Liberal Christianity, National Socialism, Communism: the turbulent developments of modern German history have seemingly attacked the true church from every angle, and this is the case in Germany’s capital city, Berlin.
Berlin has a population of 3.5 million and is at the centre of one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies. It is also playing a significant role in the European refugee crisis, welcoming thousands of migrants every month.
However, a mere 0.5 per cent of those living in this strategic city attend an evangelical church and 60 per cent would self-identify as atheistic.
Against this backdrop, it has been all the more encouraging, therefore, to witness the growth of a church plant in the centre of Berlin, recently marked by the ordination of a full-time German minister, on 18 December 2015.
The ordination service of Johannes Müller was a joyful event and timely reminder of God’s ongoing building of his church throughout Europe, as long-term supporters of the Berlin church plant from Germany, England and as far afield as Sweden gathered together.
Mr Müller, who recently completed his theological training with RTS, Hanover, and London Theological Seminary, London, became the ordained minister of the church. Berlin is a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales (EPCEW).
The ordination was by no means a stand-alone occurrence, but part of a long chain of events stretching back several years.
The first steps were made in September 2012, when Kevin Bidwell, an EPCEW minister in Sheffield, began to lead monthly Bible studies with a group of Christians in Berlin. The aim of these was to test the feasibility of, and lay the groundwork for a confessionally Presbyterian Evangelical church in Berlin.
As interest in the work increased and the size of the Bible studies grew, God’s hand on the work was confirmed and more serious steps were taken towards church planting, including praying for a German minister to lead the work.
In 2014 the German theological student Johannes Müller first contacted EPCEW with an interest in church planting in Germany. Under the guidance of Kevin Bidwell and other ministers in England, Mr Müller led two trial services in Berlin on 16 February 2014. Their positive reception further confirmed plans for the Berlin church plant.
Regular services began in October 2014 once Mr Müller finished his training. The work continued to grow spiritually, and in numbers, over the following months, being officially constituted as an EPCEW church in May 2015. This led up to the ordination at the end of 2015.
I had the personal privilege of spending a year with the church in order to prepare for studying German at university. Being in a church plant in such a strategic city was life-changing, and I learned so much during that time.
One of the most encouraging things to see was God’s faithfulness in the face of spiritual opposition. I was often surprised in my work as an English teacher to find how many students had no idea what Christians believed, and some had never even heard of Jesus before.
This ignorance became less surprising as I became more aware of the state of the Protestant churches in Berlin, many denying the resurrection or replacing Christ’s Great Commission with a mandate for entertainment, regardless of truth or eternal significance.
Despite this spiritual darkness, God continued to answer our prayers in remarkable ways — providing financial support and rooms to worship in; sending new people to the church, and giving those in it a hunger for truth and the knowledge of the Lord.
I was often reminded of Christ’s promise in Matthew 16:18 that he will build his church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. This is not to say that the work with the church in Berlin is, or has ever been, easy and trouble free, but we trust God to continue to work in that great city.
I would like to encourage you to pray regularly for the church in Berlin, that God would be glorified through the work in this city and Mr Müller upheld in his ministry. More information from: http://www.epkd.de