August 3, 1914 marks the date of one of the most depressing statements in modern political history. Edward Grey, British statesman and foreign secretary, heard news that Germany had declared war on France. Threat of a great war, having festered for years, had well and truly begun. As Grey stood by the window of his office at dusk, he declared:
"The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time".
Europe had eroded into utter chaos, with no end in sight. The first "world war" would be a massive conflict, greater than any before. Thousands, perhaps millions, would die before things were settled. With no end in sight, it was a desperate and hopeless circumstance. Can you imagine how people of Europe were feeling when they realized the gravity of this situation in their land?
That was precisely 100 years ago.
Today, long after the end of that horrific war, the lights are still going out in Europe. Christianity has been sliding rapidly into obscurity throughout this continent, bringing percentages of true believers to less than one percent (yes, less than one person for every hundred) in many countries. The silent invasion of atheism, science, hedonism, non-Christian religions, and complacency among believers, is taking its toll on the faith of Europe. Churches are closing, believers are vanishing, and hope is diminishing. Like Europe's political situation 100 years ago, the future of Christianity in appears to be hopeless.
But the tide is turning. Consider the wonderful things that are happening throughout Europe:
- Believers are turning back to to Jesus' way of making disciples. In recent years, desperation has driven us to look again at the Word of God and to reconsider what Jesus has been saying to us all along.
- Disciples are learning how to share their faith boldly and broadly among their family and friends, as well as learning how to find houses of peace in unreached communities. We are learning to stop making excuses, and to quit inventing clever ways around bearing witness of our faith--the core practice of every follower of Jesus.
- Simple methods are spreading the Kingdom of God at an increasingly fast pace. Nothing that Jesus did was rocket science. If methods are simple, ordinary people learn to use them immediately--as did the "unschooled, ordinary" disciples of Jesus (Acts 4.13, NIV).
- Groups and churches are being established in homes, cafes, pubs, and other everyday places. These places not only reduce costs, but provide natural gateways for the gospel message to spread rapidly.
- Most exciting of all, we are seeing generational growth. That means that disciples are making disciples who make disciples! The Kingdom is once again growing not by addition, but by multiplication.
The whole purpose of AIM training is to bring us back to these simple and effective ways of doing what Jesus had in mind all along, helping us to quickly establish houses of peace in as many places as possible.
Today, 100 years after Grey's disconsolate statement, I would like for us all to declare a new hope. Let us declare boldly:
"The lamps are being lit all over Europe, and we shall see Europe brought out of darkness in our lifetime!"