Should Western / American Christians care about the health of the evangelical community in Croatia? (The following comments are addressed at a Western [primarily American] Christian audience.)
There is a second reason that you should care about the health of the evangelical church in Croatia. The second reason is this: the work of establishing a strong evangelical culture here is unfinished.
Here’s what I mean.
In some important ways, Croatian evangelicals are spiritual “orphans”. (By “orphans” I am alluding to 1 Corinthians 4.15, where Paul tells the believers in Corinth, “You have many guides in Christ, but you don’t have many fathers.”)
Missionaries and Croatian church leaders have done heroic work here.
- They have established congregations, ministries, and schools.
- They have baptized brilliant, devoted, wonderful, talented people into Jesus Christ.
- They have charged those people with developing into leaders for the churches.
- Those brilliant, devoted, etc. people have worked extremely hard alongside the missionaries and the previous group of church leaders to lead and serve the church here.
But discipleship, the work of growing Croatian evangelical Christians up into the image of Jesus Christ, is a stillborn enterprise. It has never really gotten off the ground.
Croatian evangelicals have “many guides in Christ” (voices from inside and outside Croatia that provide guidance and inspiration), but they don’t have many fathers (mentors who will invest their lives in transparency and intimate brotherhood) who will disciple them and help them grow. Ergo: they are orphans.
The result of this “orphanhood” is poor discipleship.
The result of poor discipleship is that the evangelical churches in Croatia tend to have a weak church culture.
The result of weak church culture is that churches drift and falter.
The problem is NOT that missionaries and Croatian church leaders haven’t worked sacrificially and heroically; they HAVE. The problem is that an important aspect of the work has been left unfinished.
Let’s get more specific about church culture and discipleship …
(More about church culture, and the ways to recognize a weak church culture, on Friday.)