Evangelism “im Deutschen Stil”

In my conversations with American Christians as well as Brazilians, it is not uncommon for me to hear the question: “So, how is ‘the church’ in Germany?” My family and I served as missionaries in Bavaria for 11 years, and I still maintain a close connection to friends and some churches there. Their question, then, sparks a fire in my heart every time, and I begin by first defining ‘the church’ in Germany.

Those who pose the question have often heard of many churches closing in Europe and seem to concentrate on the demise of institutions that, in most cases, have ceased to uphold the Bible as inspired and authoritative. As we look at Germany’s ‘church’, however, I think it is more appropriate to look deeper under the surface, particularly to those of the free church movement, whether in a ‘Bund’ or independent, or even to house churches. Many of these churches are small and struggle in the face of the ever-growing skepticism towards the Christian faith. But my hat goes off to the faithful who plow the ground and dig up the rocks (an allusion to the parable of the sower which a pastor friend made once about the work in Germany), and witness their faith in Christ.

During the first week of October 2018, I had the honor of working together with one of these churches, the Baptist Church of Münsingen in the southern State of Baden-Württemberg pastored by my friend Jürgen Notz. In 2016 the church held a first series of four evangelistic meetings with Dr. Werner Gitt in a public meeting hall which they had rented for that occasion. Dr. Werner Gitt is a German scientist/preacher (now 81 years old and still full of energy) who came to faith in Christ in 1972. He has authored many books, most of which deal with the clash of ideas between the atheistic evolutionary paradigm and the Christian faith. His books have been translated into several languages and are (in typical German fashion) very detail-oriented, but also powerful testimonies of the grace of God that transformed Werner Gitt’s own life. The theme of the 2016 meetings was ‘A scientist speaks about the Bible’. And some people literally walked out mad because he was not there to speak against the Bible . . .? Go figure! But to the church’s surprise, the meetings had over 500 people in attendance almost every night. About 20 to 30 people came to faith in Christ at the time, mostly from areas other than Münsingen. But the spiritual battle continued on.

I had the privilege to support the meetings this year by helping to organize, practice, and lead the musical portions of the meetings. Honestly, I am downplaying my excitement when I say that I had a grand time taking part in it. I arrived the weekend before the meetings to practice and preach at the church on my beloved theme of music and missions. Between weekends I was able to visit dozens of friends around Nürnberg and the Oberpfalz (a region in Bavaria), tell about Ethnodoxology work some seven times, and even make a new connection with a German mission in Brazil for potential workshops in Ethnoarts.

Returning to Münsingen, the church was gearing up to prepare the hall, continue musical preparation, and continue praying for God’s blessings. Once again, we were astounded by the amount of people who attended – an average of 400 to 450 people each night. Several churches from the region had come hear Dr. Gitt and had brought people who were open to hear about salvation through Christ. The Spirit of God moved in many hearts again, and 16 people came to know the Lord after the meetings. A further blessing came in the form of an article published the next day by the local newspaper in which not only the outline of the Dr. Gitt’s first message describing the lack of scientific foundation for the Big Bang concept, but also giving a clear statement of the gospel.

After the Sunday morning meeting I had a chance to talk a little with Werner Gitt about his work. His main area is Information Science (Informatik). By the time he was converted, he had already attained a distinguished academic position. He told me that when he believed in Christ: `ich war verärgert’ (I was aggravated). His new-found faith challenged all his previously-held beliefs in evolution, which have unfortunately become standard dogma for scientists. In the 70s there was hardly anything truly scientific written about creationism. So, as he said, he started his own personal research which led to the publication of his multiple books on the topic.

So, how is ‘the church’ in Germany? It might be pushing it to say: ‘alive and well’ as a whole, but I would wholeheartedly affirm that God has not given up on the German people. Skepticism runs rampant, although German inquisitiveness is perhaps not a bad trait. In reality, the evolutionary ‘hypothesis’ (as Dr. Werner Gitt would himself say, instead of ‘theory’) presents one of the biggest obstacles to the acceptance of the claims of Christ. Dr. Gitt and other like-minded scientists face strong resistance, but they are probably at the most strategic battle front for proclaiming the gospel in Germany. There are many earnest believers spread throughout the country (some of them German returnees from the eastern European block), and in some large cities even some ‘mildly’-mega-churches. Perhaps we, ‘the church’ in America, should accept the demise of certain older traditions that have relinquished their claims to represent Christ, but pray for Germany with the understanding that God is still operating there under different conditions.

Sites:
Werner Gitt’s personal site: www.wernergitt.de
Werner Gitt’s books in English: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=werner+gitt
Konferenz für Gemeindegründung: https://en.kfg.org/
Germany Church Databank: https://www.christliche-gemeinden.eu/

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