Fresh Hope Born in Europe’s Concrete Heart
Leadership Network’s involvement in Europe is proving to be the source of an intriguing transatlantic exchange of missional ideas and practice. In the last 7 years, LN’s initiatives such as the European Church Planting Network and its Multi-site Leadership Community have served to stimulate the growth and advancement of many new expressions of church into many nations. At the same time, the Leadership Network team has come across numerous European innovations that offer promising responses to missional challenges shared in the US context.
One area of innovation comes through the weaving together of the often-separated ministries of evangelism and social justice. It is in the post-industrial aftermath of Europe’s major cities that that courageous young leaders are experimenting with new forms of disciple-making. The concrete jungle of the inner city provides the backdrop to adventures in mission that resulting not only in church growth but also in community transformation.
England, amongst the most populous, diverse and densely populated nations in the European Union is home to one such initiative. The Eden Network, a ministry of Manchester-based youth ministry The Message Trust has this year planted into its 23rd location. A participant group in the Leadership Network European Church Planting Network, Eden is now growing four times faster than it was 5 years ago, before involvement in the Leadership Community.
The work of the Eden Network resonates strongly with the findings of Neil Cole, that “You will be hard-pressed to find a church planting movement started among wealthy, educated people. But it is easy to find them among poor, working-class people…” (Neil Cole, Organic Church) To this end Eden intentionally chooses to plant in the neighbourhoods that other ignore–the leftover remnants of Victorian Britain and the chaotic social housing projects of the sixties and seventies.
Eden’s Director Matt Wilson believes that the success of the model is due to 3 things: a foundation of incarnational theology–that ‘The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood’; a return to the Pauline model of ‘tentmaking’ ministry–rather than an over-dependence on paid staff; and a priority on reaching local youth–in order to tap into and channel their energy and potential for the cause of the gospel. It’s a dynamic mix that is producing vibrant congregations in some of Europe’s toughest urban neighbourhoods!
Those interested in finding out more can read Matt’s new book Concrete Faith available at the Kindle Store. Also, coming up in 2013, the founder of the ministry, Andy Hawthorne, will be a keynote speaker at the Exponential conference.