Observations on European Churches (from an American)
I’m in Switzerland right now, hanging out at a hotel in Zurich. What a beautiful city this is. In case you’re wondering why I’m here, I was lucky enough to be invited to help out with two different John Maxwell Equip conferences. In addition, I got to preach at a delightful church and lecture on Free Market Cells at a happening Bible School. But truth be told, I really just wanted to hang out with an amazing pastor friend, Layne Schranz, whose an associate to Chris Hodges of Church of the Highlands (one of the fastest growing churches in the U.S.). And boy, I gleaned all sorts of amazing ideas off of him!!!! Substance: Get ready to rock! (Or, as my 3 yr old son would say: “Get weddy to wock!”)
But wow! What a beautiful country! I’ve never seen mountains more beautiful than the Swiss Alps. Believe it or not, I actually saw my first real avalanche. The villages are straight out of a fairy tale. And the clothes shopping is mind-blowing… both in excessive cost and coolness (so we had to exercise great discipline). But a small Starbucks coffee drink is over $10!!!!!!! So, I knew I could never live there. (j/k!) However, I was amazed over how many people knew about Brett Favre!
But here’s the truth: It was really fun to talk with pastors from all over Europe… there are some real movers and shakers like www.ICF.ch. It was encouraging to hear about their growth. But I was also a bit surprised by how isolated many other pastors were. Languages and local pride can be a huge barrier to healthy “ideological diffusion.” And after being there I walked away with a few revelations:
I realized that U.S. pastors are a lot more open to risk-taking and methodological innovation (which can be a negative thing as well). But, having a common primary language enables U.S. churches to dialogue and debate about the pros-&-cons of church methods quicker and easier. Thus, when “innovation succeeds,” American churches are able to adapt more quickly. We have more “role-model” churches, and more debate over which “role models” are best… and it naturally makes our churches better.
Of course, don’t get me wrong: We have just as many dying churches in the U.S. But our ignorance and isolation are more a matter of choice than it is of language isolation. English speaking churches in the US form a “language group” that is easily 7 times larger than the largest language group in Western Europe (German). It’s also not surprising that German-speaking churches tend to be ahead of the curve compared to much of Europe. But overall, God is doing great things in Switzerland. I’m encouraged to find other churches like Substance that are gaining ground.
But I want to encourage all of you at Substance. The more I travel, the more I see that we have a very rare and unique thing going on. We have so many brilliant thinkers and innovative leaders. As I spoke at some of these events, I immediately knew that God has a call on Substance to build churches and leaders all over the globe. I have a sense that sometime within the next 3 years, God is going to be opening doors for us on a ridiculous level.
Of course, I also have a sense that there are many of you here at Substance who are sitting on the fence wondering: “Should I get more involved?” (Obviously, only you can discern that.) But, all I know is that, I’m going to be dragging many of you all over the world to teach the nations. But, I’m only going to be pulling those of you who are already in the inner circles of Substance. So get on board! And let’s go to the nations together!