Bringing the gospel back to Europe – MTS is partnering with ECM

MTS is delighted to be partnering with a number of wonderful Christian organisations for MTS Recruit 2021. One such organisation is ECM – European Christian Mission. Their CEO Matt George has written this article reflecting on how ECM is thinking about ministry training, and how this has read to some really exciting new developments. Check it out!

Hi, I am Matt! I am the CEO of ECM – European Christian Mission. Here I am with my wife and family, which includes a little boy we adopted from Europe – Bulgaria.

When we think of places around the world where the gospel is not known, Europe is not the first place that comes to mind. 100 years ago, almost all Europeans went to the established church and 70% of the world’s Christians lived in Europe. Yes, Europe was the first continent to be Christianised (think Paul, think the Reformation)… but it is also now the first to be thoroughly de-Christianised. Now only 4% of Europeans regularly attend some kind of church and only 2% call themselves Bible believing.

We need to raise up workers for pretty much all of Europe. This includes places like Portugal, where I used to serve, where only 0.4% belong to a gospel teaching church.

We at ECM have been praying and asking the question, “How can ECM raise up more, high-quality, well-trained, long-term harvest workers for Europe”? As we’ve been pondering this, God has been convicting us of what a rich culture of ministry apprenticeships we have in Australia – and how God has used MTS to produce a flood of gospel workers.

Many moons ago I did the equivalent of an MTS apprenticeship at University of Western Sydney – Nepean under Steve Gooch. It started my journey to eventually doing university student ministry in Portugal. I can’t imagine ever doing cross-cultural ministry overseas without having had my first real taste of it under Steve’s leadership and mentorship.

We’ve also seen some great ministry training happen in Europe through Aussies who have had an apprenticeship-style experience in Europe. My ECM co-worker and friend Simon Ball trained many young guys over the 10 years he was planting a church in Ireland, using the MTS ministry training paradigm, “Character, Conviction, Competency” and adding in a fourth ‘C’, Culture. He and I have noticed that those who have spent time “in the field” under an experienced missionary have really benefitted – if you like, they’ve had a kind of missionary apprenticeship. Ross McGaughran is one example.

After doing “The Bridge” gap year at Sydney Missionary and Bible College (SMBC) in 2016, Ross was convicted of the need to take the gospel to places where there is least access. Somewhere like Ireland, which has less than 1% evangelical Christians.

We call Ross our “Viking Apprentice”. While in Ireland, we challenged him to be creative in the ways that he could get out and meet people so that he could share the gospel with them. So he went out and joined a Viking re-enactment group!  Interestingly, this group was full of people who were spiritually seeking, and so Ross had plenty of opportunities to hone his evangelism skills, and learn to share the gospel cross-culturally.

Here is Ross’ story in his own words.

“I had been moving towards a ministry or mission role for the previous couple of years, but it was the on-field training that really transformed my approach to further study and thinking about long-term mission prospects. I think to really understand what frontline mission work looks like, you actually have to be there.

Simon was a great guide as he helped me navigate the culture, while training me in practical church and outreach skills. He was really pastorally invested in my own growth and holiness, and helped direct my efforts into what would be most beneficial for God’s global mission. I truly think if you’re thinking cross-cultural mission, the best possible training will happen within that mission context. If you’re not thinking cross-cultural mission maybe give it a crack and see if God stirs your heart for a different (sometimes more needy) harvest field.  Personally, my time in Ireland has cemented my plans for mission to Europe. I’m completing my Bachelor of Theology at SMBC this year, and my wife and I have just been accepted by ECM as missionaries to Austria.”

So, Simon and I have started to formulate a plan for recruiting harvest workers. Here’s what we thought: Why not give an apprentice an opportunity to be trained in cross-cultural ministry both here in Australia, and then overseas as well? The idea is to extend the excellent training we can get here by giving a trainee time under an overseas missionary trainer. Simon has begun discussions with Ben Pfahlert and Eric Thurston from MTS. There has been a great deal of gospel camaraderie right from the start. ECM and MTS have talked together about building ministry training pathways that might raise up high quality, cross cultural apprentices for Europe.

A pathway to longer term overseas ministry might look something like this: After finishing TAFE/University and working for a while, you do two years with the ECM & MTS “Inter-Cultural Ministry Apprenticeship” in Australia. Here you learn ministry in your culture of origin. Then you do another whole year overseas, to focus on learning inter-cultural lessons, now that two years of ministry training are completed. We as ECM would love to help you then to discern whether you continue your journey towards Europe after 3-4 years of formal theological education in Australia.

ECM is committed to putting gospel workers in places they can best serve Christ’s mission in Europe and helping raise the support that is needed to get there – including through ministry apprenticeships.