Interview With John Angelina
John Angelina is the senior pastor of Gospel Life Centre in Munich, Germany. His church has been seeing major new growth over the past two years. In this interview with Mal Fletcher, he shares some of his perspective on growing a local church in a European city.
MF: In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge that faces local churches in Europe today?
JA: This question may have different answers depending on where in Europe the church is located. My opinion is based on my own challenge within a predominately catholic community, where anything that is not in the state church is considered to be a 'cult'. Our greatest challenge is overcoming people's fear that we might be a cult - demonstrating the relevance of true Christianity and winning the hearts of the people so that God's spirit can transform lives.
MF: What can we as Christian leaders do meet the challenges?
JA: The greatest step any leader can take, no matter what his or her challenge, is to ask God for help so that they see what He is doing through the eyes of the unbelieving and the unchurched.
MF: What can churches do to increase their visibility in the community?
JA: First of all, we must honestly accept how people see who we are and what we do - through their unregenerate eyes. Then we must ask God for help in creatively confronting those assumptions with truth, in ways that call on God's gifts within our own lives and within our churches.
MF: You and your wife Mirjana are both heavily involved in the performing arts - you in music and Mirjana in theatre. Why do you invest so much of your time in this area?
JA: We both realize that one of the reasons God brought a musician and an actress together to pioneer a church where we live was to break through the false assumptions people have about the gospel. It's amazing how many walls of pre-conceived ideas you can break through in a theatre evening or a concert. The result has been that people are open to come to a Sunday service after experiencing us as people; people who are ministering with the gift God has given us outside the normal church service setting. This has been one of the major reasons why we have seen our congregation more then triple in less than 2 years.
MF: Some leaders might see a conflict between ministry to the church and involvement in this kind of outreach. How do you see that? And how do you balance your time between the two?
JA: This aspect of ministry has evolved over the last 12 years and in that development we have learned not to try to do both things at once. For example, when we have a church service we do not try to have a theatre experience or a concert atmosphere. We celebrate church, knowing that we will have many guests as a result of our theatre nights. We've learned to qualify and explain what we do in church, without limiting anything the Holy Spirit wants to do, so that no one feels left out.
MF: For you and Mirjana, being as involved as you both are in different things, what has been the secret for building a solid marriage and family?
JA: Having the right priorities - which means knowing what is time for what. We try to be aware of when it's time be together as a family, or when we especially need to support one another in the family. Otherwise, the demands of the ministry can leave us little time for one another.
MF: If you were pioneering a church today, what things would you do differently?
JA: Looking back, I think I'd have tried to understand the culture before beginning to bring an American Christian Culture to a cosmopolitan European city.
MF: What are two keys you've learned about raising finance to support a vision?
JA: Honesty and transparency.
MF: What is the biggest challenge you face in church life right now?
JA: Keeping up with the growth, so that we're not building a crowd but true disciples of Jesus.
MF: What is the most helpful book you have read in the past 6 months - and why?
JA: '3 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Back', by Charles Swindoll. His insight and honesty about daily Christian living has helped me to rethink my own daily life and then I've been able to pass this on to my congregation.
MF: John, thanks so much for your time.