|"The broad and the narrow road", a German painting from 1866 seems to appear a little spooky nowadays, but it was a presentation about that very painting that led me to start following Christ in February 1982.|
For everyone that finds the small road in Sweden there are many, many more who leave it again - plus all these old, faithful believers who one by one are leaving this earth. Church is shrinking rapidly, and every week another church is being closed for good. Our partnering church can still be proud of about 1200 members. But it hasn't been growing at all for more than 15 years. In fact, it has welcomed around 1000 new members but still hasn't grown. Where do all these new members come from? Almost all of them come from other churches (maybe even some of the dying ones as well). Where did one thousand people go who've left that congregation? I don't know.
I do know, however, about another small church in the south of Gothenburg. There are some really committed evangelists in that church, people who have been saved from drugs and destruction, brothers who go out and make Jesus known as much as they can. I've prayed together with them and, man, I know, these are committed prayer warriors. Yet: The church struggles to survive. Their church growth: negative.
I know other church plants in the area. A young church planter for instance, who almost ended up in a burn-out cause reality did not match his expectations of how new churches are supposed to grow.
I know about a church planter who says that he has been preparing the plant of a new, "big" and "strong" church in central Gothenburg. 11-11-2011 the "launch" of that big and strong church was due. I saw his enthusiastic videos, saw the big coloured advertisements in the papers. Of course I was very much paying attention, I wanted to know if this classical and attractional way of church planting might still work better here in in Gothenburg. In November 2011 he announced on his blog that if they really want to "launch big and strong" they need to wait a little more. Ever since there's silence on this blog. One more time reality has caught up with someone.
We are going to see this reality in all over Europe, not only in Sweden. In America it will take a couple of decades until it gets there. We have to face it.
We must not fall back into romantic memories about the past.
We must not become bitter.
We must not preach unrealistic hopes for soon coming revivals will come soon (a popular prophesy among Charismatics) - those will only lead to disappointments.
We must not withdraw ourselves from the world (also a very popular mistake).
What we must do however is to proceed sound and sober, with discipline and passion. And we need to do it with that very easiness, joy, and humor which only people have whose real home is in the New Creation, at the end of a long, narrow road.