As effective missionary practitioners, we recognize that we bring assumptions to our work that include negative aspects that may hinder our mission. Identifying these and surrendering them to God are part of our “living sacrifice” to Him.
Our own history and possible anger over the culture wars in the USA may blind us to what is redeemable or useful as a possible bridge to secular culture in Europe. Even though we may be called to reach Europeans and may truly love our neighbors, we still can struggle with our own prejudices. Our anger towards “removing God” from western society can create an “us vs. them” mentality that undermines our mission of redemption. Also, fear can keep us apart from people and inhibit us from practicing incarnational ministry.
One way this may affect us is through our children. While every culture has its own temptations, we recognize that European secular culture has a strong potential to be attractive to our children – and to us - in ways that frighten us. In Europe, our children’s friends may look like them and share the same socio-economic class, go to the same schools, and share many of the same hopes, dream, and worries. The difference between “us and them” is not quite so far as when we minister in a third-world country, and so we may instinctively try to protect our families from too-close attachments to those who look like us but do not know Christ. While we cannot be naïve about temptation and the reality of spiritual warfare, neither can we let fear keep us from getting to know European families and living among them in a transparent, authentic way.
One last common prejudice or mental stumbling block is that we sometimes feel inferior or that we have little to offer. As we minister in European secular society this feeling of inferiority can be used by Satan to weaken our effectiveness. As Americans, we enjoy bringing practical help as well as the gospel to the disadvantaged and oppressed peoples of the world. However, if we are called to ordinary Europeans, they may have as much or more money, education, and resources as we do, and therefore we have nothing to offer except … the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we can recognize this and cheerfully accept that we carry nothing except Christ, we can defend ourselves spiritually and trust even more in the power of the gospel. The apostle Paul and the earliest missionaries unapologetically targeted the large, rich cities of the Roman Empire, and the church flourished.