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European Baptist Federation Church Planting

Keith G. Jones

In 1990, as the impact of post-Communist and post-modern life began markedly to change the mission scene in Europe, the European Baptist Federation (EBF) established a Division of Mission and Evangelism to give more careful thought to the provision of cross-cultural resources for church planting and other forms of outreach. Even earlier, many European Baptist leaders had begun to recognize that church planting was not simply a matter of taking the latest offering from North America, but that careful examination of the European situation and Europe-appropriate efforts was needed.

Urban Ethnic Churches

One effect of globalization in this period was the growth of a multi-ethnic character to Europe’s largest cities, with an inflow of migrants from other parts of Europe and from other continents. Thus the 2005 EBF Mission and Evangelism Conference focused on the establishment of ethnic churches in urban centers. In Austria, Belgium, and Germany ethnic Baptist communities began to flourish, and in large cities like London, Vienna, Brussels, Paris, and Berlin, ethnic churches formed the most significant and vibrant baptistic communities. The 2005 conference produced many excellent papers which the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague published in book form.1 Here was EBF cross-cultural mission concern at its best, with an issue being identified, and with Europeans gathering together, both to inform each other and to draw expertise from specialist thinkers within the EBF family.

Theo Angelov

A prior significant development had already taken place in 2000 with the election of Bulgarian Theo Angelov as general secretary. A survivor of his country’s Communist repressions, Angelov addressed a September 2000 EBF Council meeting in Riga, Latvia, proposing a new EBF initiative. His idea was to talk with all of Europe’s North American mission partners about four specific mission priorities which the partners might support and which would be controlled and shaped by the EBF. This proposal represented a significant first for EBF, given that previously its role had been relief and development through Baptist Response-Europe (BRE). As a follow-up, discussions with various partners took place at a meeting held at a hotel near London’s Heathrow Airport, 24-25 August 2001. Representatives of the American Baptist Churches International Missions Board, the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board, the North American Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), Britain’s Baptist Missionary Society, and Baptist state conventions from Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, and North Carolina met to hear Angelov’s presentation.

The Indigenous Missionary Project

While participants discussed several options at the meeting—such as continuing support for relief and development and assistance for theological education—one idea, the creation of an indigenous missionary project, seemed to engender general support. The proposal, as it developed, envisaged various national unions applying to an EBF coordinating group for funding for salaries (at an EBF-set figure) for nationals who would plant new congregations. In turn, the EBF would solicit finances from Baptist unions in Western Europe and from mission partners in the U.S. to fund this work. Regular reports would be furnished to the funding partners with declining salary support over five years as church plants became self-supporting or received increasing assistance from their respective Baptist unions.2

This Indigenous Missionary Project (IMP), as it came to be known, was an EBF initiative involving European and North American partners. Though some, including this writer, doubted that, in practice, either the North American mission partners or the Baptist unions of Europe would willingly cede key responsibilities and oversight to the EBF, subsequent events proved otherwise. Angelov already had a vigorous coordinator in mind, Daniel Trusiewicz, pastor of Wroclaw Baptist Church in Poland. The general secretary drove the scheme forward, demonstrating that EBF’s executive officer could in some circumstances exercise significant leadership.

In April 2002 Pastor Trusiewicz made a modest start with a handful of missionaries in Moldova. By 2006 IMP personnel had launched church plants in Armenia, Belarus, the Caucasus region, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and five Middle Eastern countries.3 By April 2010 newly planted churches numbered 65 in 25 countries in Europe and the Middle East.4 The work of Trusiewicz and the leadership of Angelov and his successor, Tony Peck, made a remarkable success of the IMP. This achievement demonstrates that both European Baptist unions and various U.S. Baptist mission agencies trusted and used the EBF to facilitate an exciting program of church planting by indigenous missionaries, involving cross-cultural support. Thus, Theo Angelov’s vision of the Indigenous Missionary Project allowed the EBF to take on an important new role.F

Notes:

1Peter F. Penner, ed., Ethnic Churches in Europe: A Baptist Response (Schwarzenfeld, Germany: Neufeld Verlag, 2006).

2 EBF Indigenous Missionary Project Guidelines; www.ebf.org/articles/index; accessed 18 January 2007.

3 EBF Council, Lyon, September 2006, Document C2006/14, EBF Office Archive, Prague.

4 Updated information maintained at www.ebf.org/projects; accessed April 2010. Approximately 11 post-Soviet countries have been added since April 2006: Azerbaijan, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, and Tajikistan.

Edited excerpts reprinted with permission from Keith G. Jones, The European Baptist Federation; A Case Study in European Baptist Interdependency, 1950-2006 (Milton Keynes, England: Paternoster, 2009).

Keith G. Jones is rector of the International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague, Czech Republic