Rediscovering the Gospel in Romania
“I look at their faces and I see quite a positive expression; it’s quite a good surprise.”
That’s how Langham Scholar Corneliu Constantineanu describes the reaction he often gets when he has the opportunity to share the Gospel with members of the Romanian Parliament during an Ecumenical Prayer Group, a weekly meeting he has a standing invitation to. And while Romania is thought of as a primarily Christian country, Corneliu notes that it’s primarily a nominal faith.
“People are born into the Orthodox church, baptized when they were children, but for many, faith has no meaning, bearing on everyday life,” he says. “When they hear this expression of the Gospel as public truth, they are quite excited . . . It’s like they rediscover the Gospel again.”
It’s not by chance that a former engineering student becomes a theological leader in his country. It was during the fall of communism, while he was wrapping up his engineering studies at university, that Corneliu felt his first call into discovering the Gospel.
His studies led him from Romania to Croatia in pursuit of a Master’s degree. It was while he was teaching and studying in Croatia that another Langham Scholar encouraged him to apply for a Langham scholarship to pursue his Ph.D. While studying at the Oxford Center for Mission at the University of Leeds, he began to explore how God’s Word intersects with culture, with politics, with all of life.
And today, he is encouraging members at the highest levels of government to explore this same thing.
“We approach every week a different subject of interest for the nation of Romania, but from a Christian perspective,” he shares. “How do we see the welfare of the city? How do we respond to violence? How can the church and state work in common mission for peace or reconciliation?”
A Challenge and an Opportunity
It’s this same holistic approach to the Gospel that Corneliu encourages as a New Testament professor at the Pentecostal Theological Institute in Bucharest—where he is training future pastors and leaders for the church in Romania.
And in Romania, like much of Eastern Europe where the church was pushed to the margins during communism, raising up a new generation of biblical leaders is critical.
“I notice that not only in Romania, but in this part of the world, one of the greatest challenges has to do with the public witness of the church,” he says. “. . . After the collapse of communism, the church was not ready. In my opinion, we still have a long way to go in being an authentic voice for in the public square.”
One of his students, Laurence, says he’s learning from Corneliu how the church is called to be involved in every sphere of society. (Read more about Laurence and his ministry here!) To Corneliu—it’s a challenge and yet a great opportunity to help people, pastors and leaders included, rediscover the Gospel.
“You give them a solid biblical theological foundation as to why we need to seek the welfare of the city, why we need to engage responsibly and critically with the world, which is God’s world,” he says. “. . . The Gospel contains the power in itself for a new life, a changed life . . . Teaching students Scripture is to teach them about the new life possible in Christ. That’s why I’m so excited about this and it’s why I am in the service of the Gospel.”
I consider myself to be a product of Langham
Corneliu says his ministry has been greatly influenced by John Stott’s own heart for double listening—listening to the Word and the world.
“I’ve been so much helped and influenced by Langham’s vision and of course by John Stott, who I’ve had the privilege of knowing . . . The emphasis Langham puts on the importance of Scripture, on the importance of authentic witness, that has personally influenced me. It’s why I see myself as, in a sense, a product of Langham. And I’m proud of that and blessed by that.”
God’s Word influencing the heart of the church, so the church and influence the world. It’s why Langham exists, and it’s why for nearly 45 years, we have been supporting the theological training of more than 300 scholars, like Corneliu, who will multiply themselves into the lives of future leaders.