How should churches be planted in Europe? Nothing fails quicker than an American-cultured church that’s been planted in another part of the world. What works in the U.S. works because it is from and for this culture. Partly because Kontaktmission was started in Europe by Europeans, we are successfully planting churches there.
Kontaktmission is a European mission organization. In our case this doesn’t simply mean that we work in Europe, but rather:
- we started in Europe with Europeans going to other European countries
- most of our workers are Europeans
- we have expertise and extensive experience in Europe, and
- we maintain a distinctly European character in our team interactions and organizational culture
All of us carry our backgrounds and cultural perspectives into our expectations of how a church should be planted and led, and this may or may not fit together with a European mindset. With that in mind:
- American thinking and organizational structure should not be considered “the norm” for church-planting in Europe
- American missionaries, fair or not, have a reputation for imposing American structures, strategies, and methods upon local European Christians and churches. This can be a source of great frustration among many European Christians.
- American mission organizations are generally not doing well at accomplishing their stated goals in Europe, especially not in establishing self-reproducing churches with indigenous leadership. This is admittedly a particularly difficult goal, but it seems unwise to employ American thinking, strategies, and methods in a European setting
We believe the best hope for American missionaries to be effective in Europe is to live and interact in a way that is as “locally European” as possible, and to work in cooperation with Europeans following their cues. For instance, did you know it is generally not a good idea in Slavic countries to start a churches in private residences, but in western Europe this may be a good approach? It all depends on the country. Or did you know in many European cultures the way a leader dresses is more important than it is in the U.S.? American leaders tend to match the dress style of the group we are leading (if they are wearing jeans, we would wear jeans), but Europeans might see this differently.
For these reasons and others, when given the option, Kontaktmission usually chooses to do things the “European way,” sometimes in direct opposition to the “American way,” often simply because it is the European way. While some Americans may see this as impractical, experience continually shows it to be the wise choice.
You want to know that your mission energy and dollars are invested wisely. Successfully getting a missionary moved to Europe is not the same as successfully planting a church there. You want to do everything you can to see that the church plant is effective. So maybe, in a sense, the old adage is true… when in Rome…