In an ‘Ashes summer’ every half century is reason for applause and recognising the batsman’s skill. Inevitably, however, with the end of the summer (and Ashes series), popular interest begins to fall away like the leaves on the trees.
They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever
But this autumn brings us another half century, worthy of praise and more than passing interest for those who love the cause of Christ. It is the 50th anniversary of the launching of the European Missionary Fellowship (EMF) in its gospel engagement across the continent of Europe.
The praise in this case must not go to any of the ‘players’, but to the Lord of glory for his ‘never failing skill’ in building his church and bringing his Word to multitudes, otherwise without hope and without God in the world!
Following in the footsteps of the young Scottish evangelist James Stewart —whose labours in Europe just before World War 2 saw much fruit — and emerging from the post-war European Evangelism Crusade, the EMF was founded in 1959. It was a fellowship of God’s servants for the spread of the gospel rather than a highly organised society.
In the decades that followed, numerous labourers were thrust forth into the field and congregations were born. Today,EMF continues to serve evangelical churches of Europe as an inter-denominational mission committed to the Reformed Faith. Throughout Western and Eastern Europe, local churches have been planted and other churches strengthened by missionaries supported through the EMF.
The majority of these workers are indigenous to each nation, whilst several others have obeyed the call of God and left their own country to bring the gospel to other peoples.
Europe comprises around 15 per cent of the world’s population — approximately 800 million souls divided into over 30 nations and numerous language groups. Though many of these have some form of ‘Christian tradition’ in the fabric of their society, whether Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Protestant, the reality is only the smallest fraction have ever heard the saving message of Christ in any form at all.
The Great Commission calls God’s people to declare Christ’s gospel in all the world and the vast fields of Europe cry out to be sown. EMF is vigorously committed to bringing the biblical gospel to Europe’s millions in partnership with supporting churches in the UK and other parts of Europe.
The sacrificial commitment of local churches in support of EMF work and workers is critical to this undertaking, but EMF’s aim is always to see churches planted, which under God become self-supporting and self-governing.
Contemplating the 50th anniversary prompts thanksgiving for all that is past, but also presses the necessity of prayerful support among God’s people for what is yet to come.
England’s cricketers sought to prevail this summer and were rightly crowned as victors. It is not inappropriate to learn from such athleticism!
Writing to first-century gospel workers in Europe Paul made this comparison: ‘They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever’ (1 Corinthians 9:25). More details: www.emf-welwyn.org, including October’s missionary conference.