EuropeAdvance USA

Headin' South

img_0006.jpg

And I'm leavin’ on a jet plane (any other closet PPM fans out there?).  The day has finally arrived.  Today, I am off to Dallas, TX for ARC’s AllAccess2012 (and to spend some time with one of my favorite aunts)!  There is much excitement and anticipation amongst the EA team and our church planters for all that is going to unfold this week!  We are looking forward to spending time with some of our church partners, and excited to make new connections in the crowd of 3,000+ that will be gathering at Gateway Church this week.  I even made a video in anticipation of it all. Check it out! [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxRZ5HnrG0I]

At AllAccess, we are going to launch my baby:  the Internship Xchange Program.  While I traveled across Europe this past Christmas and New Years, I kept thinking about how we have so many resources in churches across the U.S. that could potentially be really beneficial to share with churches in Europe.  One of the main resources I kept thinking about was people.  In the U.S., there are so many more Christians than there are in Europe, not too mention trained Christian leaders.  At Substance Church alone, we are currently training up 37 interns through the Excelerate Intern Program.  The majority of churches in Europe have 37 people.  So, why not invite some of these up and coming leaders to intern at our EA churches, where Christian leaders are still sparse?  Okay, we will!

Things in the US office are also coming along.  This past week we re- launched our website (www.europeadvance.org)

(we are especially grateful to Gina, from Sebastiaan’s church in Hilversum, Netherlands, who spent many many hours helping to design the new site!).  And we got a few packages in the mail:  our new business cards and Internship Xchange promo postcards!

Personally, I want to thank many of you for your prayers and support for my friends that have experienced quite the traumas in the past few weeks.  Yesterday, we launched a Tiedeman Recovery Fund website to begin to help raise support for Chris and Sara (the two that were in the awful car accident 3 weeks ago):  www.TiedemanRecoveryFund.com.  Chris will be having surgery tomorrow at the U of M and Sara remains at HCMC in critical condition.  The road to recovery is going to be a long one, but it's a road nonetheless.  Last week, I started the Couch to 5K in honor of Sara – if she could run a half-marathon last fall, the least I can do is run a 5K (I ran one before, but this time I’m actually going to train so I don’t hate the experience quite as much afterwards).

I've begun to read a fascinating book about the affects of WWI and WWII on European culture, but I will leave those interesting findings until next time.  Plus, I'm sure I will learn more as I read on the plane this afternoon.  I'm off to the homeland!

The Every Day Battle Field

alicia-davis-black-background.jpg

These past couple of weeks have been filled with preparations for the ARC AllAccess Conference (Gateway Church, Dallas, TX), which will be at the end of March.  Over 3,000 pastors and church leaders are already registered!  At the conference, there will be lots of opportunities to network with tons of outstanding pastors, hear some of my favorite speakers (including Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, and Craig Groeschel) and worship with thousands of others who are passionate about reaching our communities in real and relevant ways.  And, EuropeAdvance will be launching its new internship Xchange program!  Needless to say, we’re excited and gearing up for the great things ahead! In the midst of all these preparations, these past few weeks I have also been reminded of all the depravity in this world that my eyes have personally seen:  alcoholism, divorce, robbery, death, suicide, starvation and malnutrition in less developing countries, AIDS orphans, adult invalids left for the dead, the destruction caused by hurricanes and tornadoes, cancer, malaria, the aftermath of wars, racism, sexism, and most recently the horrors caused by drunk driving.  If you’ve ever wondered if we lived in an every day battle field, I assure you we do.  :)

I admit that there are times when the outcomes of the battle feel all together like too much to bear.  Every casualty takes a little more air out of my lungs…

But thankfully, thankfully, the darkness has not overcome the light!  Every day, there is a reminder that the Remedy has already come, and is here.  Last Thursday night at a prayer vigil for friends who had been hit by a drunk driver, I looked out at a sea of faces to see a community filled with people who had truly laid down their lives to care for and love our friends, and who will continue to do so day in and day out.  Yesterday, I joined good friends as they launched their new church in a community that longs to see the love of God revealed in tangible ways.  330 people attended the service and 31 people gave their lives to Christ yesterday morning!  Talk about a win!

I have decided not to try and understand God, nor our Maker’s ways.  What I do know though is that our Lord and Savior has sent us into this dark world to live out the Good News that hope and salvation is here, today.  I long for the day when heaven truly is a reality here on earth.  Until then, may each one of us, together, live out our God-given mandate to reveal the God of life, love, hope and redemption to a world desperately in need.

Development of an Office

These past few weeks have been so much fun and so busy! :) There are so many things that go into setting up a cross-cultural church planting ministry’s office halfway around the world from where much of the on-ground action takes place.  My time lately has been filled with countless conversations with supportive family and friends, meetings with experts on web design, social media, branding, marketing, support raising, vision casting, and much more.  I have been getting increasingly excited about the true potential for a great impact to be made in Europe through new churches! And then there’s the non-strategic part of life as a missionary. :)  This past weekend was one of those life-filled weekend with lots of quality meetings, and time with friends and family.  Friday night, I got to watch a couple of seriously well fought high school basketball games.  Sunday (I will go back to Saturday in just a bit. :) ) , I got to listen to one of my very good friends, and favorite pastors, preach to a packed out auditorium as she and her husband get ready to plant their church in two weeks.  Then it was catching up with one of my former youth from my Youth Pastor days (yep, she’s all grown up now and considering mission work herself…makes me proud). :)  And then a great cookout in the dead of winter with my family.  That’s just how we roll in Minnesota, it does not matter the weather, cookouts are always an option.

Back to Saturday.  It was filled with a couple of really inspiring meetings, and then dinner with family friends, which included a very poignant conversation that has been in my mind ever since.  These family friends have been neighbors to my parents for years and are immigrants from Kiev (located in the northern part of Ukraine, pretty much in the center of the country).  During a conversation with the wife, we were talking about the church that they go to here in Minnesota.  When I asked how it was different from her church in Kiev, she gave me a look that said, “They don’t even compare.”  Without much of a thought, she immediately said, “our pastor here shows us how the Bible speaks to us.  It’s about God, and us.  In Kiev, they speak in an old language that is not relevant and you can’t understand what they are talking about.  No one understands them.”  What if churches in Kiev, and the rest of Europe for that matter, could be filled with messages that people understand, that helped them know that this life is still about God and us?

This brings me to today.  It’s 7:45am in Minnesota and I just got off the phone with a close friend.  Overnight, her daughter overdosed on her boyfriend’s anti-depressants after the two of them got in a fight.  She’s currently in a drug-induced coma to let her body rest and regain its strength.  Hopelessness.  It’s rampant here in the States and across the pond.  I’m reminded of the 339 people in Europe who take their life daily…  What if every person in the world knew the kind of hope, and life purpose, that can be found in and through knowing God is still relevant today, and is for us, not against us?!

My New Role

Yes, what if for every 100 churches started in Europe, 95 of them were thriving and truly reaching their communities?!  What if every European city had churches where people could feel a true sense of belonging and community, and find their value and eternal purpose in life? There’s just one missing link – resources.  I know, most people think of Europe as one of the wealthiest places on earth, and it is in many ways.  But, let’s be honest, when only 14% of the population goes to church regularly, starting a church, or becoming a pastor, is not a priority on people’s list of things to do, nor is supporting the church (especially  when only 11% of people have any confidence in the church).

In order to create the kind of life-giving churches European pastors long to see in their cities, they hunger for mentors who can help them with pastoral, strategic and leadership issues.  They want to be able to send their people to intern at life-giving churches that are successful at reaching the lost so that they can capture the DNA of these churches and bring it home with them.  They would love to have access to media resources and printed materials translated into their own language.

I believe so strongly that the American church has the resources to help the church in Europe.  We have such an abundance of pastors and mentors, strategies for reaching people, leadership resources, media resources and so much more.  Truly the hopelessness that so many Europeans are experiencing in life today could be remedied by resources that our churches already have here in the U.S.

All that is needed is for someone to stand in the gap.  Someone who can help develop a stronger relationship between Europe and the U.S. in order to facilitate the sharing of resources, which would enable churches in Europe to have the same kind of 95% success rate that we have here.

And that’s what I’ve decided to do.  I’ve become a full-time missionary so that I can dedicate my time and energy to making it possible for the sharing of all the resources I have access to here in the States.  We’re called to be of one heart and mind so that the whole world will know who Jesus really is. (John 17:21)  This is not Europe’s problem, this is our problem.

If this is something that you’re interested in being a part of, I would love to have your support!  I’m not just in need of financial support, I truly need prayer support as well.  You can also help support this effort by connecting me with other people who might be able to help either financially or in prayer.  Or you may know places that I can go to speak.  Perhaps you could network for me by following me on Twitter and Facebook.  As you think of things that might be helpful to me, and what God has me doing right now, please let me know.  I would greatly appreciate any support you are able to give me! :)

Why Church Planting

Over the last year and a half, I’ve gotten to serve and work at Substance Church (St. Paul, MN, USA), which in 2010 was the 21st fastest growing church in the United States.  Weekly, people literally give their lives to Christ as they encounter a community of people who love Jesus and love each other.  Recently, we had a guy come to our Tuesday night service who’d been out of prison for 2 days and he not only gave his life to Christ, but he encountered the love of God in ways that he never imagined was possible!  And we just had a guy whose one eye had been blind since birth receive sight in it for the first time ever after receiving prayer at our Tuesday night service! Substance was started with the help of a church planting ministry called ARC .  New churches are truly one of the most effective ways of reaching people who don’t yet believe in Jesus.  But starting a church is also one of the most challenging things in the world to do.  95 out of every 100 new churches doesn't make it.  But, out of the churches that have been started with the help of ARC, 95 out of 100 not only MAKE IT, but they are literally thriving and reaching new people with the life-giving message of Jesus every week all over the US!

What if this could be the reality for new churches in Europe today?!  I mean in Europe, people literally don’t know that God is relevant for their life today and actually real.  They do not have church communities that they can walk into and have a home, have authentic relationships with people who genuinely care about them, have a place where they can get prayer, and have places to literally encounter the Body of Christ.  What if 95 out of 100 new churches were not only making it in Europe, but were literally thriving and reaching new people with the life-giving message of Jesus every week?

The hope and prayer of Europe Advance, which is similarly working with new churches in Europe, is that the 95% success rate can be reached in Europe as well!  The Church really is God's plan to reach the world with the Good News today.