The Birth of a Gospel Partnership: Evangelium21
What can a kingdom-minded pastor do to promote gospel growth beyond his own church?
This was a question I asked myself as I returned to my home country Germany to serve as pastor of a local church. After nearly ten years at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, which brought close exposure to the work of 9Marks, T4G, and The Gospel Coalition, I asked myself if some of what is happening on a large scale through these ministries could be brought to my local ministry context in Germany.
I knew of a number of men in ministry in many churches of various denominations who sensed that the gospel was being increasingly sidelined. Some of them felt very alone in their desire and efforts to promote gospel-centered ministry, and many of them lacked good resources.
Do you find yourself in a similar ministry context? If so, I hope that what God has allowed us to experience in Germany in the last three years will give you some ideas about how you might cooperate with other church leaders in your region to promote gospel growth.
THE BIRTH OF A GOSPEL PARTNERSHIP
As I got to know a good number of likeminded men in German-speaking Europe, we all desired the opportunity to exchange questions, experiences, and ideas with likeminded brothers. As we talked, we quickly realized our shared desire that this should not be limited to a small circle of friends. God began to grow a vision in our hearts and minds to develop this private friendship into a more public gospel partnership effort.
We had three specific goals in mind:
- We wanted to provide a venue for generally likeminded men in ministry to come together, encourage each other, and share ideas and resources.
- We hoped this could also be an opportunity to bring in others who might not yet see the importance of gospel-centered ministry as clearly but who are looking for guidance and help in their work.
- Finally, we prayed that God would use this effort to help a wider audience to get a clearer sense of what the gospel is and what Christianity is all about.
As we planned our first meeting, God provided unexpected help in the person of John Piper, who had already agreed to speak at a conference in Germany. He graciously agreed to join our group for a dinner where he shared about some of his experiences with The Gospel Coalition.
Not surprisingly, with John Piper as dinner guest nearly all the men we had hoped to gather for our first brainstorming meeting came. The dinner with John Piper was inspirational, yet we all agreed that the greatest joy and encouragement for all of us was to meet each other and to discover that we all had very similar hopes and desires.
Over the course of nearly the next two years we met a number of times, talked theology, and ended up writing a confessional statement. Our confessional statement was heavily influenced by The Gospel Coalition’s, but was adapted to fit the German context and our shared convictions.
In late 2010 we formalized our group and adopted our confessional statement. We chose the name ‘Evangelium21’: “Evangelium” is the German word for gospel and “21” indicates that we want to promote the same old gospel in the 21st century. Following the example of The Gospel Coalition, we decided that we will be very slow to introduce new people into the core group in order to maintain the vision and the atmosphere of close friendship. Yet we also created a website and invited those who would like to join the effort to sign the confessional statement and thus to become a member of the “Evangelium21 network.”
In the summer of 2011, we then went public with a first conference that we hosted in cooperation with 9Marks. Matt Schmucker joined us as main speaker and gave us further inspiration and guidance. It was a small beginning, with 280 registered participants and nearly 400 people in attendance for the evening sessions, yet it was a hugely encouraging time.
The conference received some coverage in Christian magazines, which put our name out there. Over time, other likeminded people have gotten in touch with us, so that the movement is slowly growing. Our second conference will be held on May 13-15, 2012, and we are delighted that D.A. Carson and John Piper have agreed to come to Germany and serve as the main speakers. We will focus on the doctrine of the Word of God. We hope this conference will further raise our profile and will help us to have a greater impact in promoting gospel-centered thinking.
Not all is moving forward as hoped. We greatly desire to be able to write and translate good material that could promote gospel-centered thinking and ministry. But since we are all busy with full-time occupations, there is little time to do this. Yet God has graciously provided some donors and we are hoping to be able to hire someone on an hourly basis to help write and translate good material that will be sent to everyone interested and that will also go on our website.
THE JOY OF LINKING ARMS
One of the greatest joys for us is that we have been able to link arms with several other groups that operate in small theological niches or local areas. By going public, we have been able to connect with individuals and groups we otherwise would not have known about.
A completely unexpected positive side-effect of our efforts is that we have gotten in touch with a small group in French-speaking Europe that is hoping to form a similar gospel partnership, possibly even using the same name in French: “Evangile21.”
We don’t know what will come out of our small efforts. This is in God’s hands, so we are praying that he might be pleased to use this small effort to bring gospel growth to German-speaking Europe.
We hope that our experience might inspire pastors like you to think strategically about how God might use you and your friends in ministry to encourage and promote gospel growth in your region.