We’re pleased to announce the launch of TGC Norden. Registration is now open for the TGC Norden Conference, “Rejoice in God,” hosted in Stockholm, Sweden, October 5–7, 2023. Learn more about how to help TGC develop coalitions and websites like this one around the world.
I’ve never been a fan of big Christian conferences. I’d prefer just to watch the content afterward. For me, conferences mean crowds of people, frenzied activity, lots of strangers, and a flood of information I’ll never remember. When I lived in the United States, I never made it to The Gospel Coalition National Conference because, well, I’d rather read the website!
So how does someone like me become the founder and a council member of TGC Norden? Because of our big God.
Preparing the Way
TGC Norden seeks to serve Christians in the countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, as well as the Faroe Islands and Greenland. My name is Carl Jan Christian Roth, and the story of TGC Norden’s beginnings is much like a biblical story—one of God preparing the way, of his power made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12.9). In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul admitted he’d come to them not with eloquent speech or “plausible words of wisdom” but in a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Cor. 2:1–4). As our brother Tim Savage clarifies in his book on gospel ministry from 2 Corinthians, Paul wanted to distance himself from the self-exalting sophists of Corinth and simultaneously dismantle the criticism he was receiving from the church by providing this paradox: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).
When I first showed up in Copenhagen with my wife, Stephanie, we felt our weakness profoundly. I was an Americanized Swede lost in Denmark. A friend of mine who’d worked as an evangelist for decades in Denmark told me my vision of seeing 10 churches planted in 10 years was a pipe dream. There had been three or four other Acts 29 church plants in the area that had wonderful support from an established and encouraging congregation, but they’d eventually sputtered out and stagnated. Meanwhile, my very articulate (in English) wife struggled to learn Danish, sounding like a toddler to our friends. Then came COVID lockdowns and a new baby for our family. But God was preparing the way.
I was an Americanized Swede lost in Denmark.
During this time, I heard a story about a group of churches starting a TGC chapter in southeast Europe. I reached out to a friend of a friend and finally connected with J. D. Gilmore, who was helping in this effort. He tasked me with surveying pastors around the Nordics about what value they might see in a similar coalition. The response was more positive than I expected—alongside some heated dialogue. A few months later, I met Tim Savage. God had recently called Tim to move to England, and he’s now helping oversee the development of European branches of TGC. The timing couldn’t have been better.
Tim started joining our meetings. He turned out to be just the encouragement we all needed while nearly all churches in Denmark were locked down and many church planters were struggling to know how to meet people. “Preach the gospel of a big God,” he told us. “Look for what God is doing, who he is raising up. This begins with faithful pastors meeting together and locking arms in gospel fellowship.”
And that’s what we’ve done. Many of us who preach the Word and stay centered on the gospel in the Nordics can feel like we’re the only ones doing it. (Sometimes, it’s like you’re the only one in your whole country, as a brother in Iceland shared with me.) In countries like Sweden, being a complementarian feels like something you have to keep in the closet. The dominant national churches of Norway, Denmark, and Finland also seem to water down Christianity in our culture. In the Faroe Islands, it can feel as if Christians are watching the Nordics moving further and further down the path of the secular creed.
But the big God of Scripture isn’t finished with the Nordics.
The big God of Scripture isn’t finished with the Nordics
We’ve already hosted a conference in Copenhagen with Tim Savage, Collin Hansen, and Mark Dever, with over 150 total leaders and pastors (online and in person) joining hands and hearts in worship. We’ve formed a council and met in Oslo to pray and dream together. And we’re eager for more resourcing, more preaching, and more laboring together for the gospel across national boundaries and even across denominations. We who preach the Word in each of these traditions have more similarities than differences, because our hearts beat for the same gospel, the same theological vision for ministry, and the same doctrines of grace.
I’m thankful my first TGC conference was a small one, gathering 100 or so pastors in Copenhagen. Though we were small in number, the shared worship and vision for reaching the West with the gospel were sweet. I have to admit, although I still feel a bit shy with the crowds and the loud music, the TGC conference experience is growing on me.