It was 1994, and I was walking through the stone entryway into the carefully manicured grounds of the Chateâu de St. Albain. The afternoon sun glistened off stones that had been carefully fitted together long before my home city of Philadelphia was even a village. As history invaded my senses, I also captured a powerful vision of the present. Men and women from our global family of churches were gathering for a series of events that would forever impact our movement.
I’m referring to the birth of Charis International, a fraternity of leaders that unites the many churches that Encompass has helped launch in more than twenty countries.
It was fitting that our first Charis International Leadership Encounter took place at the Chateâu. In ways similar to the role it played in our Europe ministries, the Chateâu symbolizes much of the best about our global movement. It is a place of reflection, spiritual renewal, warm fellowship and learning. But it is also a relational bridge through which we reach out to those who don’t yet know Jesus Christ.
A relational bridge is neutral space where believers and non-believers can build relationships and explore spiritual themes in a non-threatening environment. The Chateâu served a key role as the relational bridge through which our early efforts in France bore fruit. But the concept is much bigger than a place, and today our global team is actively creating similar spaces in many and diverse cultural soils. Relational bridges are a key element in our quest to disciple the nations, and are usually the first step toward launching evangelistic Bible studies.
Over the past twenty years, I’ve had many opportunities to return to the Chateâu. History is still being made there through prayer retreats, strategy sessions, training events and more. After more than fifty years of ministry, the grounds seem to ooze history and meaning and hope. But of all the lessons learned through our brief ownership of the Chateâu de St. Albain, we are most grateful for what it has shown us about how to create authentic relationships and pursue meaningful discussions with a world that still needs Christ.
Originally published in April 2014
by Dave Guiles