It would be easy to say that Central Europe is everyone who lives anywhere between Germany and Russia, but our region is better defined by its shared memories, shared problems, and common traditions rather than geography. Czech writer Milan Kundera once said “Central Europe is not a state: it is a culture or a fate. Its borders are imaginary and must be drawn and redrawn with each new historical situation.”
The national anthems of countries surrounding us are full of glory, conquering lands, superiority, pride, and freedom. But the anthems of the Central European countries are all about fighting to survive.
In a sense, we are all just happy to finally be independent states after all those centuries under regional superpowers. We are now free, but cynical and careless about it. We’re often wondering whether we are reliving another oppression story.
There has been constant political and cultural change over the last 30 years. It’s as if we are always going but never arriving. We live in a post-communist, post-catholic, post-agrarian, and post-truth society. Thus the Central Europeans are Europe’s skeptics––skeptical about most things, including Jesus.
We live in a post-communist, post-catholic, post-agrarian, and post-truth society.
Central Europe is a Diverse Landscape with One Mission
It is nearly impossible to talk about this part of Europe without first coming here. You would be amazed by the immense diversity within the smallest of spaces. I live and serve as a pastor in Bratislava, Slovakia. If I drive for two hours in any direction, I will be in a different country, with a different language, different religious background, and different evangelical landscape and infrastructure. It’s important to recognize that while our countries are geographically connected, no one comes to be a missionary in Central Europe, they come to a specific country as a missionary.
Historically, the Christian church has played a dominant role in most of the countries represented. Czech history, for example, includes notable figures like Ján Hus (15th century) and the Moravian Brothers’ missionary movement (18th century) that impacted Christians around the world. Once a mission force, we are now a mission field, in need of missionaries to come to us instead of sending missionaries out to the world ourselves.
Currently, the biggest challenges to gospel growth are dead religion and secularism. Following the pattern of many Western countries, the fastest-growing religious groups are atheists and agnostics. Generally, many people in Central Europe are indifferent and lethargic toward the gospel message.
No one comes to be a missionary in Central Europe, they come to a specific country as a missionary.
Come and Serve in Local Churches
Experience shows this is always easier said than done, but the church is the primary apologetic of the gospel (Matthew 16:18). Missionaries should come with the radical vision of being the best local church member possible. Instead of coming to Central Europe to start a new ministry or church, consider working from within. Take time to get behind the weary Romanian pastor or support the ill-equipped Slovak minister. Share your resources with the young potential church planter in Poland. Partner with great gospel ministries in the region. Bind yourself to a local community of God’s people! Be present among God’s people. Love and serve the local church. Give your lives alongside ours for the church’s health, beauty, and unity.
Come and Expect Slow Gospel Growth
Right expectations are the key to longevity. Trust the Lord and come with a patient mindset, knowing that things like learning the local language and building relationships takes time.
When we remember that people are dead in their sin without Christ, we, as disciple-makers, are motivated to do something to help those without Christ know his gospel truth. Perhaps, even more so in this area of the world that’s so well inoculated against the good news by the dead religion that most of them have had first-hand experience with. But don’t lose hope and don’t give up. God’s Spirit will use your godliness and the faithful preaching of the Word to do his work. Dead hearts will come alive!
Come and Bear the Fruit of the Spirit
Is Jesus your only hope in life and death? Are you glorifying God and enjoying him? If yes, then whatever other gifts the Lord has entrusted you, he will use to bring glory to himself and to build up his church.
A church confident in Christ in a post-everything world.
A church firm in the gospel in a skeptical world.
A church whose story is shaped by God’s grand story.