Church Recognition

“Is that a cult?” It is a common question that we get here in Austria. The evangelical church is not a historically established entity and so many people don’t trust it. It is part of the reason that we meet in Starbucks for our Bible study because many Austrians are leery about going to a church service at a Freikirche or “Free Church,” so named because the church is not supported by tax revenue from the state. Not only are the Free Churches not accepted by society as a “real church” they are actually not even recognized as a real religion by the Austrian government. That means that most Free Churches are not technically churches, but religious organizations  That might not sound so bad but consider for example that Free Church weddings are not recognized unions, or Pastors are not considered clergy-they really can’t even take the title of pastor. Recognition might even open up new avenues for missionaries that are working with registered churches here. Currently the only visa we can get is one that does not allow us to “enter the job market” here which puts limits on the amount of time that we can spend here.
It seems like it would be easy for the evangelical church to become recognized, after all you only need 0.02%  of the population to be adherents of your religion to apply. Buddhist  Muslim  even the Mormons are all recognized, why not the Free Church. Sadly there is no one evangelical denomination that has the required 17,000 members to apply for official recognition. That is a sad commentary on the state of belief here in Austria.  However, there is currently an effort for five denominations to come together so that the Free Church can finally be recognized here. For any of you who are interested in reading further about the developments on this here is an article on church recognition by the European Baptist Federation. Please be in prayer that this process opens up avenues for the Gospel to go out here in Austria.

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