John Blanchard in the Czech Republic
When John Blanchard preached in the Czech Republic recently, exactly 30 years had passed since he last did so. He first visited the country (then part of Czechoslovakia) in 1968, when he preached at the 70th anniversary services of Brno Baptist Church.
He recalls a packed church for a 9.00am prayer meeting, and a main service that lasted four hours and included five sermons, of which he preached two!
His recent visit was to speak at a Shepherds’ Conference, held in Sbor Bratrské Jednoty Baptistu in Kromeriz, a town about 40 miles east of Brno. This small church (known in shorthand as ‘BJB’) is led jointly by Alois Klepacek, who was born in Romania, and Dr Lance Roberts, an American missionary. This was the first Shepherds’ Conference they had organised.
A few days before the conference was due to begin, only a handful of delegates had registered, and the leadership toyed with the idea of asking John not to travel, but in the event the church was virtually full for all the main sessions.
John shared the ministry with Dr Todd Roberts, an American missionary serving in Croatia, who led three sessions on ‘The sufficiency of Scripture’, while four other men explored different aspects of the same subject.
All the conference sessions were streamed online and are available throughout the Czech and Slovak republics on DVD and CD. John was also interviewed for Czech and Slovak newspapers by Jan Titera — the son of Pavel Titera, who interpreted for him on his previous visits to the country in the 1960s and 1970s.
The conference also marked the launch of the Czech edition of John’s book Meet the real Jesus, the third of his titles now in that language. Every delegate to the conference was given a copy and urged to use it in personal evangelism, while many other copies were bought, along with Ultimate Questions and Evolution: fact or fiction?
In 1989, the so-called Velvet Revolution saw the collapse of Communism’s domination of Czechoslovakia, in tune with the disintegration of other Warsaw Pact governments throughout Eastern Europe.
But the past two decades has also seen a severe decline in robust evangelical life in the Czech Republic. In a Eurobarometer Poll in 2005, fewer than 20 per cent of those interviewed said that God existed; and in a 2011 census, 62.4 per cent of those responding indicated that they were atheist, agnostic or ‘irreligious’, while 30 per cent said that they did not believe in ‘any sort of spirit, God or life force’.
John was told that materialism and postmodernism were rampant and that many churches were enthusiastically embracing liberalism and ecumenism. According to a recent secretary of the country’s Baptist Union, none of its churches now holds a Sunday evening service.
Feedback from the Shepherds’ Conference has been excellent. One of the pastors told John, ‘It was a great honour and privilege to have you with us for our first annual pastoral conference.
‘Many, may I say all, were encouraged by your preaching and teaching. We look forward to how the Lord will use Meet the real Jesus in the Czech Republic’. It is hoped that, as funds allow, other titles will be published to help believers seeking to take the gospel to those who so openly reject it.