East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 1, No. 3, Summer 1993, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe

Bridging the East-West "Reality" Gap

Assistant Editor William S. Covington, Jr., interviews Marsh Moyle, Director, Central European Foundation, Bratislava, Slovakia, and Greg Reader, Field Director for Central and Eastern Europe, International Teams, Guntramsdorf, Austria

What is the current status of Evangelicals in East Central Europe?

Moyle:  Many small evangelical fellowships cannot receive official state registration due to their small numerical size.  As a result, they form clubs instead, which provides them the opportunity to still officially meet as a group.  Some of these same fellowships do not want official registration due to their strong sense of independence....

Reader:  Official registration alters the relationship of a religious group with the government.  Therefore, some of the groups have the attitude of "why bother?".  These groups frequently will create associations in order to gain some type of organization, short of that required to receive official registration.  With official registration, though, a group can officially meet as a church.

What are some of the problems that mission groups presently experience in East Central Europe?

Moyle:  One of the greatest problems we are faced with in ministering in East Central Europe is the "reality gap".  By this I mean the perception of reality as it exists in the East.  Western missionaries come to the East with a distinctly Western idea of reality.  If one wants to place a phone call in the West, one simply picks up the phone and places the call.  If one's plumbing is leaky, one simply calls a repairman.  But these simple tasks, taken for granted in the West, are different here in the East.  Frequently, all phone lines are busy or one simply cannot get through for one reason or another.  Leaky plumbing is an ever-present reality in the East, with which one simply learns to live.  As a result, one's work effectiveness drops considerably compared to Western standards.

The value system Western missionaries bring to their posts in the East causes a second problem.  The West is, by in large, a goal-oriented society while the East is a relationship-oriented society.  In other words, a Westerner gains value from the product, while the Easterner gains value from the relationship.  It normally takes the Western missionary about two years to comprehend the different value system at work in the East.  Therefore, missionaries must adjust their value systems in order to be effective in the East.  But, this will also cause difficulties.  While this realignment of values will make the missionary more effective in the East, it will almost inevitably bring the missionary into conflict with home churches or mission boards which will feel that the missionary should be "winning more souls" in the field.
Reader:  Another problem is the medium for communication of the vision from the missionary to the indigenous group.  Too often we witness the vision being communicated in English.  This is only partially effective.  In order for the vision to be truly communicated it must be communicated in the mother tongue. 

Marsh Moyle and Greg Reader, "Bridging the East-West 'Reality' Gap," East-West Church & Ministry Report, 1 (Summer 1993), 11.

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1993 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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