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…]