At the celebration of its 100st anniversary, the Belgium Evangelical Mission (BEM) revealed their new focuses for evangelism.
After several years of rethinking the vision of the organization and intensive prayer, the mission launched a new strategy. In a rapidly changing world, the emphasis is less on bringing people to the church, but more on bringing the church to the people.
Evangelism is seen as a journey, a road where people travel together, finding the Way towards God.
In the 21st century many people in the Western world seem to be indifferent towards the message of the gospel. There has been a strong decline of Biblical values in many parts of Europe, not at least in Belgium.
The European Union – with Belgium’s capital city Brussels as its nerve center – offers economic prosperity to many people. Simultaneously, there is a growing spiritual poverty in the continent that used to be a stronghold of Christianity.
Spirituality has become an experience rather then a life changing truth.
Or as the BEM states it: “The rise of globalisation has favoured many different kinds of faith and convictions that can be picked like items in a supermarket. In this big spiritual supermarket, we want to witness our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. We want others in Belgium to meet Him personally, so that they too can carry on with their lives with Him”.
Pastor Henk Van Dorp, church planter with the BEM for over 30 years. Pastor Henk Van Dorp, church planter with the BEM for over 30 years, has seen this development over the past decades. He is convinced that evangelism needs a thorough rethinking.
“Society has changed and in certain ways we have to change too. Our message remains unchanged, but our relation to society does alter. In the 70’s and 80’s, campaigns produced instant results. Nowadays it takes much longer to see the outcome of our actions. We have to act like Jesus when he accompanied the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He walked with them for a long distance and we have also to travel with the people on their spiritual journey”.
It is no therefore coincidence that one of the keywords used by the Belgian Evangelical Mission is ‘journey’.
Integration And Community
The answer to the question about how people can best be reached with the gospel constantly changes.
Van Dorp: “It takes time to discover the right strategy, and by the time you know it, it might already be outdated – and then you have to start all over again. Above all, we need the right people, the visionaries, people who know what is happening in the world. We want the BEM-missionaries to be integrated in society. If not, the workers will be focusing only on people who already believe”.
The new approach of the Mission requires integration: instead of trying to draw people out of the world to the church, Christians should leave their ‘fortresses’ and go into the world and spread Gods light and love there.
That might imply a different way of worship, and it will definitely take different methods of evangelism. Christians should be where the people they try to reach are.
Often, there is a large distance between believers and non-believers, making it hard to bring the message. When Christians and non-Christians meet each other in the same room, they can interact with each other.
Jan Wisse, former manager of Operation Mobilisation Belgium, recently joined the BEM and played a key role in the transition of the mission. He emphasizes the importance of being a community.
“We are a family, longing to reflect Jesus love wherever we are. We want to be a community in our world and we want to be accessible for everybody. The unity in diversity within this family is a strong testimony. Based on trust and mutual involvement, we have the desire to walk the road together. In this way we will be true disciples of Jesus”.
Kurt Maeyens, director of the Belgian Evangelical Mission, admits there is a great spiritual need in Belgium. After all, less then 1% of the Belgian population visits an evangelical church on Sunday.
The Belgian society is rapidly becoming more and more liberal and secular. The results of this trend are visible in all areas of society. In which way will Christians respond to the many challenges of this enormous need?
It is the same question that confronted the founders of the Belgian Evangelical Mission. Their world was the Belgian society during and right after World War I. Their answer was a spiritual as well as a humanitarian involvement.
Their efforts led to a substantial growth of the evangelical movement over the years. Will more churches emerge now? A further growth will be the result of the work of the Holy Spirit, but it also requires a full commitment of Gods children.
After all, Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. The Great Commission is as valid for Christians today as it was for His followers right after His resurrection. Looking at the situation in Belgium, another piece of Scripture also applies: ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’. Kurt: “We are looking for motivated people who have experienced the calling to share the gospel in a country that is lost. We pray for Gods blessing and we are looking forward to what God will do in the future”.
A New Way
At the start of a new era of its ministry, the mission changed its name to ‘ViaNova’ (new way). The dream for the future is big: ‘We see a thriving movement of integrated Communities of disciples of Jesus throughout Belgium’.
The coworkers of the Mission are anxiously looking for the fulfillment of that dream.