they are strangers”. This is the Christian ethic, is it not? And it is the communion of the saints! These various Christians warmly welcomed “strangers” because, in Christ, we are not really strangers at all … but brothers and sisters in Jesus! What a privilege to be a part of such a family. May God grant us, on this side of the water, to send many such brothers and sisters on their way just as worthily!

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