PERSONAL PREFACE TO RESEARCH
In 1988, I was one of three featured Evangelists at the Love Krakow Christian Festival, in Poland. This was just at the time when the winds of change that were sweeping Eastern Europe brought a new level of freedom to publicly present the Gospel of Christ. The Love Krakow festival saw hundreds of people coming every day to evangelistic meetings as well as teams going out on the streets to share their faith.
As a leadership team we agreed that we did not want to present the Gospel as an “Easy Believism” that had been so representative of Evangelical Missions to Eastern Europe in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We talked through how we would make responding to the Gospel something that would need to cause a counting of the cost in those we knew would respond.
As the ten days went on I saw what I had never seen before. I am an Evangelist of little or no public profile and of little global consequence but I saw hundreds of people streaming forward after our meetings and spending long periods of time in counselling and prayer. It was a very moving period of time to behold this.
I returned to Poland about one year later and met with the leader of the programme and we talked about all the people who had responded. He shared that over 500 people had made a very definite decision to trust Christ for the forgiveness of sins. The idea had been that they would be followed up by the local Evangelical Churches. Of those several hundred people, none were part of any Evangelical Church.
This was a turning point in my own life in terms of thinking and praying about what was going on. This was the first of three pivotal experiences.
The second was that after several years of being based in America I once more moved to Eastern Europe, which has been my home for the last twenty years. Being based in Croatia and then in Hungary I saw something that was akin to the experience I had had in Poland as an Evangelist.
Of the hundreds of Ex Patriot missionaries that I met in various settings I started to create in my own mind a profile of the contemporary ex patriot missionary. Based on conversations within this community I came to the conclusion there was a crisis of spirituality, a crisis of productivity and a crisis of identity.
The more conversations I had the more I realised that the usual issues that one dealt with as a leader that had been the exception were becoming the rule or normative. Aside from the usual struggles with pornography, secret addictions to Alcohol or prescription drugs, marriage issues and interpersonal conflicts; three striking features emerged. These people were sent out as missionaries yet had an awareness of (i) not having any spiritual reality in their own lives, (ii) a fear of the demonic that caused genuine fear and inability to confront the unseen world, but most of all (iii) a genuine sense of not knowing how to share the gospel in personal encounters other than in conscience salving sound bite forms that they tried to inject into conversations.
I came to the conclusion that the Missionary community were trying to give away something spiritually that they did not have themselves.
Their response was to create programmes, where short term teams came and worked on programatic events designed to get children, that is anyone under the age of eighteen to “make a decision” for Christ. Their very expensive presence, and it was indeed expensive, in Central and Eastern Europe was somehow being authenticated by these short-term projects.
The third pivotal experience was watching the changes taking place in the Middle East among the traditional Christian communities. These were those primarily from Oriental and Eastern Orthodox traditions. These were the people that had been high on our Evangelical agenda for many years that we needed to send missionaries, just like the ones in Central Europe, to get them saved through our evangelistic efforts, just like in Poland.
Then came the series of Martyrdom’s of those precious saints who refused to renounce Christ. As I saw them watch each other have their throats slit and not give in to renounce Christ I realised these ones did not have a crisis of spirituality, productivity and identity. They knew who they were and what they were doing and they also had “something”, a living faith, to give away.
We were trying to evangelise them when we should have been pleading with them to come and give us leadership in knowing Christ and being true to Him even to the point of death.
In these three models after nearly fifty years as a Missionary, I came to the realisation that Evangelical Missions had some serious issues to think through.
This reality, albeit painful, ugly and dreadful, caused me to go back deep into scripture, the early Church, especially the Apostolic Fathers and look at Church history and try to make sense of what I was seeing in the dilution and potential fragmentation of Evangelical Christianity.
What I found was far more complex than what appears on the surface.
My idea that Evangelicalism was bankrupt and that we just needed to get missionaries more committed and more spiritual was fundamentally in error.
Rather we were living in the midst of a paradigm shift that was going to demand far more than a reboot, rethink or revision. We were rather, staring in the face of something akin to the Armenian genocide, when large areas of land that had been filled, for a millennium and a half with the sound of Trinitarian Praise, entered into a vacuum of silence by the brutal murder by Muslim Turks. Those murdered were the very ones whose voices had made up those sounds of praise and worship.
The complexity is exacerbated when, as Missionaries we created new sociological communities by our work. The group in Poland were, I have no doubt genuine in their response to our messages. The problem was that they were no longer acceptable in the Roman Catholic communities they came from and simply could not fit into the cultural frameworks of the Baptists and Pentecostals. We as evangelists had unwittingly created a “subaltern partitioned” spiritual community.
In the case of the Central European Mission community there were multiple orbits of nationals who were fully dependent upon the financial sustenance of the Missionaries. They were content to function in an environment whereby they were told they were equal to the Missionary and yet the living space of the average National and the square footage taken up by the missionaries told a different story. A new Central European form of the Old Colonial system had developed.
I realised we were facing a set of deep spiritual realities that are very uncomfortable for someone like myself growing up and giving their life to the Evangelical milieu of Christianity as I had.
The following research is the outcome of that battle with my own discomfort, to some extent a battle with myself.
The conflicts, and there are many, that arose within this work are also in some senses extensions of my own family history as well my own wrestling through spiritual realities.
I come from a long line or lower-class labourers, porters, servants and washer women that for several generations have lived within walking distance of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Many of my family ancestors lived in poverty and some died in the notorious Work Houses of the late 19th Century.
My Great, Great Grandfather was an Evangelical and a charter member of the then new Metropolitan Tabernacle, when Spurgeon’s congregation moved from Park Street to the Elephant and Castle.
My Great, Great Grandfather’s daughter, my great grandmother, became pregnant out of wedlock and was unable to fit into the prevailing Baptist culture of that time as she was intent on keeping her child. Grace is very easy to present as a principle but often difficult to dispense in the face of our dominant cultural value systems being disturbed.
She spent several years moving from boarding house to boarding house never staying more than six weeks in any one place as she sought to keep her anonymity and the fictional story that her husband, a soldier had been killed in India.
She worked as a washer woman especially in the growing Chinese laundry sector in London’s West End. Whilst living in this unstable world she was brought into contact with the ministry of St. Alban the Martyr. Their receiving, accepting and adopting my wounded ancestral seed that I have just recently begun to understand has called me back deep into my own history and helped make sense of the crisis of the current Evangelical world.
I also work on this research project as a Missionary Pastor/Evangelist who has been in the ministry of the Gospel since 1970. The last 20 years have been spent working with the marginalised Bayash Roma or Gypsies, in Central Europe and previously for nearly 30 years, I split my time between Europe, The Middle East and Asia primarily working on projects engaging with Muslims who were of a secular orientation or disposition.
My background, although being a main stream Evangelical was strongly informed and influenced by Reformed Theology.
Over the last 35 years I would periodically reread the six Princeton Stone Lectures delivered by Abraham Kuyper in 1898. In 2005, whilst rereading those lectures I stumbled across a line in Kuypers introduction that I had missed before. He shared his own testimony on how he came to faith and how he was deeply influenced by the Novel written by Charlotte Yonge called “The Heir of Redcliffe”. In another testimonial from Kuyper he shared that as he read Yonge’s novel that when one of the central characters fell to his knees in repentance, I (Kuyper) fell to my knees with him.
I obtained a copy of “The Heir and Redcliffe” and sat in a chair in my home in Varaždin, Croatia and did not leave that chair until I finished the book. I wept in new ways and when I closed the covers of that book I realised I had walked through a door and that my whole Christian life had been a liminal ritual in preparation for this moment of clarity in understanding.
Through Charlotte Yonge I was introduced to John Keble and Edward Bouverie Pusey which threw me into the midst of the theological tempest that raged from the summers of 1832 to the the beginning of the First World War. As a result I began the journey of which this thesis is just one of the elements.
The following Research Project has a primary objective of being a set of teaching resources for the training of Missionary Pastor/Evangelists working among people groups that fit the descriptor as being inside of the “Subaltern Partition”.
In short, the “Subaltern Partition”, for the purpose of this research should be thought of as being those groups that, for whatever reason, do not fit into the existing cultural consensus paradigms of the three primary branches of Christianity.
The research, based upon seeing the need for a radical rethink of Christianity itself has brought to the surface sets of understanding that are almost polar opposites to my background and experience.
As result I can say very clearly that the research findings have as their objective, the building of the case for Sacramental and Liturgical outcomes in missiological applications, especially to the “Subaltern Partition” communities that are increasing in their size in all the major metropolitan centres of the world.
The locus of the missiological application, is a declaration of an authentic and living hope through the transcendent reality of a living ontological Messiah who communicates to persons, a message of hope, in terms they understand.
It is important to make clear at this point that, whereas the Research Project seeks to follow a rigorous academic method it is above all else not an attempt to display academic competence by pouring new knowledge into the academy.
It is by design a working document and set of training modules for Mission.
With this in mind there will be areas of conjecture and to some extent speculative theological arguments that would meet the “Reasonable Man” argument in law but not fit easily into the tight and strict confines of Academia.
The Feast Day of Christina Rossetti