In the post-Christian culture of Western Europe, beautiful church buildings and monasteries often lie empty on Sunday mornings. Atheism and agnosticism are the norm while evangelical Christianity has been relegated to the fringes of society. In the past, churches have relied on their beauty to invite outsiders in. But one church in Germany, led by Pastor Cris Zimmermann, has turned the paradigm on its head.
They call themselves Kirche in Aktion, translated “Church in Action.” The congregation meets in 22 different locations across the city of Frankfurt, from movie theatres to restaurants, pubs, homeless shelters, and youth centers. They offer free food to the homeless, launch Kingdom-oriented social projects in local pubs, and provide gatherings for the elderly.
“We have strategically moved out of our Christian comfort zone and entered into so-called ‘third places’ to establish missional ministry points where we both establish relationships as well as proclaim the Good News.”
LEAVING IT ALL BEHIND
Church in Action’s ministry model quickly grabbed Eric Smith’s attention the first time he met Cris at the Nazarene General Assembly in the United States. Eric was representing his college, Southern Nazarene University, at the meeting when he ran into Cris in the exhibition hall. It was the start to a long relationship that would bring Eric back and forth from Frankfurt to work with Cris’ team on short-term mission trips.
After graduating, Eric followed the typical plan for someone fresh out of college. He invested deeply in a comfortable life for himself. He was a single twenty-something in Oklahoma City with a booming career, a beautiful new car, and plenty of money in his savings account. But Eric still felt restless. The same question kept haunting him, “What will I give my life to?”
Earlier this year while in Frankfurt, Cris challenged Eric to explore his calling, potentially leave his entire life in Oklahoma City, and join the Church in Action staff.
Eric remembers, “Cris took me into his office and said he wouldn’t let me go until he was done with me.”
After months of prayer back home, Eric chose to give it all up. In just six weeks, he sold everything he had with the exception of two suitcases and some golf clubs. He said goodbye to his career, his car, and his friends for a new calling. But it was more than the German people or the thrill of adventure that brought him to Frankfurt. It was the unbelievable things God was doing through Church in Action. And he arrived at a pivotal moment.
WHEN THE WORLD COMES TO YOU
In recent months, Church in Action has found itself at the center of the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II. As civil war engulfs Syria, millions of refugees have fled their homes in overwhelming desperation.
Their destination? Germany.
With over 800,000 refugees expected in the country by the close of 2015, the city of Frankfurt has become the Ellis Island of Europe where immigrants arrive to be processed and resettled. A retired U.S. military base serves as temporary shelter for those who have left everything behind. Roughly 14,000 refugees inhabit the facility, waiting for papers and a permanent residential assignment.
As the crisis grows larger in their backyard, Cris, Eric, and Church in Action are answering the call to serve, and they’re inviting the world to join them. In 2016, they are looking for 300 people from across the globe to minister with them on a series of short-term mission trips to the city.
In March, the church plans to expand into a new Frankfurt-area community. e3 Partners is hosting an expedition to help them get started. On these expeditions, you’ll have the opportunity to serve German nationals and Syrian refugees alike. You’ll learn how to reach Muslim people and interact within German culture, all while hosting picnics and events within the city. Other expeditions will depart throughout the year, continuing the refugee ministries launched by the earlier team in March.
The world is descending on Frankfurt, leading to an unprecedented opportunity for the Church to rise up and spread the Gospel. This is your chance to act and address one of the greatest crises of our time.