Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bethel Baptistkirken in Aalborg

In the summer of 1948, following completion of my junior year at Northwestern College (St. Paul) and just after I had married, I had the opportunity to be the summer assistant at Bethel Baptist Church in Harlan, Iowa. It was a thrill for me to work with the pastor, Rev. Arlen Halvorsen, in a good-size church affiliated with the Danish Baptist Conference. During my time in Harlan I had contact with several older believers who had come to the United States from Aalborg, in north Jutland, Denmark. I remember those conversations in which there were tearful stories of the hardships Baptists had had in Denmark before the turn of the century. The Folkekirke (State Church) was none too kind to free churches in that time, especially when some of its adherents left to join the Baptist churches in Aalborg and elsewhere. I don’t recall all the details, but these dear old saints endured ostracism and persecution, severe enough for them to feel the necessity of leaving their native land to make a new home in the United States where they could freely practice their faith without interference from government. Fortunately, the conditions which had forced those old saints in Harlan, Iowa to leave Denmark no longer apply.

Imagine the thrill it was for me last year when I had the opportunity to visit Denmark and to have contact with Bethel Baptistkirken in Aalborg, the very church from which those older people in Harlan had come. That church has had an illustrious history since its founding on October 1, 1840, when P. C. Mønster from Copenhagen baptized six people and with them planted the first Baptist church in Jutland. Though now in existence for 167 years, Bethel Baptistkirken remains today a testimony to the faith and vision of its founders. Many churches as old in Denmark and elsewhere have become lifeless monuments of a once vibrant faith. Not so Aalborg’s Bethel Baptistkirken which continues to have a strong Bible-believing, evangelistically focused ministry under the leadership of its Senior Pastor Chresten Eskildsen. The church’s website contains information about the church’s history and current church life. View it at

Bethel’s International Pastor is Lee Hanson who has an extensive ministry with Danish and international students from the University of Aalborg. I have seen him at work and he is a very busy pastor who makes friends easily and has had a godly influence in the lives of many young people. Bethelkirken has a well established International Christian Fellowship. Internationals from many countries have long been part of the church family. Sunday services at Bethelkirken offer simultaneous translation in English. Every second and fourth Sunday evening of the month, there is a service conducted entirely in English. Internationals are encouraged to become part of one of the small groups meeting during the week for prayer, study of the Scriptures and fellowship. There are many spontaneous opportunities for newcomers to enjoy the hospitality of church members. Every Wednesday, when the University is in session, Lee makes himself available in the cafeteria to meet and chat with students over the lunch hour, always striving to gain a hearing for the message of the gospel of Christ.

PRAISE God that Aalborg’s Bethelkirken is not so enamored with its 167-year history as to lose sight of faithfulness to Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and God’s mandate for evangelism.

PRAY for Senior Pastor Chresten Eskildsen and his family, that God would bless his ministry of teaching and preaching of the Word of God, counseling, and guiding the church in obedience to the Great Commission.

PRAY that Pastor Lee Hanson will have many opportunities this year to develop friendships with international students and the Spirit’s leading to present to them the claims of the gospel of Christ.

PRAY that Aalborg’s Bethel Baptistkirken will find ways to aggressively reach this important northern Jutland city with a dynamic witness for Jesus Christ.

PRAISE God that for the spirit of cooperation that exists in several areas between Bethel Baptistkirke and other free churches, including Aalborg Apostolsk Kirke, Frikirken Aalborg Øst, and Aalborg Pinsekirken.

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