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Church Planting in Secular Scandinavia

Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches

When I attend conferences and speak with church planters and ministry leaders from other parts of the world, I’m often asked, “What’s it like to plant churches in secular Denmark?” I reply that it’s like the rest of Europe—hard soil. Scandinavia’s post-Christian culture possesses a passionate rhetoric against Christendom, with only a scant population (less than 2 percent) of evangelical Christians.

Churches in Denmark are declining, and church planting is difficult work. A well-traveled colleague even told one of my church members, “Of all the countries I’ve visited, the Danes have the biggest fear of things concerning faith!” This is all true, and certainly sufficient in discouraging church planters. But it’s not the whole truth.

The more I consider Denmark’s spiritual climate, the more convinced I become that secularization isn’t our biggest problem. It’s Christians believing Satan’s lies.

Believing Lies

When we believe the narrative our enemy employs to defeat us, we’re rendered useless in kingdom work. Satan taunts church planters with a barrage of lies. It’s obviously futile. You might as well keep quiet. Stop trying to share the good news with your neighborsthey aren’t interested.

Secularization isn’t our biggest problem. It’s Christians believing Satan’s lies.

Such falsehoods can strip us of our bold witness until we finally resemble Jesus’s disciples after he died on the cross—hiding in a locked room fearing persecution (John 20:19).

But God hasn’t placed us in our cities to hide. He summons us to go, not to retreat.

Speaking Truth

At Copenhagen Church, where I pastor, we’re experiencing something different. Despite all the hostile anti-Christian rhetoric in Denmark, there are still people who long for purpose in their lives. People who want more. Sadly, many of them have no idea there are gospel communities living abundant lives changed by Jesus Christ.

They don’t know the One who can satisfy their thirst. They’re unaware that eternal hope exists in a broken world. Our unbelieving neighbors’ ignorance of the gospel is a result of our silence. They don’t know these truths because they don’t know any Christians speaking them.

My biggest task as a church-planting pastor is to encourage and equip the congregation to let their faith be visible to others. We are proclamation people. We speak God’s truth. We open our homes to friends and neighbors, telling them about Jesus who came to save sinners.

Our unbelieving neighbors’ ignorance of the gospel is a result of our silence. They don’t know these truths because they don’t know any Christians speaking them.

And we invite our co-workers to join us when we gather for worship. As one of my friends says, “We certainly shouldn’t expect that the number of people who come will be larger than the number of people we invite!”

The gospel is relational. If love for Christ and the community he’s placed us in is absent—if we don’t declare the gospel with bold clarity—then church planting is just the thing we talk about, not the thing we do.

Embodying Grace

I’ve been a church planter in Denmark for almost 20 years. In the midst of a secularized society, God has blessed us with a large and lovely church. We’ve sought to meet our lost friends’ and neighbors’ hesitant (and often hostile) attitudes toward Christ with unwavering love. We try to regularly interact with friends, colleagues, and neighbors who don’t know the gospel, and it’s our joy to proclaim it to them. To embody it before them. Our faith is on display for the eternal good of others and the great glory of God.

My faith in Christ’s promise to build his church emboldens me to preach the gospel, knowing that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Looking back, I rejoice in God’s grace and intervention. When we planted Copenhagen Church, we didn’t know a thing about church planting. We just felt God compelling us to do it. Our journey has been filled with ups and downs. We’ve experienced joys and successes, but also disappointments and failures. But God has carried us through.

We’ve seen churches planted who struggle to grow. We’ve seen fellowships pop up where we hadn’t planned or invested. But God is God. He plans for and invests in his people. And he blesses, even in post-Christian contexts.

The Devil is a liar and aims to crush our kingdom-advancing efforts. Church planter, reject his lies with an unshakeable faith in Christ’s promise to build his church (Matt. 16:18).

Indeed, believing this truth gives me strength to encourage other church planters serving in hard contexts. My faith in Christ’s promise to build his church emboldens me to preach the gospel, knowing that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. My confidence in God propels me to plant churches where there aren’t any because Denmark, and so many other cities, desperately need Jesus.

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