When asked about the causes of the evident difference in vitality between the church in the US and that of Germany, Markus Spieker, a Berlin-based journalist, replied:
In the end what [produces] positive results is not programs, but people. We don’t have church “entrepreneurs” like Bill Hybels and Rick Warren. We don’t have brilliant communicators like Tim Keller and Erwin McManus and Mark Dever and Mark Driscoll. If these people were not pastors, they could be successful CEOs or entertainers or TV personalities. Whereas in Germany it’s often the least gifted people who want to study theology. And the church institutions are full of bureaucrats. – Germany’s ‘Cold Religion’, Christianity Today (Aug 24, 2011)
Though over-stated to some extent, Spieker’s biting critique of the Christian scene in Germany rings true. Of course it does. For while Gospel-work is from beginning to end the work of God and an expression of His grace – “Unless the Lord builds the House, the builders labour in vain (Psalm 127:1, NIV) – our God is nonetheless a God who uses means. And people, with their manifold frailties and wandering hearts, are and have always been the instruments He chooses to proclaim His mighty Word to the world. Consequently, when a nation fails to raise up and set aside its best and brightest for the cause of Christ, it won’t be long before the church in that nation slides into irrelevancy.
In God’s kindness, St Thomas’ has played a significant role in raising up, equipping and sending out workers for the Lord’s Harvest over the past few decades. This is both the fruit of faithful Gospel ministry over this time and cause for great thankfulness. But there’s more to be done: The Lord Jesus hasn’t yet returned, the nations (both overseas and those right on our doorstep) remain unsaved which means that the task of raising up full-time Christian workers must remain an urgent priority for us as a church. For if we don’t provide under-shepherds for Christ’s flock, who will?
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been meeting with a small group of around 8-15 young people who are all considering the possibility of full-time Christian ministry of one form or another in the future on a Thursday evening to pray and sharpen each other up by reflecting on God’s Word. It’s been a great encouragement to meet up with these fellow “Donkeys”, named in honour of the ass belonging to Balaam, through which God once spoke (Num 22:22-35), and our prayer is that the Lord might use these times together to shape a future generation of Christian leaders. Will you pray that the Lord might this small initiative and use it to bear fruit which lasts into eternity?
Your brother in Christ,