Living as People of Hope: Faith, Hope & Vision for 21st Century Europe – Book Review

Living as People of Hope: Faith, Hope & Vision for 21st Century Europe
Author:  Jeff Fountain
Publisher:  Initialmedia, 2005
ISBN:  9 07431 950 5

Book Review by  Richard Tiplady, British Director, European Christian Mission (originally appeared on the Global Connections website, December 2005).

All too often, writing about the mission needs of Europe can invoke one of two responses.  Sometimes the answer is that Europe is a Christian continent, so why do we need to send missionaries there?  Frankly, how anyone can still persist in this belief is staggering, but it comes nonetheless, though not, I suspect, from members of Global Connections, who are switched on enough to have some basic awareness of global mission realities, including those in Europe.

The opposite reaction is that Europe is just too hard, and that its people are not interested in the gospel.  Certainly, post-materialistic secular post-modern new-age post-Christian neo-pagan Europe (phew!) presents a tough challenge to those who want to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to its people.  But Jeff Fountain, Europe Director of YWAM, presents good reasons for having hope in the future of the gospel in Europe in his new book, Living As People of Hope.

The book is split into two sections. The first section, with 6 short stories, focuses on Fountain’s encounter with a neo-pagan in Budapest, and how this clearly affected his outlook on Europe and the missionary challenge it presents.  The second section, of ten imperatives or commands, gives an outline of Fountain’s ideas about how Europe will be reconfronted with the gospel.  To be honest, I think Fountain overstates a few of the lessons he learned from his neo-pagan, and I’m not sure how that material relates to the ten imperatives, but it’s a good story anyway.

The core of Living As People of Hope is found in the ten imperatives, and it is these that make this book the best current introduction for the general Christian reader to the subject of mission in Europe in the twenty-first century (another reason why this book needs a UK publisher). These break down into five different categories:

1. Two (Ask!… what is God’s will for Europe and Reject!… the enemy’s propaganda) confront the mindset that Europe is too tough for God.

2. Two (Recognise!… what God has done in the past and Admit!… honestly the sins of the church) remind us that it is important to have an accurate sense of history when thinking about the gospel and the church in Europe.

3. Two (Face Up!… to the truth about the present, and Look!… at what God is up to) challenge us to admit both the difficulties but also the encouragements that we find as we look at Europe today.

4. One (Recover!… the gospel of the Kingdom) – probably the best chapter in the book – does exactly what it says on the tin.

5. And three (Embrace!… our Responsibility And Role, Transplant!… the church into the 21st Century and Synergise!… locally, nationally, regionally) outline Fountain’s views about the main elements of a missionary strategy for Europe (if I use as much missiological jargon as possible, this includes integral/holistic mission, social transformation, marketplace theology, emerging church, and partnerships).

There are loads of books coming onto the market addressing the topic of the missionary challenge of the West.  Most of them are very good, but written at a fairly high level.  Fountain’s book is one of the few I would recommend for the general reader.  That’s why it’s a shame that it hasn’t found a UK publisher.

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