Migration and Church Planting in Europe
By Ted Szymczak
This past spring, prior to attending the European Leadership Forum (ELF), I was asked to explore the role of migration and Diasporas in Church Planting in Europe. What I found in my conversations with leaders was quite intriguing. This year’s ELF gathered leaders from all over Europe and beyond, and was held in the mountainous resort city of Wisla, Poland. While the majority of my conversations were with European Church Planters, the principles identified can apply more globally to Church Planting in the context of migrations.
Poland is probably not one of the countries that first comes to mind when European migration is discussed. Germany and France are often in such news, but not usually Poland. The fact is that according to a March 6, 2017 Bloomberg article, over a million immigrants, primarily from Ukraine, have come to Poland, a country of 38 million people. The Polish Evangelical Churches have been proactive in engaging these immigrants and as a result, the impact of these new neighbors has been substantial, particularly in Church starts. In some cases, Church plants have a high percentage of refugees, up to 30-50% of some congregations. SEND’s own experience in Opole and Legnica in Poland and even Spain exhibit similar dynamics.
So what does all this mean for church planting? Two implications come to mind. First, these migrants can be discipled and equipped to join the ranks of laborers for the harvest. For example, Ukrainians have a rich history of church planting in the Former Soviet Union. These and other diasporas could be reached, equipped and sent out into strategic near or cross cultural work. Second, some of these immigrants represent Unreached People Groups (UPG’s) who have been hard to reach in their native context. Having them next door gives us the opportunity to share the love and good news of Jesus with them. Being out of their native contexts often brings new openness to the gospel among immigrants. Strategically engaging some of these diaspora UPG’s could yield valuable Kingdom fruit.
God has opened up opportunities to engage migrating people groups for the sake of making his great name known. Let’s take up the challenge and prayerfully consider how to engage recent migration trends to make disciples who in turn make other disciples.