Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Friluftsmissionen (Open Air Campaigners)

When I was in Copenhagen in April, I had the joy of having a lengthy dinner meeting with Tørben Østermark, the leader of the Danish branch ( of Open Air Campaigners International ( Tørben is a dear brother in Christ who is consumed with a vision for evangelism in Denmark and other Scandinavian and Baltic countries.

There is a noticeable rise in the secularization of Danish culture and with it a lessening of the traditional influence of the Folkekirke, Denmark's national Lutheran Church. As a general rule, the thrust of Open Air Campaigners International is non-denominational. However, the historic dominance of the Folkekirke in Danish culture since Reformation times has led Friluftsmissionen to focus its work with Lutheran churches and societies without, of course, compromising the well-known evangelistic stance of Open Air Campaigners.

Tørben and his fellow evangelists, Lars Kristensen and Hartvig Kloster, maintain a busy Bible teaching and evangelistic ministry through local congregations and church-related organizations, emphasizing sound biblical and evangelistic preaching and teaching in which they use such visual aids as sketchboard art and gospel magic. Much of the work continues Open Air Campaigners' special ministry of open air preaching, much of it during the summers.

On Sunday, June 4, Friluftsmissionen evangelists will be participating in an all-day gospel effort (Gospel Bakken) at Dyrehavsbakken in Klampenborg, on the east coast of Sjælland. Dyrehavsbakken has the distinction of being the world's oldest, intact, still-surviving amusement park. Another gospel effort (Jesperhus Gospel) will be held the next day, Monday, June 5, at Mors in northwest Jutland. Families will be vacationing at the Jesperhus holiday resort where there are famous gardens, a water park, a nature park, and a zoo. From July 10 to 21, Friluftsmissionen evangelists and a youth-oriented Sommerteam (Summer Team) will be bringing the gospel to children and youth at Gammelbro Camping, Årøsund, near Haderslev in South Jutland.

PRAY for Friluftsmissionen's many opportunities for evangelism during the summer months when there is an upsurge in tourism bringing people from all over the world to Denmark. The summers provide wonderful opportunities for direct evangelism. English is often the preferred language in such summer ministry.

PRAY that many will come to personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation as a result of Friluftsmissionen's work at Gospel Bakken, Jesperhus Gospel, and the Fremstød (Campaign) at Gammelbro Camping, and at other times and places throughout the summer months.

PRAY that there will be a good response by younger believers to the call to join Friluftsmissionen's Sommerteam (Summer Team) to assist in evangelistic work with children and young people during the Gammelbro Camping campaign, July 10-21.

PRAY that God will through His people supply the financial needs of Friluftsmissionen evangelists Østermark, Kristensen, and Kloster. (Philippians 4:19)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Kristuskirken and First International Baptist Church

On my recent trip to Denmark, I had the privilege of attending two Sunday services at Copenhagen's growing First International Baptist Church where N. Erik Nielsen is the pastor. FIBC shares the facilities of Kristuskirken (Christ Church), the Danish language church whose pastor is Michael Jensen. I was able to attend one of Kristuskirken's Danish services as well and I was reminded of my first visit to the church in 1952. Vision and zeal for missions and evangelism have long characterized Kristuskirken that currently hosts five different language groups within its facilities including, besides Danish, services in English, Romanian, Yugoslavian, and Spanish.

English services were established at Kristuskirken over 20 years ago under the leadership of Pastor Ove Vang Jensen. In 2001, the English-speaking service became an independent and autonomous congregation taking the name First International Baptist Church of Copenhagen. FIBC continues to maintain close ties with Kristuskirken and uses its facilities for worship and fellowship activities. Erik Nielsen, a graduate of George Washington University and of Biola University's Talbot School of Theology, has served as pastor of FIBC since 2002, coming from a similar ministry in Jakarta, Indonesia. He was ordained to the gospel ministry at Whittier Hills Baptist Church, Whittier, California. He is a gifted musician who is having to function currently as both keyboardist and preacher. FIBC is a member of the Danish Baptist Union (Baptistkirken i Danmark) and of the International Baptist Convention.

FIBC gathers English-speaking Danes and expatriates from many countries who are working in businesses or are studying at Danish educational institutions in the Copenhagen metropolitan area. The congregation has a truly international flavor with English serving as the unifying language. When I visited the Sunday afternoon services at FIBC, there were regular attenders and visitors from many different countries. Internationals, many of whom are the product of extensive missionary work in their home countries, are making a tremendous contribution to Danish church life and in turn their experience in Denmark is helping them be better prepared as leaders upon return to their home lands.

Kristuskirken (Copenhagen's First Baptist Church) is Denmark's oldest free church (churches not part of the Folkekirke, the country's national church) and faces some of the same problems of older mainline churches elsewhere in the world. Its influence throughout Scandinavia is well-recognized and honored. To grow, older churches always need new vision and purpose and flexibility in meeting the challenges of cultural change. Especially needed is an influx of younger, committed believers who have the potential to move into the future with strong emphases on Spirit-directed evangelism and purposeful ministries. An older church cannot thrive and move forward with power merely on its past history but must press on vigorously to meet the challenges of proclaiming the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ in a changing world and culture.

PRAISE God for the more than a century and a half of Kristuskirken's history of unsverving loyalty to the gospel of Christ and for its unquestioned influence on all the free churches in Denmark.

PRAISE God for the vision of Pastor Emeritus Ove Vang Jensen and the congregation of Kristuskirken in establishing English-speaking work that has led to the formation of the independent and autonomous First International Baptist Church of Copenhagen.

PRAY for a strong evangelistic outreach by strategically placed FIBC and for the discovery of effective means of making its message and ministry known to English-speaking internationals in the Copenhagen metropolitan area.

PRAY that the Lord will bring to FIBC a much-needed keyboardist to relieve the pastor of his current dual roles of musician and preacher.

PRAY that FIBC's congregation will continue to grow numerically but also in knowledge and obedience to the Word of God, commitment to evangelism, and the training of leaders.

PRAY that the Lord will bless and encourage the ministry of Pastor Michael Jensen and give the congregation and leadership of Kristuskirken's Danish congregation a breakthrough in a vision for new avenues of evangelism and ministry.

PRAY for the development and growth of the Yugoslavian, Romanian, and Spanish-language ministries at Kristuskirken and wisdom on the part of those responsible for leading them.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Folkekirke Renewal Movements

There are several revival/renewal movements within or co-existing with the Folkekirke, Denmark's national Lutheran Church. The term "Folkekirke" means "people's church." The Folkekirke is deeply rooted in the Lutheran Reformation and is very much a part of Danish history and culture. Two of the revival/renewal movements, Indre Mission ( and Luthersk Missionsforening (, are 150 years old or more. Both were strongly influenced by Scandinavian revival currents of the 1800s. Newer revival/renewal movements include the Evangelisk Luthersk Missionsforening (, Dansk Oase (, and Nyt Liv ( All play a sort of gadfly role in that they consistently remind the Folkekirke that the Bible is God's inspired Word while at the same time urging the Church to adhere strictly to is own Lutheran confessions and doctrinal standards.

Dansk Oase, founded in 1989, has been strongly influenced by and supportive of charismatic renewal. One informant suggests that, "While the others do not deny that God bestows spiritual gifts on believers or that He heals, they question the acceptability of certain phenomena and especially the necessity of the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" in order to believe in and practice the gifts of the Spirit." The informant continues, stating that "The frictions between the old revival movements and Oase/Charismatics were stronger in the past than they are now. The new generation of leaders seems to have opened up to at least some elements of the renewal, in particular new worship songs which are used across the board but which originated within the international charismatic revival circles. The big divide is still in the theology and it also has direct bearing on the acceptability of certain phenomena" accepted by the charismatic/Pentecostal movement.

Much of the work of the revival/renewal movements takes place in local "mission houses," schools, or adherents' homes, and sometimes even in a local Folkekirke if the church is inspired or influenced by a particular renewal group. Several of the revival groups have very vital interests and involvement in overseas missions. The informant cited above states that some of the movements are stronger in certain areas of Denmark than in others. Some of the groups have a tendency towards isolating themselves from the Folkekirke and forming alternative churches. Luthersk Missionsforening has been more active in forming alternative congregations, but more recently some in Indre Mission have begun to follow LM's lead. We believe God would be pleased if these movements could find it in themselves to join hearts and hands without reservation to pray together for revival. We also sense that a major factor in the answer for Denmark's spiritual needs must come from genuine revival and renewal within the Folkekirke.

PRAISE God for revival movements within the Danish national Church that maintain a high regard for the Bible as the Word of God and call Danes to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ based on the salvation procured by His death and resurrection.

PRAISE God for the extensive outreach and influence the revival/renewal groups have in many local areas throughout Denmark, for their work of evangelism and Bible teaching for children, young people, and adults, and for their significant summer camping programs. Camping programs will be starting soon.

PRAY for the leadership of each of the renewal organizations on both national and local levels: Indre Mission, Luthersk Missionsforening, Evangelisk Luthersk Missionsforening, Nyt Liv, and Dansk Oase.

PRAY that the Spirit of God will sweep throughout the Folkekirke and Denmark bringing confession, cleansing and the empowerment of the indwelling Spirit to its bishops, clergy, and layfolk.

PRAY that the revival/renewal movements will forgo their historic differences and organizational loyalties to achieve cooperation and spiritual unity in prayer so that the Spirit of God is not hindered in His work of reviving and renewing the Folkekirke. Revival movements themselves need periodic revival and renewal or God will raise up new movements in their place. He does not leave Himself without a witness.