We spent the last week on what we were calling vacation. While we enjoyed ourselves on the trips we made, much of what we did was directly related to our work.
The first leg of our trip was in Hamburg. We met with a young church-planter in training, who is interning under an effective pastor and church planter in their city. Their church focuses on serving “creatives,” a mission that began by offering a “church brunch” Sunday afternoon, because that’s what their creative (performing) friends did on Sundays after a late night of performances and wrap parties.
Lorenz (the intern) is an amazingly sharp guy. We spent the afternoon picking his brain about what he sees as important to reaching Germans and where it is important to focus our efforts. Here are some takeaways:
- Authoritarian leadership is not always well-received here. For those of us in America used to being dogmatic, speaking in certainties is a sure way to lose credibility in the eyes of many Germans. Even if we hold that Jesus is the only Way, we need to find ways to approach that to gain a second, and third, and fourth conversation with people. A lot of times that comes with an open mind and a willingness to discuss topics in new ways.
- There are some cool ministries happening in Germany. A church brunch for those who want to sleep in. A half-german-half-refugee house in Berlin with cafes and job opportunities attached. These are just a couple of things we have heard about. The harvest is ready, but the workers are few.
- If you are willing to reach out beyond the people who churches usually reach, you will find people with a relatively blank slate toward Christianity, who will engage with its teachings in fresh new ways, having not been tainted by preconceived notions of what they think they don’t believe.
We also went to Dresden, in former East Germany, to finally meet friends in person who are also with our organization, Kontaktmission, with whom we’ve been Skyping for about two years! They have kids about the same age as our kids, and the visit was a wonderful blessing. They even arranged a meeting with their pastor to discuss the church in Germany. Here’s what we found:
- Ministry is slower in the East. Religion was systematically stamped out in the former Soviet Union for decades. As a result, East Germany has upwards of 80% Atheists. Many people are resistent to religion in general, specifically Christianity.
- The way to win people over is the same everywhere. Listening to them, speaking the gospel into their needs. Serving them. It just might take a little longer there.
- More churches are needed in cities in Germany. While this may seem obvious (and is the reason we are here), the saturation needed to reach a lot of people in a lot of areas in just not there. In Louisville, where we are from, there are really good churches within 5-10 minutes of just about everywhere in the city. That is just not the case in Germany. In a city like Dresden, which has a population of around 500,000 people, there are only a handful of churches to serve all those people. Hannover, where we live now, only has about a dozen churches for over 700,000 people. We commute 45 minutes to get to church.
- The state church in Germany is really suffering under the weight of its pastors. Often times, the pastor is not a believer, which may seem absurd, but not in Germany. How often have you gone to a new church with the primary question on your mind being, “I wonder if the pastor actually believes that Christ died for our sins”? It is a true detriment to reaching people for the Lord.
We have some more trips coming up designed to continue this conversation. These visits are a crucial part in developing a plan for the church plant here in Hannover, as we really want to see what is effective and do this the right way. Please keep praying for us in this year of learning, not only for the language and culture, but also for what we will learn about the church. Please pray for effective vision casting, good timing, and patience. Please pray for the pastors out there in a country that is largely disinterested in the most important thing that could be offered to them. Please pray for the church planters struggling to make the right decisions that will demonstrate Christ’s love in their communities. Pray for Germany.