Evangelism in the German Landeskirchen after the Leipzig Synod 1999

Diploma Thesis, 2003

78 Pages, Grade: With Distinction



I. Introduction
1. The ‘EKD Mission Synod’
2. Personal Experience
3. General Aim and Purpose
4. Basic Assumptions

II. The Declaration of the Leipzig Synod and the EKD report Taking the Gospel to the People
1. The Leipzig Declaration - An Assessment
1.1 The Present Situation
1.2 The Nature of Mission
1.3 The Ways of Mission
2. Taking the Gospel to the People - An Assessment
2.1 The Present Situation
2. 2 Evangelism: The Proclamation of the Gospel
3. Summary

III. Empirical Research
1. Evangelistic Initiatives
1.1 ProChrist
1.2 Willow Creek
1.3 The Alpha Course
1.4 Summary
2. Survey: Evangelism and Mission at Grassroots Level in the Rhineland
2.1 The Leipzig Synod and its Effects
2.2 Methods of Mission and Evangelism
2.3 Mission and Evangelism Training
2.4 Summary
3. Theological Training
3.1 Evangelism Studies at Theological Faculties
3.2 Theological Literature
3.3 Summary

IV. Conclusion

V. Investigating Key Theologians
1. Karl Barth
1.1 The Missionary Church
1.2 Evangelisation and the Nominal Christian
1.3 A Critique: A Theology of Proclamation and Election
2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
2.1 Mission - the Act of the Sovereign God
2.2 Mission as the Church-With-Others?
2.3 Mission Preaching
2.4 Critique: The Spreading of the Word
3. Paul Tillich
3.1 The Spiritual Community and the Functions of Churches
3.2 The Functions of Expansion
3.3 Critique: Humanity's Estrangement from itself and the New Being
4. Wolfhart Pannenberg
4.1 The Church: A Missionary Movement and a Sign of the Kingdom
4.2 Personal Witness and the Missionary Proclamation of the Church
4.3 Critique: The Unity of Conversion and Baptism
5. Jürgen Moltmann
5.1 The Mission of the Spirit
5.2. Mission and Evangelisation: The Invitation to God's Future
5.3 Critique: The Mission of Liberation
6. Eberhard Jüngel
6.1 Jesus Christ - the Sender of the Church
6.2 Evangelism: The Appeal of the Spoken Word
6.3 Indirect Evangelism and the Post-Christian Age
6.4 A Critique: The Heartbeat of the Church
7. Conclusion

VI. Recommendations




Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

I. Introduction

1. The ‘EKD Mission Synod’

In November 1999 the 4th session of the 9th Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), a community of 24 Lutheran, Reformed, and United regional churches (Landeskirchen), took place in the city of Leipzig. The theme of this session of the EKD synod was ‘To Tell the World About God - The Task of the Mission of the Church at the Threshold of the Third Millennium.’ It was the first time ever that the EKD synod discussed the missionary task of the church in depth. At the end of the meeting the Synod made a public declaration, which called upon all congregations, full-time church workers and the laity to remember the missionary task of the Christian church.[1]

At the same time a working party of the EKD Council was asked to have a closer look into the field of mission and evangelism in Germany. The report of the working party entitled Taking the Gospel to the People[2] was published by the EKD Council in April 2001. Taking the Gospel to the People not only defines terms such as mission, evangelism, and salvation, but also examines different models of evangelism and gives recommendations and guidelines for the regional churches and their congregations regarding mission strategies.

Members of the evangelical camp within the EKD, who were part of the Council’s working party, regarded the outcome of the Leipzig synod as a kind of dawn of a new era.[3] H. Bärend, chairman of the council of missionary services of the EKD, even spoke of a miracle, which had happened at Leipzig.[4]

2. Personal Experience

In my view, the positive reaction of some people to the Leipzig synod is understandable. From my own experience the areas of mission and evangelism have been fairly neglected by the German Protestant church as a whole. Since September 2001 I have been serving as an assistant pastor of the German-speaking Synod of Lutheran, Reformed and United Congregations in Great Britain. The synod consists of 26 congregations, which are mainly financed through the EKD. All of the seven pastors of the synod have been seconded by their regional churches in Germany. For the last two years I have noticed that evangelism seems to play no role in the synod. At one of our pastors’ conferences the majority of clergy was very negative about the idea of evangelism. They expressed their deep concern about evangelistic courses such as Alpha or Emmaus. This is an experience, which I had before in Germany, where I served as a non-stipendiary preacher in a parish of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, the second largest EKD church. During my training as a preacher mission or evangelism studies were not part of the curriculum. Also, our church district with a membership of about 60,000, clearly emphasized the importance of social and political involvement. Environmental issues and ecumenical relations dominated the agenda. The necessity for disciple-making was almost totally ignored. At meetings of the district synod evangelism was more or less an non-word. When the synodical adviser for home mission, who happened to be the only evangelical incumbent of the church district, left the district the position was never filled again. To summarize, one can say that evangelism was basically regarded as the ministry of evangelical Christians.

3. General Aim and Purpose

On the basis of my own experience I asked myself two questions. Firstly, was the positive assessment of the Leipzig synod and its effect for mission and evangelism in the regional churches justified? And secondly, if not, are there any theological reasons for this?

Both questions have led me to test the following hypothesis: Though the Leipzig synod declared mission as the church’s first priority there is still an unbalanced understanding of mission, insofar as evangelism plays a minor role in the 24 regional churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany. This phenomenon is rooted in mainstream German Protestant theology.

In order to test this hypothesis I assessed the Declaration of the Leipzig synod as well as the EKD report Taking the Gospel to the People. Furthermore, I carried out an empirical research into the role of evangelism in the regional churches of the EKD in general and the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland specifically. Last but not least, I analysed the theologies of influential German-speaking theologians of different theological schools with regard to their understanding of mission in general and evangelism in particular.

4. Basic Assumptions

For the test of the above mentioned hypothesis the following basic assumptions about mission and evangelism in today’s world were taken as starting points:

Firstly, mission is understood as missio Dei, i.e. God’s mission. God is, as D.J. Bosch puts it, a missionary God. God has revealed himself as the One who loves the world. He is active in the world, as he heals, forgives sins and reconciles people to himself and to one another. It is the church‘s privilege to participate in this mission.[5]

Secondly, mission and evangelism are not identical. Mission is wider than evangelism. Evangelism is an integral part, i.e. an important dimension of mission.[6] As such it gives witness to God’s deeds and interventions in human history and invites people to the Christian faith.[7]

Thirdly, evangelism is interested in people. Therefore, it not the same as church growth or church expansion and it also has a non-verbal dimension.[8]

Fourthly, on the basis of these assumptions W.J. Abraham’s ‘Initiation into the Kingdom of God’ model of evangelism is assumed. This model sees evangelism as a variety of actions, which all share the intention to initiate people into God’s Kingdom.[9] Among these actions are the proclamation of the gospel, the call to repent and to believe in Jesus Christ, a basic teaching of Christian theology as well as the equipment of new Christians to serve God in the church and the world.[10]

Fifthly, the contemporary German society is a pre-dominantly postmodern society. The main traits of postmodernity are a strong sense of community, a widespread uncertainty and relativism, a deep distrust of institutions, as well as a spiritual openness and an emphasis on experience and consumer choice.[11]

II. The Declaration of the Leipzig Synod and the EKD report Taking the Gospel to the People

1. The Leipzig Declaration - An Assessment

1.1 The Present Situation

In the Declaration the Leipzig synod recognises that the German society is a pluralistic one. It goes on to say that the church is just one competitor on a religious market. If the church wants to win people it must approach them and connect the Christian message with their life situations.[12] While this is absolutely true, one must also say that the German society is a post-modern society. In the postmodern world the church is certainly a competitor on the religious market, but it is a handicapped competitor. The reason for this is that it offers a metanarrative, which has lost its credibility.[13] Also, in a postmodern age people pick and choose those religious products or a combination of different products, which they like most. The result is an individual patch work religion, or as W.C. Roof puts it a ’personal tailor-made meaning system’.[14]

1.2 The Nature of Mission

The Declaration of the Leipzig synod underlines the importance of the missionary nature of the church. ’The Protestant church’, it states ‘sets the theme of faith and the missionary task in first place.’[15] Also, the synod makes clear that mission is larger than the Christian church: ‘Mission is not done for the sake of the church. The church is part of God’s mission.’[16] In other words, it recognizes the missio Dei concept.

The Declaration goes on to say that it is the church’s commission to help people to discover the truth and the beauty of the Christian message. The Protestant church wants to help people to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and to the Church as the community of believers. This commitment is basically made in baptism. A church, the synod argues, which baptises children, has the obligation to lead those to a personal faith.[17]

In view of this, one can say that the Leipzig synod sees the necessity to call people to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. This call is understood as an non-threatening invitation.[18] While this is true, there seems to be a kind of underlying church extension or growth theology. Thus, the Declaration continues: ‘The body of Christ must grow. That is the reason why churches want to win members. This is what we are striving for. A church, which has forsaken the goal of growing, puts its existence in danger.’[19] And a few pages further we can read: ‘The passing on of faith and the growth of congregations are our predominant task.’[20] H.J. Abromeit takes the latter statement as a signal that the majority of the German church leadership seems to have recognised the importance of church growth, which is motivated by the desire to spread the gospel and not by mere self-preservation.[21] It is doubtful if the Declaration actually allows such a positive interpretation. Such growth, as described by Abromeit, is undoubtedly important, but there is the danger that numerous growth, or ’Mitgliederzuwachs’ to quote the Declaration,[22] becomes more important than the spiritual development of the individual as well as his or her role in ‘the irrupting reign of God.’[23] The fact that the Declaration speaks a lot about the church and church membership, but does not mention the Kingdom of God or spiritual gifts at all, seems to confirm this impression. Also, one needs to ask the question, if there is any connection between this ‘new’ attitude towards church growth among German bishops and the dramatic decline in membership in recent years, as M. Herbst seems to suggest.[24]

1.3 The Ways of Mission

The Declaration of the Leipzig synod speaks freely about the importance of mission. It underlines that a wholesale condemnation of Christian mission is not justified.[25] Moreover, it rightly stresses that mission has an ecumenical dimension[26] and that it is not the specific mark of one particular churchmanship in the Protestant church.[27] While the Declaration uses the term ‘mission‘ naturally, it is striking that terms such as ‘evangelism’ or ‘evangelisation‘ are not used at all.

After mentioning briefly the specific missionary activities, such as bible workshops, house groups or faith nurturing courses, the Declaration turns to the ‘normal’ missionary dimension in the life of the church and her local congregations.[28] What follows is a two page long description of methods, initiatives, and activities the Leipzig synod regards as suitable ways of missionary outreach, such as work in the field of education (church schools, academies), diaconical ministries, looking after church members (‘Mitgliederpflege), support of church volunteer workers (training) as well as projects, which bring together the areas of culture and faith. Furthermore, the Declaration underlines the importance of the family for passing on the Christian faith to the next generation as well as everyone’s willingness to speak about one’s personal faith in every day situations.[29]

2. Taking the Gospel to the People - An Assessment

2.1 The Present Situation

The report starts with a description of the present culture and general attitude towards religion in Germany. Without mentioning the terms ‘postmodern‘ or ‘postmodernity’ Taking the Gospel to the People rightly point to the main characteristics of a postmodern society . Thus it argues that many people in Germany think of the church as an inflexible bureaucratic organisation and that they reject any kind of authority.[30] It goes on to say that there is a strong interest in Eastern religions and New Age spirituality, but at the same time an unwillingness to engage with the question of truth.[31] Finally, it states that many people are driven by a ‘hunger of experience’.[32]

The working party’s analysis of the contemporary cultural and religious situation in Germany is very accurate. The same is true for their conclusion that the present cultural mood is a challenge to the Christian faith. The anti-institutional and anti-authoritarian attitude of many Germans, for example, cannot only be seen in the steady decline of people going to the polling stations on election day, but also in the huge number of those who are leaving the 24 EKD regional churches every year. Between 1990 and the year 2000 a total of 2,030,510 gave up their church membership, while only 512,569 people joined or re-joined the EKD churches. In the same period the number of infant baptisms declined from 257,312 in 1990 to 209,881 in 2000. Altogether, the membership of the EKD churches decreased from 25,1 million in 1990 to 22,8 million in 2000.[33]

2.2 Evangelism: The Proclamation of the Gospel

After a rather in-depth and precise analysis of contemporary German culture, the authors of the report give their view and definitions of mission and evangelism. They agree with the Leipzig synod that Christian mission is God’s mission. This mission, they argue, comprises not only evangelism but also diaconical work, public relations work, social action, as well as the church service on Sundays.[34] At the same time they underline that the evangelistic task is at the centre of the overall missionary task of the church.[35] They justify this statement by referring to Article V of the Augsburg Confession and Article VI of the 1934 Barmen Declaration. Both articles speak about the importance of the ministry of preaching the gospel.[36]

Against this background it is not too surprising that the report defines evangelism as the ‘proclamation of the gospel, i.e. the good news.’[37] Evangelism, the report goes on to say, has four dimensions: salvation, reconciliation, commitment, and conversion.[38] Evangelism calls upon people to believe in Jesus Christ. It calls people to find salvation from their lostness, i.e. from their lives without God, to become reconciled with God and to come to a personal commitment to Christ.[39] While evangelism invites people to believe in Christ and to follow him, it cannot force them to do so. The reason for that, the report explains, is that faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Referring to Romans 10:14, it goes on to say, that the latter does not mean that evangelism and the call for a decision are useless: ‘Damit werden die Einladung zum Glauben und auch der Ruf zur Entscheidung aber nicht überflüssig.’[40] The lesson to learn from this is rather that the proclamation of the gospel must be accompanied by prayer and by the expectation, that God’s Spirit will create faith.[41]

Furthermore, the report says that evangelism must always be linked to a local congregation and that it must encourage converts to be baptised into the Christian church and thus to become a part of the Christian community.[42] Also, it admits that evangelism has an ’educational dimension’, insofar as it is necessary to teach baptised members of the church the meaning of their baptism and to help them to inform others about their faith.[43]

Though it is true that Taking the Gospel to the People sees links between evangelism, baptism, and discipleship training,[44] it basically understands evangelism as proclamation of the gospel. Baptism and the discipling of new Christians are not seen as integral parts of the evangelism process. Consequently, the report sticks to the traditional Protestant model of evangelism. J.I. Packer, a prominent exponent of this approach writes: ‘…evangelism is just preaching the gospel, the evangel. It is a work of communications in which Christians make themselves mouthpieces of God’s message of mercy to sinners.’[45] This transmission of the message can be done through formal preaching and teaching in a church environment but also in personal contacts.[46] In my view, this reflects the basic understanding of evangelism that can be found in the report. This becomes clear when we look at the forms of evangelism that Taking the Gospel to the People suggests. Whether it is personal evangelism[47], evangelism through the traditional ministries (i.e. services, casual offices, bible studies, parish magazines)[48] or special evangelistic projects (i.e. Alpha, Emmaus, seeker services, concerts etc.)[49] the emphasis is clearly on verbal communication.

As W.J. Abraham points out there are advantages and disadvantages with this model of evangelism. An obvious advantage, Abraham writes, is that this model emphasizes the cruciality of sharing the good news with those who have never heard it or have heard it only in parts. Moreover, it helps to determine if evangelism is actually taking place or not by examining if the gospel is preached or taught. Last but not least, the proclamation model seeks to do justice to the little amount of biblical material on evangelism available.[50]

Besides these strengths, the proclamation model has three main weaknesses. Firstly, while it is true that the word ‘to evangelise’, that is used fifty-two times in the New Testament means to announce or proclaim good news, it is wrong to restrict evangelism to the verbalization of the Christian gospel. D. Watson rightly points out that throughout the New Testament, and particularly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, the declaration of the good news is inextricably linked with the practical demonstration of the meaning of the gospel message.[51] A good example for this can be found in Mark chapter two, where the gospel writer tells us that Jesus not only ‘preached the word’ to the people of Capernaum but also healed a paralytic man.

Secondly, it is true that the gospel is the gospel of Christ. Christ brought the good news of God’s love and the defeat of the powers of evil into the world and at the same time he embodied this good news.[52] But this is only one aspect of the gospel. The gospel is also the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom (e.g. Matthew 4:23). And by doing so he invited his hearers to join God’s community and to become part of his rule. This kingdom aspect of mission and evangelism is almost totally ignored by the report. As a matter of fact, the term ‘kingdom of God’ (Gottes Reich) is mentioned only once, and even then the report seems to understand it in a solely futurist eschatological sense.[53] Taking the Gospel to the People speaks about the necessity of joining the church, but it seems to forget that the church and the kingdom, i.e. God’s rule, are not identical.[54] Against this background it is not surprising that the report mentions the role of the Holy Spirit in conversion, but like the Declaration it keeps completely silent about the necessity to help to people to discover the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which they receive ‘to operate as agents of God’s reign in the church and in the world.‘[55]

Thirdly, it is arguable whether the evangelistic task of the church can be limited to the four dimensions of salvation, reconciliation, commitment, and conversion, as the report seems to suggest. The great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, which the report rightly regards as a mandate for evangelism,[56] does not speak of converts but of disciples. S.J. Grenz rightly argues that this is in line with Jesus practice as it is presented by the gospel writers: Jesus expected more from people than mere confessions. He called people to become his disciples, even if this was costly.[57] Therefore, one has to say that the aim of evangelism is not making converts but disciples. According to Bosch disciple-making is more than helping people to find a personal and private spirituality. Disciple-making has a social dimension. In Transforming Mission Bosch argues that the whole Gospel according to Matthew points to the final verses of the Great Commission. These verses are a kind of theological programme or summary of the teaching that is contained in this gospel. Because of this, Matthew 28:19-20 must not be taken out of context and thus be degraded to a mere slogan.[58] These verses must be interpreted in the light of the whole gospel, but especially in the light of the ethical teachings that can be found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).[59] Consequently, the process of disciple-making involves the teaching of kingdom values such as justice, peace, and righteousness.

The report agrees with the social and political responsibilities Christians have. It explicitly quotes Article 5 of the Lausanne Covenant, which states that evangelism and social and political action are Christian responsibilities, even though they are not identical.[60] But it is not clear if the report regards the teaching of these responsibilities as part of the evangelism process. Evangelism is foremost understood as an invitation that leads, when accepted, to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to membership in the Christian church.[61]

3. Summary

To summarize, one can say that both the Declaration of the Leipzig EKD Synod and the EKD report Taking the Gospel to the People rightly hold that the mission of the Christian church is first and foremost the mission of God. In contrast to the Leipzig Declaration the EKD report clearly puts more emphasis on the evangelistic dimension of mission. Also, the report underlines that evangelism, which is part of God’s mission, faces several challenges in a postmodern society. Though this is clearly true, one must say that the model of evangelism, which Taking the Gospel to the People uses, tends to be a narrow one. It focuses on the proclamation side of evangelism, which invites people to a personal faith in Jesus Christ and into the membership of the church. It stresses the necessity of conversion and commitment as well as the consequences of these, i.e. salvation and reconciliation with God. Therefore, both, the Leipzig synod and the EKD report, are in danger of missing the wider picture. Both ignore the kingdom aspect of mission and evangelism. Taking the Gospel to the People overlooks that the goal of evangelism is not only salvation but also ’to ground, establish, institute, and train people in the reality of God’s rule.’[62]

III. Empirical Research

More than 3 ½ years after the Leipzig synod and more than 2 years after the publication of Taking the Gospel to the People the rather positive evaluation of the Leipzig synod by H. Bärend is shared by the EKD Council and other members of the working party.[63] Against this background I decided to carry out an empirical research into the role of evangelism in the EKD regional churches.

1. Evangelistic Initiatives

Taking the Gospel to the People recommends several evangelistic strategies, which, as the report claims, have proved worthwhile.[64] I decided to select three popular and widely known evangelistic initiatives in order to assess the involvement of EKD parishes.[65]

1.1 ProChrist

ProChrist is a mass evangelisation campaign, which is held every three years. For eight days evangelistic programmes, which consist of music, interviews, drama and a sermon, are transmitted from a main venue live via satellite to locations in Germany and other European countries. At the local level churches and para-church groups organise specific supporting programmes, but the central part of the programme comes from the main site.[66]

ProChrist 2003, which took place from the 16th to the 23rd March 2003, was transmitted to more than 1,300 locations and attended by 1.8 million people. The organizers claim that 27,400 people came forward to make a commitment of faith in Christ.[67]

Altogether, 3,712 churches and groups were involved in ProChrist 2003. Among these were 1,794 free churches and 795 EKD congregations. In other words, only 21% of the groups involved were parish churches belonging to one of the 24 EKD regional churches, while 48% were free churches. The largest free church group were the EFG Baptist Union with 539 congregations (=15%).[68] In addition to that, 665 congregations of the Gnadau Union (=18%), the largest evangelical movement within the EKD, took part.[69] This means that 17% of all Gnadau Union congregations, 63% of all EFG Baptist churches, but only 4.7% of the Lutheran, Reformed, and United parish churches got actually involved.[70]

1.2 Willow Creek

At the heart of the Willow Creek concept are seeker friendly or sensitive services, which are aimed at so-called unchurched people. These services avoid traditional elements such as hymnbooks or clerical robes, Instead, they are characterised by an extensive use of modern technology (e.g. video clips), songs, which are modelled on popular music, as well as messages, that show a high grade of application.[71]

To promote this specific approach Willow Creek Community Church, Chicago has spawned a global network of churches from many different denominations. In addition, it holds regular conferences and seminars. The first German conference took place in Hamburg in 1996. Since then the number of participants has grown constantly. The 2002 leadership summit in Oberhausen was attended by 8,085 people. 30% of these were members of EKD regional churches, while 19% came from EFG Baptist, 16% from FEG Free Evangelical, and 12% from Gnadau Union congregations. 4% of the participants belonged to the German Methodist Church and 1% were Catholics.[72]

To find out whether these figures are reflecting the membership of the Willow Creek Association Germany, I contacted the German headquarters in Bad Homburg. The headquarters informed me that the German network has currently 223 institutional members. 54 members are EKD parishes, 56 are EFG Baptist congregations and 35 belong to the FEG Fellowship of Free Evangelical Churches Furthermore, there are fifteen Gnadau Union, thirteen Pentecostal, five Methodist and one Catholic church which have joined the German Willow Creek branch.[73]

These conference and membership figures clearly show that free churches, which represent only 1% of all church members in Germany, play an important role within the German Willow Creek movement. Thus, 70% of the institutional network members are free churches and 57% of the participants of the so far biggest conference in Oberhausen belong to those churches. And while only 0.3 % of the 16,896 EKD parishes are officially linked with Willow Creek, 8.75 % of the Free Evangelical churches and 6.5 % of the EFG Baptist congregations are part of the network. A similar outcome shows the analysis of the Alpha course work in Germany.

1.3 The Alpha Course

Whereas in the United Kingdom there are currently Alpha courses running in 7,215 churches,[74] the number of German churches registered with Alpha is relatively small. In April 2003 there are 644 churches and groups registered with Alpha Germany. Among these are 139 EKD parishes, 59 EFG Baptist churches, 52 FEG Free Evangelical churches, 31 Catholic parishes, 20 YMCA groups, 16 Methodist congregations as well as 268 mainly Pentecostal free churches.[75] In other words, almost 74% of those churches using Alpha are free churches. Bearing in mind that there are almost 17,000 EKD parishes the number of EKD parishes involved with Alpha is relatively small. Only 0.8% of all EKD parishes are linked with Alpha, while 6.8 % of the EFG Baptist churches and even 13% of the FEG Free Evangelical congregations are using Alpha courses.[76]

A further analysis shows that most of the EKD parishes are located in regions which traditionally form the Lutheran pietist or and charismatic heartlands. Thus, 35 churches are from the southwest of Germany, 22 from Saxony and 42 from Bavaria. There is, for example, not a single EKD parish from the Rhine-Ruhr area - a region with a population of approximately 6 million.[77]

1.4 Summary

The analysis of three well-known evangelistic initiatives has shown that the number of EKD parishes, which follow these approaches, are very small. Willow Creek, Alpha and ProChrist are dominated by evangelical and charismatic free churches as well as congregations of the pietist Gnadau Union. Also, those EKD congregations, which use these evangelistic tools, seem to be part of the evangelical or charismatic camp, too. For the majority of EKD churches Willow Creek, Alpha, and ProChrist are apparently not evangelistic methods they are willing to apply. For November 2003 the German Willow Creek and Alpha organisations are planning a common conference in Nuremberg. It remains to be seen if this new cooperation will lead to any synergies or even a greater participation of EKD congregations.


[1] Kundgebung der 9.Synode der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland auf ihrer 4.Tagung zum Schwerpunktthema ‘Reden von Gott in der Welt - Der missionarische Auftrag der Kirche an der Schwelle zum 3. Jahrtausend published in Das Evangelium unter die Leute bringen {Hannover: Kirchenamt der EKD, 2001) pp.42-50 (p.42). In this dissertation I will also use the English term 'Declaration' for the German word 'Kundgebung'.

[2] German title: Das Evangelium unter die Leute bringen (Hannover: Kirchenamt der EKD, 2001)

[3] Neuer W, ‘Die “Missionssynode” von Leipzig und ihre Folgen’ Idea Dokumentation 2001/1, pp.3-13 (p.3)

[4] Bärend H, Worte von oben in der Praxis vor Ort - AMD Studienbrief A60 (Stuttgart: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Missionarische Dienste, 2000) p.2

[5] Bosch D.J, Transforming Mission (New York: Orbis Books, 1991) pp.10, 390

[6] Ibid., pp.411-412

[7] Ibid., pp.412-413

[8] Ibid., pp.415, 420

[9] Abraham W.J, The Logic of Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001) p.103

[10] Ibid., pp.104-105

[11] cf. Knight III H.H, A Future For Truth (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997) pp.53-55; Hicks P, Evangelicals & Truth (Leicester: Apollos, 1998) pp.34-35; Lyon D, Jesus in Disneyland (Cambridge: Polity, 2001) pp.49-50; Cray G, Postmodern Culture and Youth Discipleship (Cambridge: Grove Books, 2000) pp.7-8

[12] Kundgebung, pp.45-46

[13] In A Primer on Postmodernism J.S. Grenz puts it this way: ‘Not only have all the reigning master narratives lost their credibility, but the idea of a grand narrative is itself no longer credible. We have not only become aware of a plurality of conflicting legitimating stories but have moved into the age of the demise of the met narrative.’ Grenz J.S, A Primer on Postmodernism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) p.45

[14] Roof W.C, A Generation of Seekers: The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation (New York: HarperCollins, 1993) p.5

[15] Kundgebung, p.47

[16] Ibid., p.44

[17] Ibid., p.44

[18] Ibid., p.45

[19] Ibid., p.44

[20] Ibid., p.47

[21] Abromeit H.-J., ‘Was ist Spirituelles Gemeindemanagement?’ (Abromeit H.-J, (ed.) Spirituelles Gemeindemanagement (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001) p.25

[22] Kundgebung, p.44

[23] Bosch, p.415

[24] M. Herbst, professor of practical theology at the University of Greifswald and editor of the German Emmaus version, writes about the new openness towards mission: ‘Probably, this change has been forced by the declining role of tradition and the numerical changes in membership in recent years. Especially, the church leaders and bishops have realized that the church cannot continue like this. They have realized that the church needs to be more outward-looking, she needs to grow and she needs to do something for this. Of course, these are not really theological motives…’ (Herbst M, letter dated 8th May 2003)

[25] Kundgebung, p.45

[26] Ibid., p.44

[27] Ibid., p.47

[28] ‘Über die speziellen Aktionen und Handlungsmöglichkeiten hinaus hat auch das ganz “normale” Leben der Kirchen und ihrer Gemeinden eine missionarische Dimension.’ Ibid.,, p.48

[29] Ibid., pp.48-50

[30] Das Evangelium..., p.11, 13

[31] Ibid., pp.13-14

[32] Ibid, p.14

[33] ’Statistische Daten zur Mitgliederentwicklung in der evangelischen Kirche’, unpublished internal statistics received from the EKD, Department of Statistics, letter dated 2nd April 2003; EKD Statistik Kurz und B ü ndig (Hannover: Kirchenamt der EKD, 2002)

[34] Das Evangelium …, p.17

[35] Ibid., p.17

[36] Article V of the Augsburg Confession states: ‘To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel. And the Gospel teaches that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merit of Christ, when we believe this.' Leith J.H, (ed) Creeds of the Churches (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1973) p.69; Article VI of the Barmen Declaration states: ‘The commission, of the Church, in which her freedom is founded, consists of this: in place of Christ and thus in the service of his own word and work, to extend through word and sacrament the message of the free grace of God to all people.' Leith, p.522

[37] Das Evangelium…, p.18

[38] Ibid., p.18

[39] Ibid., pp.18-19

[40] Ibid., p.20

[41] Ibid., p.20

[42] Ibid., pp.23-24

[43] Ibid., p.26

[44] Ibid., pp.22-24

[45] Packer J.I, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (London: Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 1961) p.41

[46] Weber D, ‘What is Evangelism’ (Elwell W.A, (ed) Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1995) p.383

[47] Das Evangelium …, p.28

[48] Ibid., pp.29-30

[49] Ibid., pp.31-32

[50] Abraham W.J, The Art of Evangelism (Calver: Cliff College Publishing, 1993) p.26

[51] Watson D, I Believe in Evangelism (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1976) p.27

[52] Ibid., p.33

[53] ‘In the history of the church people have always discussed the question,…if, because of God’s mercy, all human beings will enter the Kingdom of God.’ Das Evangelium …, p.20

[54] Bosch, p.377

[55] Abraham, The Art of…, p.33

[56] Das Evangelium …, p.7

[57] Grenz, S.J, Theology for the Community of God (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1994) p.656

[58] Bosch, p.57

[59] Ibid., p.69

[60] Das Evangelium …, p.22; Article 5 of the Lausanne Covenant states: 'Although reconciliation with man is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty.' Stott J, (ed) Making Christ Known (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1996) p.24

[61] Das Evangelium... , p.23

[62] Abraham, The Art of…, p.33

[63] I contacted the EKD Council (Kirchenamt der EKD) and the members of the working party ‘Taking the Gospel to the People’. The EKD Council believes that the Leipzig synod has started off a process, which has led to a greater openness towards mission. Mission is no longer a controversial term. It is important for the future of all groups within the church regardless their churchmanship (letter from K. Schubert on behalf of the EKD Kirchenamt, dated 13th May 2003) K. Schäfer, head of the Department for Studies and Publications in the Evangelisches Missionswerk Hamburg (Association of Protestant Churches and Missions in Germany), thinks that mission today is of greater importance for the churches than it was in the past. For the EKD and the regional churches the Leipzig synod has played some role in this (Schäfer K, letter dated 28th April 2003). M. Herbst believes that the climate for mission and evangelism has improved in recent years. He thinks that the Leipzig synod has had a positive and long lasting effect on the EKD churches. Because of the synod, Herbst argues, mission and evangelism are clearly on the churches agenda (Herbst M, letter dated 8th May 2003). This view is shared by T. Schneider, general secretary of the Evangelical Gnadau Union (Schneider T, letter dated 20th May 2003).

[64] Das Evangelium …, p.31

[65] M. Herbst believes that the German conferences of the American Willow Creek Community Church as well as British imports such as Alpha have had an important influence on today’s positive view of mission and evangelism among church leaders Germany. (Letter received from M. Herbst, dated 8th May 2003).

[66] Volke S, 'Unglaublich: ProChrist bringt den Himmel auf Erden' ProChrist-Magazin 2003 pp.4-5

[67] ProChrist2003 - Auswertung, <www.prochrist.de/download.php?dIID=396>, date of access: 5th May 2003

[68] Ibid.

[69] The Gnadau Union has approximately 200,000 members and 4.000 local groups and congregations (source: Schneider T, general secretary of the Gnadau Union, email dated 12th June 2003)

[70] There are 862 EFG Baptist churches with a total membership of 86,000 (source: Bund Evangelisch-Freikirchlicher Gemeinden, 'Der Bund Evangelisch-Freikirchlicher Gemeinden in Zahlen' <www.baptisten.org/indexo.html> date of access: 2nd July 2003; The EKD has 16,896 congregations (source: EKD Statistik Kurz und Bündig (Hannover: Kirchenamt der EKD, 2000)

[71] McGrath A.E, The Future of Christianity (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002) p.62

[72] ‘Kongress-Statistik’, WillowNetz 1/2003, p.18

[73] Willow Creek Deutschland, email dated 10th April 2003

[74] Alpha News March-June 2003, p.31

[75] Häuslschmid H.-J, director of Alpha Germany, letter dated 16th May 2003

[76] The FEG Fellowship consists of approx.imately 400 congregations with a total of 33,000 members (source: Bund Freier Evangelischer Gemeinden <www.feg.de/?oid=1871> date of access: 2nd July 2003)

[77] 'Alpha-Register' <www.alphakurs.de/register/index.html> date of access: 14th April 2003

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Evangelism in the German Landeskirchen after the Leipzig Synod 1999
University of Sheffield  (Cliff College)
With Distinction
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ISBN (eBook)
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Evangelism, German, Landeskirchen, Leipzig, Synod
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MTh PgDipLRM CThM Dipl.-Volksw. Thorsten Prill (Author), 2003, Evangelism in the German Landeskirchen after the Leipzig Synod 1999, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/85841


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