How Inner Mission evangelizes

As I’ve explained with my first trip to Scandinavia, Christianity in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland has two tracks:  the state churches (which are confessionally Lutheran, have a liberal hierarchy, but many conservative pastors) and the Mission organizations (which carry out evangelism, conduct Bible studies, and sponsor ministries to specific groups, such as children, youth, and the elderly).  Inner Mission works within the country, and Outer Mission works overseas.

These mission groups were founded back in the 19th century and grew out of the Pietist movement.  With their Mission Houses in nearly every city and town, they have become a fixture of Scandinavian culture.  Today, they represent conservative Christianity–indeed, conservative Lutheranism–in supposedly secularist Scandinavia.

I have been invited twice now to speak at various Inner Mission activities–to lecture at a Danish university, sponsored by the conservative theological faculty endowed by Inner Mission; speaking at a Bible school, where Christian young people are trained before going off to university; and giving a series of addresses to an all-Scandinavia Inner Mission youth ministry leaders’ conference in Norway.  I just came back from giving a series of lectures on vocation to a conference of all Inner Mission staff members in Denmark.

They tend to think this two-pronged Christianity is just the way it is.  “Don’t you have anything like Inner Mission,” I was asked, “in the United States?”  But I’ve gotten very interested in how these folks conduct their work, particularly in the very difficult context of European secularism.  And yet, they have some impressive success stories, such as their work in converting Muslims to Christianity.  I was curious how Inner Mission does evangelism. [Read more…]

How Americans protect themselves from Christianity

Another brilliant analysis of the challenges facing American Christianity by James R. Rogers, Texas A&M Political Science professor and an LCMS layman.  This time he focuses on how and why Americans “armor” themselves from Christianity.  He analyzes how relativism works and quotes Allan Bloom on Americans’ “easy-going nihilism” and “nihilism without the abyss.”  He surveys how churches are already responding to these factors without much success and opens a discussion about what might be more effective. [Read more…]

State church says not to evangelize Muslims

The Protestant state church in the Rhineland has issued a statement saying that Christians should not try to evangelize Muslim immigrants.  It maintains that the Great Commission does not mean Christians should try to convert others to their faith.  This, despite the phenomenon of more and more Muslim immigrants becoming Christians, thanks in part to the efforts of the independent Lutheran church (SELK). [Read more…]

Muslim refugees converting to Christianity

Thousands of refugees from Syria–as well as Iran, Afghanistan, and other Islamic countries–have been pouring into Europe, creating big problems and provoking all kinds of controversy.  But many of these Islamic refugees have been converting to Christianity.

Some Europeans are skeptical, thinking the conversions are simply a facade to get asylum.  Religious beliefs aren’t supposed to be factors in immigration decisions, but a Muslim who converts to Christianity can make a good claim that deportation would mean a death sentence.  But taking that step, for a Muslim–publicly renouncing Islam and becoming Baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–would surely be existentially difficult unless it is sincere.

And 90% of the newly baptized keep coming to church, unlike much of the nominally Christian populations.  Perhaps this will be a way of revitalizing European Christianity!  After the jump, an Associated Press story on the subject.

UPDATE:  The “priest” Gottfried Martens referred to in the article is actually a pastor in the SELK church, a confessional denomination unaffiliated with the state church that is in fellowship with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  Thanks to commenter Bror Erickson for that information.  And to sapling_Alex for pointing out that these Lutherans are taking the lead in refugee evangelism.  I would also add a reminder to the discussion about immigration that “Islam” is not a race but a religion, so that when Muslims convert to Christianity they are no longer Muslims.

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Who the unchurched really are

Most evangelism programs, church growth tactics, and other attempts to reach the “unchurched” concentrate on Millennials, young urbanites, college types, and the suburban middle class.  But, as Robert Putnam reminds us, the demographic that is the most unchurched is the working class, the lower income non-college-educated folks.  A big segment of these blue-collar workers has just stopped going to church.  They are also, with the personal and family problems that Putnam documents, arguably, most in need of ministry.  This is ironic, since the working class used to be the biggest supporters of conservative Christianity.  And yet, I’m unaware of any concerted effort to reach them, other than individual pastors in these communities doing what they can. [Read more…]

Evangelizing the condemned Nazis

Last year almost to the day we blogged about  Rev. Henry Gerecke, the LCMS military chaplain who was pressed into service as the Protestant chaplain at Nuremberg, charged with ministering to the Nazi war criminals who were on trial there, many of whom were executed.  There is now  book out about Chaplain Gerecke:  Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis by Tim Townsend.

It tells how he used both firmness and compassion, applying both the Law and the Gospel, in an effort to bring these moral monsters to repentance and to Christ.  Which he apparently did with at least 4 of the 11 who were hanged.  Then again, Hermann Goering repudiated Christianity just hours before he committed suicide by biting a  smuggled cyanide tablet, calling Jesus “just another smart Jew.”  After the jump, an excerpt from a review of the book.
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