FORUM: working together works best
Evangelical Alliances: They Make Common Cause and Common Sense
by Dwight Gibson
Training seminars for pastors, a ministry to the deaf in cooperation with Joni Eareckson Tada, and a comprehensive plan to set up 12 radio stations in the major cities of Romania--these are just a few examples of ministries that have taken place in-Romania as a result of the founding of the Romanian Evangelical Alliance. This strategic coalition of national churches demonstrates how Christians can achieve more together than they can individually.
Coming together amid the rubble of Marxism
The post-Communist era in East Central Europe and the former Soviet Union has meant profound change?not only in politics and commerce, but also in the church. One quiet development which could have a major spiritual impact is the growth of evangelical alliances. While associations of evangelical Protestant churches have existed in countries such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia since the early part of this century, the first new alliance in East Central Europe to be created in the post-Communist era emerged in Romania in 1990.
In March 1990, only a few months after the overthrow of the Ceausescu government in December 1989, representatives from Baptist, Pentecostal, and Brethren churches and the Lord's Army, an evangelical movement in the Orthodox Church, organized the Romanian Evangelical Alliance. Rev. Vasile Talos served as the first president and Rev. Paul Negrut of Oradea is the current president. The five-point strategy adopted by the Romanian Evangelical Alliance targets evangelism, church-planting, Christian education, the fostering of a work ethic, and the promotion of democracy. Today, this association serves as a model of what can occur when evangelical believers come together voluntarily for joint action in the name of Christ.
Working together makes a difference
In March 1991, Campus Crusade and the Romanian Evangelical Alliance began discussing joint efforts to show the "Jesus" film in Romania. Eight months later, Crusade and Alliance representatives signed a protocol formalizing their cooperation. According to the agreement, 10,000 volunteers from 1,000 local churches were to show the film throughout Romania. To date, 203,000 Romanians have seen the film, with 6,551 of these viewers having completed a follow-up series of Bible studies.
Another cooperative effort took place with the Christian Broadcasting Network in the airing of the "Superbook" cartoon series of Bible stories on Romanian national television. In response, 1.25 million people wrote to the Romanian Evangelical Alliance for more information. To respond to this flood of requests, CBN worked with the Alliance to hire 90 staff to help with the project. Each inquirer received a personal response, together with copies of the Life of Jesus and, as available, New Testaments or Gospels.
Romania is not alone in the development of voluntary alliances of evangelicals. Since 1990, other groups have formed in Croatia, Bulgaria, and Estonia. Rev. Ingmar Kurg, a representative of the movement in Estonia, summed up the mission of newly emerging evangelical alliances in a recent letter: "The time of our illegal and separate work is over. Now we have to find each other again and to learn to respect our brothers in Christ."
Common characteristics-uncommon results
Despite their cultural differences, evangelical alliances worldwide share several common characteristics. First, they represent a variety of denominations and missions under the direction of a freely elected board. Second, they are voluntary associations including representatives from denominations, parachurch bodies, and local churches. Third, they enjoy the benefits of a unified voice. In most countries, evangelical Christians are a minority. By coming together, they present a more effective and unified voice in their society and before their government. Fourth, alliance members benefit from networking and a strategic pooling of resources. Stories of Bibles being piled up without adequate distribution systems are less likely to be true where alliances are formed to combine and coordinate resources. Finally, alliances are local initiatives that develop a sense of national ownership and commitment to ministries. Christian workers from the West would do well to work closely with national churches in developing their ministries, especially when evangelical alliances can be a means to that end.
Dwight Gibson is Associate North American Director of World Evangelical Fellowship.
|Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance
Usta Gencho Str., Bl. 37B, Entr. D/83
Tel/fax: 359 2 31 60 87
Protestant Evangelical Council in Croatia
Czech Evangelical Alliance
The Estonian Fellowship of Evangelization Movement
|Magyar Evangeliumi Aliansz
Felso Erdosor 5
H-1068 Budapest, Hungary
Tel: 36 1 122-4723
Aliantja Evanghelica din Romania
Evangelical Alliance in Slovakia
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© 1993 East-West Church and Ministry Report