Next Wave International Next Wave International™ is a faith-based communications group which is
training organizations to engage the future & move society forward
in a positive direction. Founder / Director: Mal Fletcher

Sight Magazine Interview: Mal Fletcher

David Adams, Sight Magazine
Added 01 December 2003
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He was the first national director of Youth Alive and now lives in Copenhagen where he heads up a mission to Europe, described by Time magazine as "one of the darkest spiritual places on earth". DAVID ADAMS speaks with Mal Fletcher...

What is Next Wave International?

"Next Wave International is a mission to the contemporary cultures of the Europe and the churches that want to reach them. Our particular focus is Western Europe but it's not exclusive to that area."

People in Australia may remember you from your days as the first national director of Youth Alive Australia. From that, how did you come to be called to Europe?

"Back when we were pioneering Youth Alive through the Eighties, I made visits to Europe about once a year, speaking at conferences and so on, and I think without me knowing it at the time, God was building a passion in my heart for this part of the world. I would often come back and tell our Youth Alive team in Australia about the need in Europe and a result of that some of my friends, I think, identified a call of God before I did. So in 1994, my wife Davina and I took our three children to Europe for four months...just testing the waters and seeing what God was saying to us. Then in 1995 we came to Europe permanently."

In some of your promotional literature, you've quoted Time magazine as saying "Western Europe is the darkest spiritual place on earth". Why do you think that's the case?

"Well I think to substantiate that statement, people should understand that in the EU (European Union) as it will be next year there will be 450 million people and, of course that represents mainly Westernised Europe. At the same time (we're told) that where Africa sees 15,000 saved every day and South America something like 25,000, every week something like 7,000 people leave the established church throughout Europe. There are 250,000 towns, cities and villages in Europe that have no church at all and there are many other statistics that back up the statement that Time Magazine made."

"As to why it is, I think it goes back historically to the birth of the so-called Enlightenment here in Europe where post-Charles Darwin humanist thinkers began to abandon their belief in God and as a result Europe not only lost it's religious faith it also lost it's true culture because culture is based on cult - the religious practice of a group of people. As a result, today Europe is in many ways struggling to find its identity. So much so that the European Union's draft constitution doesn't even mention God."

How are you and other churches redressing this situation?

"We're involved with a lot of churches obviously as a mission to Europe and we have very good favour with some of the key apostolic voices across Europe in major capital cities. What we are doing is trying to equip the church to be not only contemporary and in touch with the times but to be truly apostolic and prophetic ahead of the times. That involves media - things like television and the internet - it involves the whole way we do church and positioning the church so it doesn't just have influence on its own people but it's actually changing the culture of cities."

Obviously you see television as a fairly important medium in getting the message out?

"(P)eople say 'why do you want to be on TV and why do you spend so much time and money making such high quality programs and then pushing to have them on secular TV?' The answer to that is most people do not go to church but almost everybody has a television. I think the church sometimes is only looking at geographical spheres of influence instead of seeing the areas of influence that people value - like the media, like the arts, like politics. So we are not only passionate about local church, we are also passionate about doing what Paul did in Acts 16 and 17 when he first came to Europe and that was touching the areas of business, the media and so on - the major spheres of influence."

You also hold what are known as "MasterClasses" twice a year. What are they?

"MasterClass is an intense experience in leadership and communication. It's not a seminar as such, it's not a conference. It's much more intense than a conference and much more inspirational than a seminar. It's a bit hard to put it into one of the existing boxes but we train hundreds of pastors now through those MasterClasses in cities across Europe to be more contemporary in the way they present the gospel without straying off message."

Are there in particular areas of the Europe that are particularly open or where you're seeing great growth in churches?

"In the UK there is a lot happening in the church but there's still not as much growth as we would like to see...In the northern countries of Europe there's a lot of church planting starting to happen and what's really exciting there is to watch Gen X - those people in their mid 20s to late 30s - that are starting to plant churches and to lead networks of leaders. In the east of Europe there are some very big churches and churches are growing very quickly right now in places that really nobody in the west has heard much about; in places like Kiev and Riga, Latvia, and even over as far as Russia."

Is there anything Australia can learn from the experience of the church in Europe?

"In countries like Australia, we need to be very careful that we don't assume we have more influence than we do. That in some ways is what happened in western Europe. At one point in the history of Europe, the church made an unconscious decision to be more reactive than proactive and it felt overwhelmed by the changes occurring around it. If we're not careful when that happens, we start to retreat into our shell and abandon our responsibility in areas like education, like the arts, like just being involved in the community..."

"The other thing I would say is that Australia mustn't lose it's pioneer spirit; it mustn't ever take for granted the fact that we have this spirit of adventure that says 'Come on, let's have a go, let's do it...I think God has placed that in our culture because He loves to do things when people say they can't be done."

You were in Australia recently. Was there a specific message you had for this country?

"God really laid a word on my heart about the strongholds we need to deal with if we're to increase the influence of the church in Australia and two of them in particular. One was political correctness - there's a form of political correctness that can get into the church where we are just Paul says comparing ourselves with ourselves and other churches that agree with us and instead of seeking God's unique plan for our particular church, we are just doing what's the latest flavour or the latest conference. Australia needs a variety of expressions of local church."

"The other one was village thinking which I coined to describe the idea that we are sometimes only geographically based, as I said before, rather than being also focused on sphere's that touch people's values and life. Once upon a time, the marketplace was part of the town, it served the town but now the town is subservient to the marketplace. People go online on the Internet buying products, they go online to find friendships. The local church has got to become more of a marketplace church too."

Any particular prayer needs in Europe that you would like to highlight?

"I think we could pray for the political development of Europe because that expresses a statement of the future, of how we see the future of Europe...I think we also need to pray for churches in Europe: that they will have the faith, the courage, the boldness and the resources to go out beyond denominational lines and touch whole nations."

"Twice a year (we bring together) major apostolic leaders from across Europe: it's not denominational - the people are there because we invited them there and they're all leading major networks of leaders in their own right. What's really exciting about that is...the sense of need...but also the enthusiasm about the fact that it's a great opportunity. Where there's great need, there's great opportunity and so I'd say to the churches in Australia, please pray for those major leaders who are planting churches across Europe that God will continue to give them faith."

© Sight Magazine 2003

This article originally appeared in Sight Magazine's Online Edition, www.sightmagazine.com.au on November 24, 2003.

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Re: 'The Cashless Society' TV show... with rising crime rates & the threat of terrorism many people would welcome RFID technology, the cashless society & one world government to solve our problems. Should we be more aware of what they might be getting themselves into?
david, United Kingdom

I want to commend you for the good work you are doing. I'm a 28 year old minister [in Ghana] whom God has called to ... bring together God's people to fight against issues that are killing the youth of today. [My ministry] would like to affiliate itself with your ministry.
prophet alfred , Ghana

Thanks for putting your free podcasts on your website. Spread the word! Tonight I listened to 'Living with Excellence' - a fantastic message, professionally delivered with humour, clarity and compassion. Thank you Mal!
Christer, United Kingdom

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