Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Is Austria a valid mission field?

I have wondered this myself and one of my favorite techies was able to write fairly effectively on this subject. You can check out their website at www.maysonandlaura.com

Here is the text of why I believe Austria is a valid missions field. Just in case any of you might wonder.

Is Austria a valid mission field?

While no one has come right out and said it the question of whether Austria is as valid a mission field as China, Iran, Afghanistan, or some other closed or impoverished country is a question I know a lot of people have. My short answer to this is yes it is. Below is my elaboration on that.

Despite what most people assume Austria is not a Post-Christian country; it is a Pre-Christian country. In all of Austrian history, Protestant Christianity has never had a foothold. Whenever it came to Austria, Protestantism was stamped out by the Catholic Church before it could take root. However, in the last 10-20 years missionaries have begun to make an impact in Austria. While the last figures we have seen indicate only about 1% of Austrians are Bible believing Christians, missionaries we know involved in pastoring and evangelism say that a real stirring is beginning and that they believe God is getting ready to do some amazing things, things that have never occurred in it’s history.

The work that God is doing in Austria right now requires missionaries, as the church in Austria is not yet large enough or strong enough to support itself. The church in Austria is so new that the Christians are basically all first generational. That means that right now there are few indigenous Austrian Christian leaders. The vast majority of the Austrian churches are pastored by missionaries simply because there are very few trained Austrian pastors. Three big things work against creating more Austrian pastors: educational opportunities, cultural barriers, and finances. By educational opportunities I mean that there are no seminaries or Bible schools in Austria. In order to gain an seminary education Austrians need to leave the country, which has its financial burdens attached to it. The cultural barrier is that Austrians by nature do not like to make decisions; Austrians strongly prefer making decisions in committee; they are very uncomfortable leading. This has obvious implications with pastoring a church. Finally, there is the problem of finances: most Austrian congregations are relatively small, about 40-60 people. A congregation this small can’t support a full time pastor and facility rental. On the same note, a congregation that size can’t rent the facilities needed to grow the church so that the church can in turn grow its congregation. Even the church we attend, which by Austrian standards is a mega church at around 350-400 people, is staffed by missionaries and can’t afford to pay its secretaries.

So why am I saying all this? All of the above show that the church in Austria is not at a point where it can stand on its own without missionaries. Until there are seminaries it is the missionaries who can provide the necessary training. Until there are enough Austrian pastors it is the missionaries who can pastor the churches. Until the Christian community is trained to take leadership it is the missionaries who are needed to encourage and disciple Austrian believers to step out of their cultural norms and take leadership. Until there are congregations that can support a pastor and a facility it is the missionaries who, through their support from out of country, can help offset the costs that go along with growing the congregations. The missionaries I know would like nothing better than to see Austrians trained up and leading the church in their country, and they are working hard towards that goal. But that goal is not realized yet.

Our work at VCS is needed because the missionaries are needed. VCS is the only English speaking school that has tuition rates the missionaries can afford. We are missionaries and raise support because if we didn't and were paid a salary the tuition rates at VCS would be just as high or higher than the other schools which would force a lot of the families off the mission field because of their children's educational needs. VCS was originally founded by the missionaries from various missions organizations in Vienna because they realized their need for a school. That need is still there today and VCS is still here to fill it.

If you guys could, please leave some feedback? Do you agree with what Mayson wrote? I will make it known that some person other than me wrote this, but it is pretty much what I believe about it. Consider this post an invitation to open discussion about this. God bless ya'll! :)

B

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brian,
What's with the differentiation between Roman Catholics and "Protestant Christians"? Sounds like your friend doesn't consider Roman Catholics to be Christian. I take exception. I am a better Christian and pastor for the Roman Catholics who have and continue to be my Spiritual Director.
God's Blessing,
Kathy Sweet

Brian_Reynolds_Missionary said...

I see your point Kathy and believe me I would never aim to offend with any of my posts, but what I believe Mayson is trying to say is that the majority of Roman Catholics here in Austria do not display any signs of having a personal realtionship with Jesus Christ and that they mainly adhere to the traditions of the Church and not really to Christ's laws. The main point that I took out of the text was that VCS is doing a valuable service to the missionary community here in Austria. Without the low-cost education that VCS provides, many of the missionaries that are currently working here in Austria would not be. So we serve the missions community but also we reach out to the international and business community here in Vienna. There are other schools in Europe similar to ours. For example, Budapest, the International Christian School of Budapest, Hungary is a school that has mainly missionary kids, they don't have a very international student body. The Lord has truly taken VCS and made it a school of the nations. I guess I just really wanted to say that my reason for posting Mayson's text was not because he apparently considers Catholics to not be Christian. I have some amazing friends from college that are devout Catholics and the tradition is a very good thing. What he is trying to say I believe that as a whole Catholics here in Europe tend to lack the "Christ" in "Christ"ian. It was the same kind of deal in the Czech Republic, but then again it really isn't my place to judge whether anyone is in the right kind of relationship with Jesus. So to answer your question of what the difference between Roman Catholic and Protestant is I would say that I have trouble sometimes believing what everything the pope says is true. So with protestants mostly going by the Word of God, I would say that they might be closer to having the Truth, but only God knows so why debate anyway. I guess this stuff is all really hard for me. Thank you for your comment though, your husband and you always make me think more than is comfortable for me and I am grateful! :) God bless!

B

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Instead of asking, "Is Vienna a valid mission field?" why not ask, "What is God calling me to do?" I don't think there is any location in the world that couldn't accurately be defined as a mission field. We are all called to live out our faith every day--where ever we happen to be. The struggle (for me) is in knowing what it is God is calling me to do today.

Have fun thinking...no one ever said faith was easy.

God's Blessing

Kathy Sweet

Ruth R said...

Brian, Some interesting thoughts. I also had the same thought - Catholics are not Christians?

But, I can understand your heartfelt conviction with the rest of the statement. VCS is serving a great purpose and has been blessed with the opportunity to serve many of God's children. I pray that your mission work will continue to be blessed and grow.

Another thought, I like the pictures right in the blog. Is there any way to put spaces in between the pictures so they are spread out more? They are kind of
close together.

Matthew and I will go to a Youth Retreat this Saturday at the campground. Talk to you on Sunday.

Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

What place on this planet isn't a mission field? Austria's just as valid as Southern IL. That's a neat look at one part of the European church. If VCS is meeting a need for the brothers and sisters over there, rock on, yo! Might the Lord show Himself in the process of a mighty Kingdom-building work over there.

I understand my history enough to see the unfortunate animosity between Catholicism and Protestantism that keeps getting in the way at times. I see how the religious power play might've hindered true Christian growth in the past. After all, European history is littered with that sort of thing. From what you've seen, are Catholics and Protestants starting to come beside each other for Kingdom building (as must be the case for proper unity in the body)? We've got such a rich faith heritage if we look at the church before all the splits and dissention that followed.

Matty