Archive for March 2011

Motorbike church, Hainaut, Belgium

March 29, 2011

Our friends at the Incarnate Network have recently posted a video featuring the work of Stephen Pitt, one of the leaders of Moto ConneXion, described as a missional church.

The web blurb says ‘Moto ConneXion is a missional church plant for the open road, a motor bike church. The church meets regularly for road trips to seek Christ. Every trip is a double journey: a ride on a motorcycle and a spiritual journey. During the day the riders gather at pre-determined stops for a Bible reading, meditation or prayers, then back on the road where the rider is left alone in his or her helmet. It sounds almost monastic…

At the end of the day all gather for food and fun.

Stephen Pitt is one of the leaders of this alternative Christian community and member of Incarnate, he features on the video.

Moto ConneXion is sponsored by the Mission Evangélique Belgian, (Belgian Evangelical Mission).’

You can view the video by following the link.

Evangelical Armenians in Georgia

March 29, 2011

Evangelical Armenians, resident in Georgia, have been actively involved in mission among other Armenians since the mid 1800s. Whilst protestant mission in Armenia was largely conducted without the presence of western missionaries, mission among Armenian residents in Georgia was carried out by European missionaries from Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. Early Swedish missionaries established a base in  Pyatigorsk and German Lutherans were effective in spreading protestantism in Tblisi and elsewhere in the Caucasus.

Independent evangelical churches were encouraged to form alliances under the wings of the American and British and Foreign Bible Societies and from 1870 onwards the American Mission Boards began offering support to evangelical Armenian communities in the transcaucasus region. Following initial growth and consoidation, the latter half of the 1880s saw opposition grow to the fledgling movement and leaders, including Vasili Pavlov, Nikita Voronin and Abraham Amirkhanyan, were arrested. Undeterred, Amirkhanyan and others, after release, continued to lead the protestant communities up until the 1920s.

Armenian Baptists and Armenian Lutherans were officially recognised by the Russian Government between 1914-1918. In 1926 the Armenian Evangelical Church was also recognised. Many of these communities combined to engage in missionary work among Armenians in Eastern Armenia, and established orphanages during the 1910s.

The Armenian Evangelicals work independently but they are included in the Evangelical union of Christian Baptists of Georgia, which has more than 5,000 members and is itself a member Union of the European Baptist Federation.

Today on the territory of Georgia there are six Armenian Evangelical organizations, five Armenian Evangelical churches (Tbilisi, Kumurdo, Sulda, Akhalkalaki, and Sukhumi), and one Armenian Evangelical brotherhood (established in Akhaltsikhe in 1993). There are about 60 Armenian Evangelicals living in Abkhazia. Since opening its office in Armenia in 1991, the Armenian Evangelical Association of America (AEAA) has been rendering assistance to the Armenian Evangelicals in Tbilisi and Sukhumi, particularly in the educational, cultural, social and organizational spheres.

For further information you can follow our link to the NORAVANK website to view the original article from which this summary is extracted.

 

God – do the maths!

March 28, 2011

The BBC reported last week on the mathematical modelling of census data from nine countries that predicts the death of religion in those countries by 2050 or thereabouts. I take seriously the work of social scientists and am impressed with the way that mathematical modelling can predict scenarios that might otherwise be difficult, even impossible, to construct. However, it’s important to keep a firm grip on the fact that mathematical modelling constructs models and scenarios based on non-mathematical assumptions. If the assumptions lack imagination, the model may fail to convince or satisfy, however sophisticated the modelling.

Released on the 14th January 2011, the work of three mathematicians from Northwestern University, Evanston IL, is stimulated by the growth in numbers of those who claim to be ‘non-affiliated’ when asked to indicate their religious affiliation. The research draws on data from six European countries (Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands,  and Switzerland.) as well as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand and its predictions are said to be valid for ‘modern secular societies’. Readers of their paper will immediately recognise that its mathematical modelling is probably beyond the ability of most to offer a credible critique. I suspect that even a good number of statisticians would struggle!

However, all models need a foundation and I’d simply encourage readers to consider whether they agree with the model’s assumptions. The first assumption is that religious groups become more attractive as the number of members increases. The second is that the attractiveness of a religious group depends upon the social, economic, political and security benefits of belonging to it, in addition to the shared spiritual vision of the group.

A question to ask is whether this model can, therefore, adequately account for religious groups whose appeal is grounded in the imaginative prospect of living without the benefits listed, who stress sacrifice, and who remain unconcerned with large numbers. This alternative way of life is likely to remain convincing for some. The researchers might dismiss this as being an unappealing prospect in a modern secular society but their dismissal would be rooted in human assumptions rather than mathematical certainty.

I am as confident as are the researchers standing behind their mathematical modelling, that well beyond the predicted demise of religion in 2050, it will continue to be a vital source of personal transformation and commitment. I dare not be complacent in the face of the significant challenges posed by secular alternatives, but I remain hopeful that in Europe, as elsewhere in the world, faith will continue to provoke imagination and form followers of Christ who ‘wager on a future that verifiable experience seems to belie.’ (David Bosch) Or, to put it another way, and to quote a well known mathematician, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.’ (Albert Einstein).