Friday, September 25, 2009

"New Danes" and Ethnic Churches

It is estimated that of Denmark’s population of five and a half million, almost seven and half percent are of non-Nordic descent. Denmark has received immigrants from all over the world, including various Arab and Muslim countries, the former Yugoslavia, and many countries of sub-Saharan Africa and the Far East. The peak of immigration was reached in 1995 when 40,000 immigrants came to Denmark.

The largest ethnic group, and also the second largest faith after the Danish Lutheran Folkekirke, is Islam with its more than150,000 adherents (three times the number of free church evangelicals in the country). Some ethnic groups have a better history of assimilation into Danish society and culture than others. Muslims, for instance, vigorously resist assimilation. Once an open door country, more recently there has been a backlash on immigration in Denmark and we are told the country now has the strictest immigration policies in Europe.

Among “New Dane” immigrants are those with a strong Christian faith and commitment. Because of language and other cultural factors many have not felt entirely at home in Danish language churches. As a consequence, more than 200 ethnic churches or groups have been formed in Denmark, worshiping in such languages as Kinyarwanda, Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Burmese, Farsi, Kiswahili, Karen, Twi, Tagalog, Korean, Arabic, and Amharic, as well as various languages of eastern and western Europe. Some congregations minister to immigrants from English-or French-speaking African or Asian countries.

It is noteworthy that the more spirited and sometimes exuberant worship of various ethnic churches has been eye-opening for Danes used to formalistic religion. Black Gospel music has captured the interest of many Danes, even those who are not particularly religiously inclined. Nothing short of amazing is how many “swinging and swaying” Gospel Choirs there are throughout Denmark, even among parishes of the Folkekirke. “Gospel Kor” concerts are not all that uncommon. Though Danes are a fun-loving people, their staid religious tradition and expression has tended to present itself in stark contrast to ethnic worship styles. Ethnic churches and Black Gospel music may be one way God is “loosening” up Danes who would ordinarily look askance at more uninhibited worship expressions. Under our very eyes, there may also be a sort of pre-evangelism at work. Christianity in Denmark has over the centuries become so institutionalized that it seldom opens itself to a vibrant, heart-stirring worship experience. It is no wonder that a large percentage of Danes are in reality practical atheists.

If Denmark is to be re-evangelized, as in the early history of the Church, Christianity has to move from being merely an institution with ecclesiastical trappings and traditions to a genuine, heart-gripping movement of the Holy Spirit. Ethnic churches in Denmark may be leading the way.

Church Integration Ministries (KIT), led by Pastor Hans Henrik Lund, is doing a splendid job of tracking what God is doing through the ethnic churches and fellowships and offering them fellowship and assistance.

PRAISE God for those strongly evangelical and evangelistic ethnic churches that are showing Danes that worship can be heart-stirring and exciting while firmly anchored in the truths of God’s Word.

PRAY that with Denmark’s new and stricter immigration policies and a slowed influx of new immigrants, the country’s “New Danes” will ultimately assimilate Danish language and culture without losing the spontaneity of their worship and evangelistic zeal.

PRAY that where needed, other ethnic evangelical churches and fellowships will be established and warmly welcomed by their counterpart Danish churches.

PRAY that the ethnic believers will not be stand-offish but rather experience unity of heart, mind and ministry with their fellow Danish evangelicals.

PRAY for Church Integration Ministries (KIT) and its very competent leader Hans Henrik Lund, serving as a clearinghouse for relations between Danish churches and the country’s ethnic congregations and fellowships.