Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Jeremiad or Challenge?

For some time Danes have been leaving and continue to leave the Folkekirke, Denmark’s state church, in significant numbers. According to the October 2012 issue of  Folkekirkens Mellemkirkelige Råd publication Inter-Church News, Folkekirke membership has declined from 85.4% to 79.8% since 1999.  The article adds that “this decline is suddenly quite steep” as what began as a mere trickle has become a steady stream.  It is notable that the resignation figures for all of 2011 totaled 13, 587, but in the first six months of 2012 alone 12,406 Danes left the Folkekirke.

Various causes are assigned for this trend, including the nation’s financial crisis as well as the Folkekirke’s promotion of gay marriage.  It is also attributed to “a bad press,” whatever that may mean, and “aggressive atheism.”  The article cited above opines, perhaps a bit lamely, that “part of the explanation lies in the number of newly-nationalized immigrants who are not members of the Lutheran Church and, hence, do not pay the church tax of around 0.9% (2011) incumbent on all Lutheran Church members.”  

From our perspective it would appear that rampant secularism is the major cause of the decline.  With its highly socialized governmental system, Danes are snugly comfortable from cradle to grave with little thought that there is life after death that demands a choice in the here and now between heaven and hell.  It is little wonder many Danes consider the church passé and irrelevant, and because they do the parish churches have been emptying for years. We can hear the pain of a dear Danish Christian friend who wrote recently: “We are very thankful for your prayers as you know that the church in Denmark for a big part is betraying our Lord.”

This is not to say there are no exceptions to the trend.  There are pockets of vibrancy in local parishes here and there throughout the country.  The Valmenighed movement appears to be gaining momentum and revival movements within the Folkekirke continue to have their devoted adherents. If at some point the Folkekirke drops its status as a state church, as seems to be the trend in Scandinavia, it is within the realm of possibility these revival movements may result in splintering of the Folkekirke as it is known today..

So, where does this leave Evangelicals and the Danish free churches?  They have their own set of problems and preoccupations of such magnitude they may or may not be up to the evangelistic challenge presented by the vacuum created through Folkekirke departures.  Surely there are Danes who hunger and thirst after righteousness. And it is for this reason that the free churches need to get their act together to foster an aggressive evangelism and an enhanced emphasis on the planting of new churches rooted in a sound biblical theology. 

If ever there was the need for a nationwide revival of faith in Denmark, this is the time.  Danes need to hear and know that “Jesus Saves!”  So often repeated we hardly hear it anymore, the truth of the Word of God remains:  “If my people, who are called by my Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV).  It reads the same in Danish:  “Mit folk, som mit navn er nævnt over, så ydmyger sig og beder og søger mit ansigt og vender om fra deres onde veje, da vil jeg høre dem fra himlen og tilgive deres synd og læge deres land” (Anden Krønikebog 7:14).. 

PRAY earnestly that God will honor and answer the prayers of believers in Denmark as well as in other lands concerned for a genuine Spirit-led revival reaching every corner of “det yndigt land" (the lovely land).

PRAY that God would raise up a new evangelist voice, or many such voices, to fearlessly and faithfully proclaim the Good News of the Gospel in such an irresistible way that Danes would listen and respond.

PRAY that the Danish government would relax its tightened immigration and residence requirements so that biblically sound workers from other countries would find it easier to assist evangelistic and church planting efforts in Denmark. 

PRAY that Danes living overseas that have come to know the truth and power of the Gospel of Christ in their lives and subsequently have become thoroughly grounded in the faith would consider return to the homeland as witnesses of the saving grace of Christ.