East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 8, No. 1, Winter 2000, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

The Church in Central Europe:  Not Prepared for Freedom

David Machajdik and Juraj Kusnierik

The mid-1980s saw some Christians in some local churches starting to speak about and "do" evangelism.  The climate in society was changing.  It became possible to share one's faith in a secular environment.  People from a completely atheistic background became Christian.  It was not a mass movement, nor was it a "national revival."  The only possible (and still today probably the best) method of evangelism was sharing one's life--including one's relationship with God--with friends and relatives.  All this was done informally, sometimes secretly.  The word "ministry" with its spiritual connotations was as yet unknown.

Then came the revolutionary changes in 1989.  Christians "went public."  The first (and at the same time the last) big evangelistic events took place.  Famous evangelists visited Eastern and Central European capitals.  Mission organizations supported by local churches started to do "street evangelism."  Religion was given air time on radio and television.  Foreign missionaries arrived.  It was only natural to expect a great growth in the church.  However, this growth has not taken place.  People see the church as important and as a useful component of society, but they themselves do not want to be under its influence.  After the initial enthusiasm was over, the church somehow "faded out."  It is still there; it is surviving, but not growing very much.*  The reasons are many.  We are able to perceive and comment on only some of them.

The Church has a tendency to accept the role imposed on it by the expectations of society.  It then becomes a social institution, aimed at the development of ethics and charity.  It loses sight of its ultimate goal, which alone gives meaning to its existence: to know God as the creator and the one giving meaning and purpose to the whole of life.

*By growth we do not mean simply growth in the number of church members.  We mean primarily growth in the knowledge of God, growth in the character of individual Christians, growth in depth of relationships and commitments to each other, growth in impact in politics, culture, art, and education, growth in godliness, growth in compassion and service, growth in discernment, growth in justice, growth in grace, growth in love.

David Machajdik is a student of philosophy at Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia, and an external researcher with SEN.  Juraj Kusnierik is SEN research and studies coordinator.  He writes and lectures on various aspects of Christianity and culture in Central and Eastern Europe.

Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from David Machajdik and Juraj Kusnierik, Central European Christians in Postmodern Times (Bratislava, Slovakia: SEN, 1999).  The 35-page paper can be ordered for $10 from http://www.citygate.org, or by contacting: SEN, 3 Springfield Rd., Hinckley, Leics LE10 1AN, England; tel:  44-1455-446-899; fax:  44-1455-446-898; E-mail:  senuk@citygate.org; SEN, Box 622, Hobart, IN 46342, USA; tel:  219-942-3151; fax:  219-942-3151; E-mail: senusa@citygate.org; or SEN, Liptovská 10, 821 09 Bratislava, Slovakia; tel:  421-7-521-6293; fax:  421-7-521-6288; E-mail:  juraj@citygate.org.

David Machajdik and Juraj Kusnierik, "The Church in Central Europe:  Not Prepared for Freedom," East-West Church & Ministry Report 8 (Winter 2000), 10-11.

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© 2000 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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