Last Sunday was a big one both for my family, and Hope Church - the local church we are part of in St Petersburg, having moved here three and a half years ago to form the original team that planted the church.
It was big in lots of ways - we were sharing how we were moving sooner than thought to Tallinn. The church was going to be planting it's first church. The church would be stepping into it's calling (more on this in a later post I think). Our family would be making another big move, the second in less than 4 years. It was a big Sunday, with another one or two to come before we leave (my last preach, 19th Feb, our last Sunday, 26th Feb)....
And while so far on this journey through these entries entitled 'Towards Tallinn' I've talked about the journey side of things, and what has got us this far, in this entry I want to share partly what I said to the church on Sunday, and probably the biggest challenge we've faced in our journey this far.
Some time ago, but after we had heard God calling us to Tallinn, we came across two interesting statistics about Estonia.
There were two recent surveys done, the first across Europe and the second much wider, looking at peoples views to God and religion. The first was done within the 25 EU nations (as was at the time), of which Estonia is one of them. They asked the people of these nations if they 'believed in God'. In Estonia, just 16% of the people answered 'yes'. This was the lowest score, the lowest percentage in all 25 EU nations - looking at this list, we saw Estonia at the very bottom!
Now in the UK, I know there would have been more people who would have said yes (I think many out of the feeling that they should say yes), and of course that doesn't mean they actually believe in the same God that we see in the Bible. But they still say yes to the general idea of there being something bigger than the world they live in. To have 84% of Estonians happy and comfortable to not say yes to this question when asked is a different challenge altogether!
The second survey was done in 143 nations around the world. It asked the question 'does religion play an important part in your everyday life'. And to this Estonians said 'yes' only 14% of the time. And on that list of 143 nations that answered this question, there again was Estonia at the very bottom of the list in 143rd place!
In the flesh you hear these things (especially if you've already announced that God has called you to there and you are moving!!) and you think - oh boy! But actually there is something about these numbers that gets me excited - as I said in a previous entry - only God can change this nation now! And that IS exciting!
Of course the church will be the hands and feet, working out what God wants to do in Tallinn and the nation. But it will be God himself who will have to change the very hearts of the vast majority that up to now have no belief in Him, nor do they see any relevance in religion, in faith, in their daily life.
So are you up for a challenge? Are you the kind of person, called to the nations, that reads these statistics and say's "Yeah, I'm up for some of that!" You see we do need a great team of faithful men and women around us - so that together, we can move Tallinn, and therefore Estonia, up those tables!
And I'll finish with a word a friend of ours had over us last summer. I was at the Manchester regional leaders meeting and Paul Basson, who leads South Manchester Family Church, had a word over me - it went something like this.
"I see Tallinn like a Euro Vision song contest - at first people do not know about the place, but there is something catchy about the song and soon people start to hear it and join - and Tallinn moves up the leader board until it is number 1"
I don't want to over play this word, but after hearing these stats it started to make even more sense than it had done before, encouraging as it had been at the time.
Estonia needs to know about the God who saves - Estonia needs hundreds of grace filled, spirit led churches and this will mean many men and women coming to serve to help start this up. Tallinn is an exciting place - do you want to be part of a team that will change a nation, a song that will come out from His church that will ring out across Europe as a number 1?
Links to articles with the stats;
Demographics of Estonia - Religion section - here
Top 11 Less Religious Countries (scroll down a little) - here
Towards Tallinn Posts;