"The Christian belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?’"
—Bonhoeffer quoting Luther in Life Together, p. 17-18.
Here’s a video of Miriam and me introducing the Berlin Initiative. The video was produced by one of our church partners, Faith Church in Milford, OH.
"The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples—students, apprentices, practitioners—of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence. Will they break out of the churches to be his Church—to be, without human force or violence, his mighty force for good on earth, drawing the churches after them toward the eternal purposes of God? And, on its own scale, there is no greater issue facing the individual human being, Christian or not."
—Dallas Willard, The Divine Omission, p. xv.
This video is from one of the ReachGlobal Berlin Team’s strategic partners, Cafe Neustart, and highlights the work being done to help women caught in trap of prostitution.
"If we have resisted the missionary dimension of the church’s life, or dismissed it as if it were dispensable, or patronized it reluctantly with a few perfunctory prayers and grudging coins, or become preoccupied with our own narrow-minded, parochial concerns, we need to repent, that is, change our mind and attitude. Do we profess to believe in God? He’s a missionary God. Do we say we are committed to Christ? He’s a missionary Christ. Do we claim to be filled with the Spirit? He’s a missionary Spirit. Do we delight in belonging to the church? It’s a missionary society. Do we hope to go heaven when we die? It’s a heaven filled with the fruits of the missionary enterprise. It is not possible to avoid these things."
Berlin is evolving into one of the most significant cities on Continental Europe. The Berlin metro area has slightly over 4-million people (6th largest metro area in Europe). The percentage of Christ-followers is around 1.5%, yet the non-religious (secular affiliation) is around 60%. This presents a large challenge to reach people characterized by a ‘religion of unbelief’ and an antagonistic view of God.
The diverse context of Berlin makes it a unique place of learning related to urban ministry and gospel transformation. Berlin has a mix of post-Christian West Europe ideology, post-Communist East Europe ideology, large immigrant influence (around 1-in-4 people are not ethnically German), and a strong secular academic/research/political/media/business influence. Diversity!
ReachGlobal is committed to developing the initiative in Berlin in order to more deeply understand ministry in a large urban, global city. Observing our efforts in Berlin looks much more like visiting a research lab than a product showroom, thus we often refer to Berlin as a learning laboratory.
The ReachGlobal Berlin Initiative is not just a team strategy to target a global city…it is foremost a way of thinking in how to engage the city toward the goal of gospel transformation.
To think urban means to understand…
The city is a living system of organized, highly complex, and highly interrelated components that work together.
We must engage the city with churches and Christian initiatives that are highly missional in approach and aimed at resolving real social and urban issues with the power of the gospel.
We must work together as One Body of Christ to engage the city. No one organization or church can fully affect gospel transformation on its own.
We must understand that the urban context is constantly evolving and changing. To work effectively within this context, we too much readily adapt and change.
The vision of the Berlin Team: Our hope is to see the city of Berlin transformed by the power of the gospel such that it has a regional and global impact for Christ (as seen in Acts 19). The building blocks of the Berlin Initiative are four interrelated things:
The transformation of individual lives
Intentionally connecting and partnering together
Multiplying gospel initiatives throughout the city
Mobilizing all the resources God provides with a Kingdom-mindset
The long-term goal of the Berlin Team in 10 years is to engage in 100 gospel transformational initiatives in Berlin through mobilizing resources from 150 local and global partners. A key to the Berlin Initiative is building multiple ReachGlobal teams interrelated to one another, along with developing 100 ‘landing strips’ for workers within the city.
"Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention a special sending out of seventy (-two) disciples by Jesus (Luke 10:1). The number of disciples is uncertain; the manuscript evidence is divided between reading ‘seventy’ and ‘seventy-two.’ The MT (Masoretic Text) numbers seventy nations, but the LXX (Septuagint) has seventy-two nations (Luke is following LXX?). The significance of the number has been traced to the number of the Sanhedrin or the number of elders in Israel (Exodus 24:1), but the most likely explanation is that Jesus is here reflecting on Genesis 10 with its listing of the seventy known nations of the then known world. Taken in this way, the number signifies that Jesus is sending his representatives into all the known nations of their day. The world he created he must also redeem."
—Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, p.348.
You may have noticed that our newsletters and our Berlin page feature a bear on two legs with his tongue sticking out. If you’re wondering why, it’s because the bear is on the official coat of arms and flag of Berlin.
Here’s the city’s flag.
This became the flag of the whole city after German reunification in 1990.
And here’s the coat of arms.
Scholars aren’t exactly sure how the bear emblem came about though. Numerous theories abound but none have been proven. Some think the bear was chosen in homage to Albrecht the Bear, founder of the Margraviate of Brandenburg in 1157.
Because the origin of the name Berlin is itself uncertain, another possibility is that the emblem of the bear is a pun on the city’s name (Bär meaning Bear). Little bear, or Bärlein, bears (pun intended!) a close resemblance to Berlin, thus the little bear emblem. I’m not sure if this theory holds much water with linguists.
A third possibility is that Berlin’s name and the the bear emblem are unrelated developments. Eva Spirova has written a great article entitled The Bear-the symbol of Berlin. She writes,
Berlin was settled by Slavs so the prefix “Ber” may have nothing to do with German. There is however an old-Slavic word “berli” that describes a rigid net submerged in the water to catch swarms of fish. It could be that the first settlers built plenty of berlis in the [River] Spree, and that they themselves became known to others as the “Berline,” thus spawning the name Berlin.
Whatever the history, we like the bear and will continue using him as our official mascot.
"The movement among evangelicals to revitalize urban areas with the Gospel will be successful to the extent that evangelicals themselves are enchanted by the God of that gospel and the world he has given us to both steward and enjoy."
—Jake Meador, from a blog post entitled Why Urban Christians Need Wendell Berry.