Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A New Church Plant in Bjerringbro

Free churches and denominations in Denmark form a sort of patchwork quilt of “Danish evangelicalism.” It appears that the theological emphasis of most leans heavily toward Arminianism with Pentecostal/charismatic movements seemingly in the ascendancy. I have not been able to verify something I recall having heard a while back that Baptists in Denmark (the present Baptist Union) were originally Reformed in theology, i.e., Calvinistic but with a Baptist perspective. Somewhere around 1930, and for reasons to me unknown, a switch was made to embrace a more Arminian approach. As far as I have been able to tell currently, one would look far and wide in Denmark without finding a free church or denomination that subscribes to Reformed theology. The Folkekirke is confessionally Lutheran but that theological base is highly compromised in some parts of the church because of the inroads made by liberal theology.

However, there is a new and significant development on the free church scene with the recent formation of a “Reformed Baptist” church in Bjerringbro called “Kristuskirken, a name more commonly associated with the church of the same name in Copenhagen, the first Baptist church in Denmark, founded in 1839, and one that I know quite well. Bjerringbro is located in the Mid-Jutland Region near Fjends and Sparkaer where, just incidentally, my mother was born. American pastor Paul Washer of the HeartCry Missionary Society visited Denmark in July 2009 and spoke at a public gathering in Randers on July 15. There were also private meetings from July 14 to 16 concerned with the planting of “biblical churches” in Denmark.

Two “ultimatums” issued by Washer caught the attention of Cameron Buettel, an Australian engineer working in Denmark: 1. If you are in a church where the Gospel is not preached―get out! Come out from among them! Touch not the unclean thing. 2. If you are not in a biblical church then find one or start one.

Buettel indicates that he was “desperately sad and grieved after almost three years in Denmark because he had not been able to find a church where the Gospel was preached.”

Influenced by Washer’s ultimatum, Buettel together with his wife and children moved to Bjerringbro to become a part of a new church plant. The new church was “formed in November 2009 by several Christian families in Denmark who were desperate for fellowship and a place where the Gospel would be preached in purity.” Buettel would agree: it is far easier to start a new church than to try to reform an old one.

The recently formed church in Bjerringbro is described in this manner: “Kristuskirken is a newly planted Reformed Baptist Church in Denmark. We hold to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. We place great emphasis on the authority of Scripture, the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, gospel purity, and the call on all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. We believe that evangelism should be normal Christian behavior. We stress the biblical importance of male headship. We love the fellowship of believers and seeing sinners come to saving faith. And we desire to see God's Name magnified and exalted in Denmark.”

Buettel’s blog further describes the new church as one “that preaches Christ crucified without apology. A church where the Bible is the sole rule for all matters of life, faith, and practice. Kristuskirken is a church that recognizes the Holiness of God, the utter sinfulness of all men, the reality of God’s wrath, the constant danger of hell, the necessity of the Christ’s death as a penal substitute on the cross, the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, the call on all men everywhere to repent of their wickedness, and the glorious eternal hope for those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ – Who is the resurrected Savior." That sounds pretty much like historic, classic evangelicalism to me and a message Denmark needs to hear.

At this point precise information is difficult to come by as to how this new church is faring after little more than two years of existence. There is a website for the church: http://www.kristuskirken.com/blog/wordpress/ (in Danish). Cameron Buettel himself is a consummate and dedicated blogger whose interesting postings in English may be read at: http://onceuponacross.blogspot.com/2010/12/kristuskirken-reformed-baptist-church.html.

Don’t look for existing free churches in Denmark or the Folkekirke to give an especially warm welcome to the new church or to the Reformed doctrines that underlie its message. Buettel has already had some brushes with representatives of existing denominations and movements that are less than appreciative of his approach. There is a note of bluntness in Buettel’s approach that probably hits hard at the heart of Danish cultural and even “evangelical” hygge.

I have prayed for a more aggressive evangelism in Denmark and the Reformed Baptists may be God’s way of initiating it. It remains to be seen whether or not the movement gains traction in the country. There are certain aspects of the Reformed message that make it an important counter-thrust to an evangelism of an easy-believism that downplays the necessity of sound biblical doctrine and teaching.

PRAY that the Reformed Baptist message will turn out to be a positive corrective and not unnecessarily divisive voice in a land so greatly in need of confrontation with biblical teaching and evangelism that takes into account “the whole counsel of God.”