Last week the City to City Europe network gathered nearly 500 leaders from 27 countries in Berlin to talk about “The Gospel and the City." The event was organized by an Executive Team of key European leaders and church planters, and invitations extended to anyone interested in urban church planting in Europe, across a variety of denominations and networks.
Tim Keller was one of three plenary speakers. It was his first time speaking on the continent. He spoke about some of the characteristics of a church that is engaged in the city. Frank Eckhardt, a leading German urbanologist, and Stefan Paas, theologian and professor at the Free University of Amsterdam presented perspectives on trends in European cities and the nature of church planting in the European urban context. Many other leaders presented topics in breakout sessions. The combination of the teaching that was given, the high caliber of all the European leaders that were present and the largeness of the gathering seemed to produce a synergy that was fascinating to observe. On the second day of the conference, a question was asked that has had me thinking ever since: “Could this conference represent a 'tipping point' in a movement of the gospel in the cities of Europe?”
In his book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell defines a tipping point as "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point." Might we be at a “tipping point,” a point at which the dam bursts and we see a flood of gospel-centered churches planted or replanted in cities across the continent, and thousands of believers in every city working out the implications of the gospel in their private and public lives, their work, their families and the communities in which they live? Perhaps; only time will tell.
This much I know: The Holy Spirit is on the move. The momentum of the movement has been building. People are coming to Christ. Churches are being planted. Church planting networks have been and are being formed in multiple cities and regions. New young leaders are rising up with hope, courage and the vision to plant new churches in the cities of Europe. Many leaders of denominations and of key churches have been deeply encouraged and have begun to believe that the gospel can flourish in their cities. Many seem to have become less concerned about their own denominations and more concerned about the Kingdom of Christ.
It did feel like we might have crossed a divide during the conference. It felt like a movement.
For more than ten years City to City has been quietly working behind the scenes helping to plant some fifty-four churches in the global cities of Europe. Many of those churches are now planting daughter churches or working in conjunction with each other to plant additional churches. And now with the development of City to City Europe, the network of churches and church plants in Europe that has emerged from that work, we are seeing a movement of urban church planting in Europe take on a life of its own. Though still in its early stages of development, it is quickly gaining strength and credibility. It is anticipated that nearly 150 new churches will be planted during the next five years in connection with the network. Those churches will be associated with a variety of denominations, associations of churches and “tight” networks and yet supported by CTCE. Funding mechanisms are being created in Europe to provide financial support for urban church planting efforts. Leadership structures are being put in place to help encourage the development of training, coaching and trans-denominational networks in nearly every significant city in Europe. It could be a time of significant renewal in the cities of Europe.
Returning to Gladwell’s title—we do believe that “little things can make a big difference.” CTCE is really just one small thing, but we hope it will be a helpful force to help create a movement of the gospel in Europe.
You can find audio and video from the conference here (registration required).
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