Urban Ministry in Greece Reaches Lost, Crosses Borders
By Carl Stagner
Pastor Vassilios Tsirmpas is driven to reach the lost. This lawyer-turned-pastor of the Church of God congregation in Athens, Greece, has determined to engage the culture in community activities that paint Christianity in a new light. While the message remains the same, the gospel is communicated in a way that effectively connects with a world unfamiliar with church. By fostering relationships with the poorest of the poor, building bridges across generational and cultural divides, and taking action to make the community a better place, Vassilios is exemplifying Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation to God and humankind.
Speaking the Culture’s Language
Sometimes you have to take risks. Often you have to go to where the people are if you want to lead them to Christ. Vassilios did both when planning a Sounds of the City concert. “This neighborhood is diverse and has a lot of crime, but it also has a lot of artists. Last Easter, I went to the square of this neighborhood and found a group of young people playing instruments and singing about drugs. But at the end of the song, they sang: ‘And God please send your angels to put us to sleep.’”
Immediately, Vassilios saw an opportunity to connect. “I said, ‘Okay, I’m the pastor of a local church, and we’re putting together a program and calling it Sounds of the City. Would you like to come? I’d like to hear more of this. I’d like to hear your songs, but we’re going to have other songs, as well.’”
For these amateur musicians, it was a complete surprise that someone dressed as a well-to-do lawyer would want to celebrate their beloved art form. “At first the guys couldn’t believe that somebody like me would even invite them inside a church,” Vassilios recounts. “Later, I walked to a nearby cafeteria and a guy from the Middle East was playing another kind of music. I told him that his music was very good and also invited him to Sounds of the City. He asked if he could bring his wife and kids, and I replied that our church is here for them.” Sounds of the City was turned into a venue for sharing the message of Christ.
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