“The church needs to change….maybe in the future it could be in a cafe like this, just a few people sitting around drinking coffee, praying, and reading the Bible. People can be so narrow-minded.”
No, I wasn’t in America listening to young people vent about the church. I was sipping coffee in Croatia with three Bosnian friends, students at a seminary. As they went back and forth, sharing their visions and dreams, hopes and frustrations, I had the sense to remain quiet as a mouse, soaking in the moment. Was I listening to future history being written? A thrill passed through me as I realized that these young men would likely be some of the second generation leaders of a still-young Bosnian Evangelical church—a church forged largely through the horrors of war and its aftermath.
“What is a pastor, anyway? How does someone decide if you are a pastor or not? What does the church in Bosnia need?”
All of a sudden, one of my friends stopped talking and looked at me, humor hovering around the corners of his mouth. “We better be careful about what we say….this might end up in a book someday.” I laughed and urged them to keep talking. “How can you see it changing? How would you contribute?” I asked.
Another friend looked at me and smiled. “I don’t know,” he said. The other said, “I guess it is up to God.”
I thought about some of the first generation Bosnian Christians I had interviewed. Their stories—often fraught with pain and tragedy—told of radical conversion during the war, sometimes being thrown into leadership when they were barely taking their first steps as Christians. “Be careful, ” I said, treading gingerly on words I was not sure I was entitled to speak. “Remember they have laid the foundation for you, and it sounds like it has been a very difficult task.”
He smiled, “We know. We respect them and what they have done. Maybe it was so hard they have just dug the holes for the foundation.”
Two hours passed quickly and soon we were piling on our jackets and tromping out the door. “I think you would fit better in Bosnia,” one said to me. “You have a similar spirit to ours.”
True? I don’t know…but I certainly felt honored at the compliment and invigorated by the conversation—and I don’t think that it was just a caffeine buzz!