No missional Brexit from Europe

By Leigh Goodwin July 2016

It felt strange hearing of the Brexit result and the knee jerk reactions to the outcome while I was recently visiting our mission partners in Iceland recently. Being in the context of Iceland reminded me that Britain may have decided to leave the political and economic structure of the EU, but in fact we were still very much part of Europe. British AOG also remains actively involved and partnering in many European nations.

We have 47 AOG registered missionaries actively engaged in Europe, working directly in 17 countries: Albania, Austria, Croatia, France, Gibraltar, Iceland, Italy, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey. Many are in countries with very low evangelical Christian populations, significantly less than 1% of the population.

These statistics are taken from the Joshua Project website:

Country

Total Population

% of Population that are Evangelical Christians

Albania

2,839,000

0.45

Austria

8,551,000

0.47

Croatia

4,156,000

0.38

France

64,513,000

1.03

Gibraltar

32,000

3.13

Iceland

321,000

3.74

Italy

59,762,000

1.28

Kosovo

1,835,000

0.21

Luxembourg

540,000

0.87

Macedonia

2,054,000

0.25

Malta

403,000

1.33

Romania

19,055,000

4.95

Serbia

5,973,000

0.64

Slovakia

5,373,000

1.25

Spain

45,988,000

1.35

Switzerland

8,309,000

3.96

Turkey

79,418,000

0.03

AOG M has hosted mission forums relating to Europe and very specifically, the Balkans. These forums have strategically brought leaders together from across regions, to create a network for opportunity development, encouragement and partnership to offset struggles with isolation and discouragement. We want to intentionally invest in areas of Europe where the church’s growth has been disrupted and stifled. We must not neglect neighbouring nations in Europe when we have the blessing of strong missional resources. Some parts of Europe might be regarded as first world nations economically and they are frequently underdeveloped when it comes to Evangelical and Pentecostal witness.

Iceland is broadly classified as a Christian nation, however the majority of the population are nominal Lutheran, without any personal relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. There are just 10 Pentecostal churches in Iceland. Chris and Ethna Parker, our missionaries locally have done an excellent work in building a credible relationship with this small network of churches.

We have four missionaries working in Malta: Nick and Linda Montalto, Matthew Babayaro and Joseph Schembri. Malta is a key island in the Mediterranean where West meets East and Europe meets Africa. Throughout history Malta has been seen as very strategic, with many wars been fought over it. Malta is also spiritually strategic, and there is a great need to see a vibrant group of churches working closely together.  

The nation with the highest density of AOG UK missionaries is Spain. Our workers are not only accredited by British AOG but also are recognised by Spanish AOG. Spanish AOG has 300 established churches with another 300 expressions of church being started in the last few years. Spanish AOG have a goal to grow to 1000 churches.

Returning to the UK: Two quality couples will be returning this summer.  Mark and Liz Holdcroft will be relocating from Slovakia to Biddulph, Staffordshire. Gowan and Sarah Wheeler are moving from Austria to Dagenham in East London.

Gordon Burgess is officially retiring as an AOG missionary at the amazing age of 88! However, Gordon has served in Spain for over 50 years and will continue to live there.

There are many exciting challenges for missional partnership throughout Europe. We cannot afford to let them go by. There can be no missional Brexit from our responsibilities and opportunities to partner with the church in Europe.