It was November 2016 when I clicked a YouTube video, entitled ‘Paul Washer — shocking message’.
I had just left from the youth night at the largest Pentecostal church in Finland where I served. When I got home, I fell on my knees and cried to God to save me and forgive me for all these years I had pretended to be a Christian.
At that time, I didn’t know anything about the Bible or Calvinism or Reformed theology. To cut a long story short, I started to listen online to people like John MacArthur,
R. C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson and Steve Lawson, and I was struck by the way they treated the Bible.
Men of the Book
They proclaimed its teaching as authoritative, without error and sufficient, the only rule according to which we should reform our life and theology. They preached every verse, every book, every doctrine. I too wanted to be a man of this Book.
So, as I read the Bible, there came a time when I couldn’t serve anymore with a good conscience in the Pentecostal church. I got quite depressed, because I used to be passionate about serving this community, and I was emotionally attached to what we did and to the friends I had there.
But God, providentially, put me in a situation where I was forced to move from my apartment in Helsinki. As it’s not easy to find a new apartment in the middle of the school year, I decided to move away and, in 10 days, found myself in Jyväskylä, central Finland.
I decided that I would read every book I could both for and against Reformed theology; I hoped I was mistaken about it all (the question Luther once faced, ‘Are you alone wise?’, was real to me) and could soon come back to the Pentecostal church and serve there and have my happy feelings back!
Well, that didn’t happen. I ordered about 100 books from the Banner of Truth, and the first theological book I read was Charles Hodge’s commentary on Romans. Day after day, my desire to see reformation in Finland grew stronger. I was no longer dependent upon feelings, but on the Word of God. I’ve had constant, unwavering, deep joy.
I wanted to preach the Word. I wanted to live the Word. I got anxious (in a good way) while reading the book of Acts, hearing and reading biographies about men like George Whitefield, John Calvin, William Tyndale, Charles Spurgeon, on how God used them mightily to start spiritual awakenings.
I wanted to see and witness and be a part of such a movement myself. The God of Calvin, Whitefield and Luther is still alive and able to bring great revivals, which lead nations to repent and believe the gospel. I cried to God, that he would give this city of Jyväskylä, and this nation of Finland, to his Son Jesus Christ.
Thirteen months ago, I met a few men in the city who had come to believe and embrace the truths of Reformed theology and I found that there are a few other Calvinistic churches in our country.
Last year I enrolled online to the London Reformed Baptist Seminary and started teaching through Romans, verse by verse in a weekly Bible study. I shared with these brothers, my hope, under God, to plant a Reformed Baptist church in Jyväskylä (population, 139,260).
Every month some of us have met to discuss such things as the nature of the church, qualifications for ruling and teaching elders, evangelism, expository preaching, the importance of personal prayer and holiness. We’ve also had the pastors of other Calvinistic churches come and share their wisdom with us, which has been a huge blessing to me personally.
Now we are actively searching for a place near the city centre to start our worship on the Lord’s day. If God wills, we start this summer with Sunday worship, midweek fellowship (prayer, catechism, the Word, fellowship), active evangelism and an English Bible study — it’s been in my heart to reach the international community here too.
The reformation movement in Finland is growing, but still very small. We would ask you to pray that God would forgive this nation for its rebellion against him, and the churches that are not doing God’s church God’s way.
The Lutheran state church is apostate and the Charismatic movement has zeal without knowledge. Theologically, the main serious errors in Finland are Arminianism, baptismal regeneration, Charismatic teaching, seeker-sensitivity and egalitarianism.
Finland is becoming increasingly secular. Atheism and agnosticism are common. It is safe to say that Finland is a nation in need of the gospel (send missionaries if you can), but sadly we must start by preaching the gospel to the church goers, especially the youth, who have no understanding of what the gospel is and how the lordship of God should affect their lives in this world.
Pray for us
We ask that you remember us in your prayers, that we would be men and women of the Word, protected from pride, and having deep spiritual convictions and boldness with much grace and truth.
‘And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 1:9-11).
Joonas Rafael Laajanen can be contacted through Facebook or e-mail ([email protected]).