A “radical” youth-oriented church movement in Europe is growing by using high tech entertainment-oriented services, reports Charisma magazine (January).
Membership at Zurich’s International Christian Fellowship (ICF) has grown sharply in the past four years, as it has branched out to seven other congregations in other parts of Switzerland, and neighboring Germany. The church’s services — which are called “events” — avoid outwardly charismatic behavior such as worshipping with raised hands, speaking in tongues and altar calls, and the style is targeted strictly to the unchurched, according to senior pastor Leo Bigger, a former printer who started ICF with 100 people.
Newcomers find high-energy presentations featuring live music, video clips, drama, smoke and light, and dancing. Six separate events at the church — which meets in a nightclub near the city’s business center — cater specifically to different age groups.
The pastor visited Las Vegas to learn more about “the latest in showbiz,” and believes that church services should not have “quality way below the world’s standards.” Bigger calls his churches a “a tougher version of Willow Creek [the suburban Chicago church pioneering the “seeker sensitive” approach] . . . You do not reach the Swiss by softness.” New converts are invited to join “workshops” — home-fellowship groups — for prayer, Bible study, and worship, and these “cells” form the actual church.
The magazine reports that young people in Ukraine also favor progressive over more traditional church styles. Over the last 18 months attendance at a series of Vybkuh-“explosion”-concerts in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev has grown from 100 to 2,000. The events are put on by the Hillsong Church started by missionaries from the network of Hillsong churches in Australia. The lively outreach is setting a new pattern in a country where the churches are historically conservative, sometimes barring young visitors with jeans, make-up and earrings.
(Charisma, 600 Rinehart Rd., Lake Mary, FL 32746)