Five years ago, First Greek Evangelical Church of Athens cast a vision for starting new churches in Athens. Two new churches have begun and two more are in development. I helped to start Exarcheia Church in downtown Athens, one of the first new church projects.
In Athens, starting new churches is more challenging than you might expect. St. Paul himself started a church here. Who are we to even try? Athens cherishes antiquity and tradition, and also preserves the same agnostic mindset that Paul encountered when preaching on the steps of the synagogue. Even within the faith community, starting a new expression of the historic Christian faith is often met with skepticism and doubt.
Even within the faith community, starting a new expression of the historic Christian faith is often met with skepticism and doubt.
For this reason, and many others, First Greek Evangelical recently hosted an all-day symposium about church planting. We invited many of the city’s denominational leaders, pastors and elders who remain unconvinced that church planting is a worthy endeavor. Our partners at City to City (CTC) are often culturally sensitive communicators and “bridge-builders,” so we asked Al Barth and Walter Wood (CTC’s Church Planting Catalyst for Southern Europe) to be guest speakers and help present church planting as a new spiritual reality for Athens. We are thankful the response was so positive. About 50 men and women attended, engaged with the concepts and were eager to learn more about what church planting can accomplish in their city. One church elder had previously been very against it, but at this meeting he enjoyed himself thoroughly, asked questions and even helped out with the translation. Just days before he had voiced serious reservations about the importance of new churches. At the end of the event, a young leader from another denomination told me that the experience was invaluable and that they need church planting much more than they thought.
We hope and pray that this will inspire a new attitude toward new churches throughout Greece.