Sunday, October 09, 2016

New vision, new building

Pray for the growing young church at Amagerbro Frikirke (free church), who earlier this month dedicated their new (to them) building in central Copenhagen.

It’s a strategic location in the capital city, and they’re naturally excited about the move. They’ve been working on the building since April, with volunteers from the congregation spending uncounted hours on restoring and renovating the facilities. Though there are still a few small details to fix, they’re putting the building to use and reaching out to people in their neighborhood, in a city that desperately needs Jesus.

Amagerbro Frikirke offers a number of city-specific ministries, including a weekly drop-in study fellowship for students, as well as sleeping bag and winter clothing drives for the city’s immigrants and the homeless. They also have an active missions focus among street kids in Honduras, and a vision for inspiring Danes to focus on needs beyond their neighborhood.

The fellowship started in 1997 with some 20 people, and has grown today to include around 200 who call Amagerbro home. At heart, they’re relentlessly outward-focused, and have defined their mission to be the “church for others than ourselves.”

PRAY that the new building will be a place of refuge and hope for strangers and the needy.

PRAY that God would strengthen their resolve to serve the community and beyond, in the name of Jesus.

PRAY that God would inspire a new generation of Danish believers in Amagerbro to follow Christ where he leads.

PRAY for the sparks of revival in Copenhagen to fan into flame from Amagerbro Frikirke.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Kirxit: What's Next?

Time for a look at the bigger picture in Denmark. First, the bad news…

After the British exit from the European Union (Brexit), some Danes have called the church attendance situation in their country “kirxit,” or kirke-exit. (“Kirke” means church.)

It’s a trend that’s been developing for several years, but you see where this is going. A closer look at the statistics over the past decade make it very clear that Danes are abandoning the state church in increasing numbers. Fewer Danes participate in baptisms (for babies), confirmation (for young people), or Christian burials. In fact, where once 75 percent of Danes were baptized as infants, the number has fallen to around two-thirds.

Does it matter? The good news is that alternative Christian (Lutheran) fellowships are taking up some of the slack. These vibrant, gospel-centered churches are reaching out in new directions and among people (including immigrants) who have traditionally found it difficult to integrate into Danish society.

Independent, Bible-believing churches, once generally looked at with skepticism, are also finding a new foothold. Families and individuals within the latest influx of immigrants are often open to the Gospel, and they offer a new opportunity for evangelism and church growth.

So look at the surprising growth of churches like the Hillsong Fellowship in Copenhagen, and you get a better picture of where the Danish church may be headed.

Look at the unprecedented resurgence of Christian songwriters in Lutheran and other churches, and you get a clear sense that God is stirring up a new generation of worshippers.

Look at the increased attendance in some Bible-based colleges, and you see an encouraging hunger for Biblical truth, as well as the challenge of training up the next generation.

“It’s possible that God will send an awakening across our land,” writes Brian Christensen for the Evangelical Lutheran Network, “one that will bring to a halt and turn around the trend we’ve experienced.”

Let’s keep praying that will come about.

PRAY for revival in the Christian colleges across Denmark, that young people would not become discouraged, but would sense God’s Spirit and stay focused on Jesus.

PRAY for revival in the growing fellowships of independent and alternative Lutheran churches, that they would continue to see new growth and outreach, that their enthusiasm for the Lord would be infectious, and that God’s Spirit would draw many more to salvation from every walk of life.

PRAY for revival in the shrinking state churches, that pastors would preach truth and that new life would spring to life in the smallest, most remote corners of the country.

PRAY for revival across the country, that Denmark would become an example of what God wants to do in His church, through new unity and an outpouring of God’s love.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Caution: Bridgebuilding

Danes aren’t used to seeing new churches planted in their midst, much less new Lutheran fellowships. But Broen (“The Bridge”) Free Fellowship in Vejle is something different.

And they’re growing, with 150 in attendance every Sunday –- large, by Danish standards.

Planted in late 2012, Broen fills a gap between the larger state church and other (much smaller) independent fellowships. Though associated with the Indre Mission renewal movement and the Evangelical Lutheran Network, they’re self-governing and depend on local giving, rather than state funding. They’re also not shy about their focus on the Word of God, and on the need for lost sinners to follow Jesus.

It’s a kind of back-to-basics church that appears to be meeting a need in south-central Jylland, especially with their contemporary worship style and emphasis on youth ministries. (Nearly a third of the congregation is under 18.) Lead pastor Simon Nielsen, who has been on staff for three years, has just been moved to full-time status. The church has also moved praise team leader Aleksander Asmussen into a paid, part-time position. Two more volunteer pastors round out the staff.

Pastor Simon Nielsen
So as the name implies, this fellowship serves as a bridge – from a culture where the Lutheran church had become an overlooked cultural relic, to a place where Danes can discover a living, vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray for them!

PRAY for Simon Nielsen, that he would faithfully preach God’s word, and that he would continue to catch God’s vision for this church.

PRAY for Aleksander Asmussen, that he would also see God’s vision as he leads the fellowship in worship.

PRAY that people in Vejle would see something new and different in those who fellowship at Broen, that God would fill this group with love for each other and compassion for the community.

PRAY that home-grown spiritual leadership would develop, and that people from Broen would begin to have a wider influence around the city and beyond.

PRAY for revival in Vejle, that it might begin with this bridge.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Good News at Børkop

Last November we asked you to pray with us for the staff and students at Børkop Højskole, where leadership of this growing Bible college had just stepped down after bringing the school through turbulent times.

Who would lead the school and its students into the coming years?

Good news: Pastor and theologian Robert Bladt begins as the school’s new headmaster August 1, just in time for the new term. More good news: Attendance is up, and the school is on much better financial ground.

Bladt brings enthusiasm and fresh ideas to his new job, and believes Børkop can play a key role in training a new generation of church leadership.

“A Bible school should teach us to enter completely both into society and the church,” he says. He believes Børkop should be an environment where students can get to know God better through creative projects, through music, or even through adventure trips. It’s the kind of training Danish secular schools clearly cannot offer.

That’s a challenge. And that’s good news!

PRAY for Robert Bladt and his wife, for energy and enthusiasm as he begins his new work at the Bible college.

PRAY for the faculty, staff, and students at Børkop, that they would catch Bladt’s vision for the school.

PRAY that a fresh vision to reach the country for Christ would start at Børkop.

PRAY that God would bring revival to Denmark through Bible schools like Børkop.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Gospel sets sail this summer

Pray for the outreach and prayer ministry of the Bethel, a seagoing outreach associated with Denmark’s “Sømandsmissionen,” or Seaman’s Mission. Each summer, skipper Hanus Poulsen and his crew visit some 20 Danish ports of call, offering a safe haven for sailors.

“Typically we put in at the larger ports, where you see the freighters,” explained Poulsen. “A lot of sailors are a long way from home, and they like to stop by. We give them a cup of coffee, we listen, and we pray. Twice a day we have devotions, where all are welcome.”

As a floating ministry the Bethel (which mean’s “God’s House”) takes a low-key approach, and in typical Danish fashion the crew is never pushy. But most visitors recognize it as the kind of spiritual retreat lonely sailors need. And in a country that depends on maritime traffic for so much of its livelihood, the brightly painted blue and white vessel is a natural way to reach out with the gospel. Local school groups and curious families who hear about the ship are also welcomed aboard for a tour.

PRAY for Hanus Poulsen and his crew, that they would be receptive to the spiritual needs of visitors.

PRAY that God would touch hurting lives through the twice-daily devotional times, and bring just the right people to visit this summer.

PRAY that lives would be changed with the gospel and that even local Danes would come to know Christ through the ministry of the Bethel.

PRAY that revival in Denmark would spread through this compassionate floating ministry.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

No longer underground

While Danes struggle with the complex political impact of the recent immigration crisis, another unexpected trend affects them in an entirely different way:

Hundreds of asylum seekers in this tiny country are coming to faith in Jesus Christ.

photo: Olafur Steinar Gestsson
According to a recent report in Berlingske, the Danish news service, 300 recent immigrants are being baptized into Danish state-affiliated and free churches. Most (250) are from Iran -- a place where it’s (very) illegal to convert from Islam. In addition, at least 100 more Iranians have been baptized in the past three months.

Of course it’s impossible to understand everyone’s motives. Some may believe baptism will improve their chances of being accepted as asylum-seekers. But the just-released numbers are significant, and there’s reason to believe the number of questionable conversions is low. 

In Copenhagen’s Apostelkirken (Apostle Church), for example, a dozen asylum seekers were baptized this past Easter. Pastor Niels Nymann Eriksen estimates they’re among 100 such converts in the past five to seven years, in his church alone.

“We’re very careful to explain to them that simply converting in itself won’t give them permission to stay,” says Pastor Eriksen. “If they’re sent home, as converts they then have another problem, in addition to the problems they fled.”

So these recent converts from Islam know they would be in even greater danger if they were forced to return. Meanwhile, they’re finding a new Danish home in churches like Apostelkirken, where services are translated into English and now Farsi, the language of Iran. 

PRAY for these new brothers and sisters in Christ, that they will find a place in the family of God and new peace in their lives. 

PRAY for any who might claim conversion in hopes of improving their case, that the reality of the gospel will shine through in their desperation and need. 

PRAY for Danish Christians facing the challenge of dealing with this latest influx of immigrants, that God would give them both wisdom and open hearts.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The little church that would not die

Rumors of this church’s demise may have been exaggerated -- though not by much. Only five years ago, many people thought this small church in Brønderslev (northern Denmark) would soon close its doors.

And who could blame them? The fellowship had been meeting since 1942, and had once included over 70 worshippers, with a thriving youth program. Now they were down to just 10 discouraged faithful.  But then they rediscovered the church’s theme verse, which had largely been forgotten.

The verse? Job 8:7 -- “And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.”

Since then, God has proven the truth of His word in many other ways through this little church, though not perhaps in ways they could have expected.  As more people were drawn to the Bible-preaching fellowship, they began to meet twice, then three times a month.  Today between 50 and 70 worship every week. But the congregation looks and sounds very different than before.

“Today there’s an entirely different kind of life,” explains Morten Jensen, one of the church’s leaders. “The fellowship consists of many nationalities, including from Uganda, the Congo, Kenya, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, and many more.”

Danish or English-language preaching is translated into Swahili, Persian, Kurdish, or whatever other language is needed. Praise and worship takes place with a new, wonderful blend of cultures and personalities.

So yes, rumors of this church’s death were premature. Who would have thought?

PRAY the God would bring many people of many backgrounds to salvation through this Brønderslev fellowship -- and other Danish churches.

PRAY that Christ-centered renewal would take place in smaller churches like this, and across every city of Denmark.

PRAY that this little country would be known for its God-honoring, truth-seeking, blended (and growing!) churches.