Today’s post comes from a church planting buddy of mine, James Devenish, the pastor of International Chapel of Vienna.
I love doing what I do – it is a great privilege and very humbling to preach the Gospel. I pastor an International church.
Vienna is a great city – steeped in history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and famous for wonderful classical music. A night out in Vienna is to don a collar and tie and take in a concert – a lot different from eating a Kebab from “Greasy Sid’s” on the way home from the flicks. The Viennese love their coffee houses, reading a newspaper for hours over a “Melange”, they like their Schnitzel – battered (in every way) pork – and they love their chocolate cake.
Vienna is truly a multi-cultural city. The tenth biggest city in the EU, and makes up approximately 25% of the whole population of Austria. The United Nations is big in Vienna – it is the home of the International Atomic Energy Agency – famous for their weapons inspectors!
But it is different. Things change when you move to Vienna, as they do whenever you move abroad.
The shops are not open on Sundays and Bank Holidays – great, say all of us who campaigned for ‘keep Sunday special’ in the UK, but red-faced rush through Sainsbury’s for a Bacon Sarnie after Sunday Worship, and skid to a halt when you see the lady who poked you in the eye with a flag at Church in the next aisle.
You are not allowed to use mechanical equipment between 12 and 2 and after 12 on Saturdays. For those who are used to spending the Bank Holidays mowing the lawn – that’s different.
Customer Service is different. In the UK and especially in the USA – customer is king. In Austria, the retail operator is king. Shopping for groceries becomes like completing an obstacle course fit for the Marines.
The grim faced cashier hurtles the shopping at you, whether or not it is on the floor, your head, or in your trolley. It is not unheard of; you play a rigorous game of dodge the cucumber while trying desperately to get your Bank Card out of your pocket.
This is different. I don’t criticise it, but it’s different. I mentioned this to a fellow Brit living in Austria – who thought I was being critical – I wasn’t – and he complemented them on being “brutally honest!” Rather more brutal than honest I tend to think.
Our church is different too. It is made up of those who are here for ever, for 3-5 years, for 2 years, for 1 visit. That’s different and hard. It is hard to build a base, discipleship groups, with a transitional congregation. But I love it.It is hard to make budget – many are connected to their churches of origin and it seems like they are being asked to support two churches. This needs pastoral care in teaching commitment to the local Church as well as their own church, which includes being generous with our money. Transient, international churches like ours need support as well as indigenous churches.
Some things don’t change. The fact we are all sinners doesn’t change. Austrians, the Internationals, the Brits need the Gospel – equally – we all mess up – we are born in sin.
And God’s grace that goes further than our sin is unchanging. It is the same Gospel whether in London or Vienna.
We have been really blessed this summer with having a more consistent number than previous years – thank you Jesus.
I love the Church. If you love Jesus, you will love His Bride. I love the fact that the Church is an urban – moving and shaking community of young people, I love the fact that the Church is a rural farming community – and I love the fact that the Church is an international discipleship community from 35 nations.
I want our church to be infectious and dangerous – with the Gospel. The Gospel is the only thing that could ever have changed me, and because of Jesus I am a new Creation. But I am not an individual light bulb running around like a headless-chicken – by God’s grace I am part of His beautiful Church.
My prayer is that although different it is, that our church would continue to love the Bible, love Reformed theology, grow in the personal and corporate expression of the filling of the Holy Spirit, and would be a place where God’s grace flows through us and touches the city – internationals and nationals.
My vision is for a sending- place to the nations around. Vienna is a great cog in international travel to the Old Eastern bloc – pray Jesus that it would be an oily cog for the spreading of New Testament churches.
I love what Boaz does for Ruth – he invites Ruth, “Have lunch. Sit down with us.”
She was a Moabite, an outsider. He’s making her an insider, dignity, and worth, and respect, and treating her with equality, and chivalry, and loving kindness – the “hesed” of God that God had shown to him.
As Charles Spurgeon wonderfully put it – Jesus is our glorious Boaz. He went all the way to grace for His Church – for us – and we have this God given command to make disciples of all nations.