“Germany will never look the same.”
The sentiment slips from the mouth of the leader of the GEM Member Care team, Norman Tober.
Growing up in Germany and now having returned to serve there for twelve years, he has seen much and heard firsthand even more about the shift in Germany. Not just the economy, the social issues, but also the status of openness to the Gospel.
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, culminating with the start of the financial crisis in 2007, the security of materialistic wealth was stripped away as significant layoffs began happening all over the country. The financial stability people had relied on was suddenly not so sturdy. Lifelong job security was a thing of the past. Like asking someone to climb a rock wall without hand-grips, this new generation of young Germans has been given no way to forage ahead and create a sustainable life.
Then when the refugee crisis began pouring people into Germany over the past few years, and in more significant quantity beginning in 2014 and into 2015, the German people found that their physical safety was also no longer a guarantee. Refugees grew to be over 2 percent of the population in Germany in a year.
Before refugees were flooding the streets of all cities, Germans never thought about religion. Germany was a “Christian” country. Religion didn’t matter and there was no reason to talk about it. Being Lutheran or Catholic was an insignificant part of life. When people began to feel a threat to their cultural norm, things started to change.
Now that Muslims have come, religion has become an issue to many. Germans are questioning, “How am I different from them?” “What do I even believe?” “What does it mean to be a Christian?” and
“Who is God?”
The local community is far more open than it has been in decades. And even the Muslims there are becoming disillusioned with their own faith. Horrific things are being done in the name of their religion and they are questioning if that is what Islam is really about. Do they want to be a part of something that does such harm?
The Spirit is working. Especially in converts to Christianity. Some are genuine heart-transformations. And though some people are skeptical and disheartened by some fake proclamations of faith, fake or not, despite the intentions of the heart, God’s Word does not come back void. The Gospel is being preached and His Word is being heard.
Unfortunately, many German Christians aren’t recognizing this new openness in their new Muslim neighbors and are turning into “fortress churches”. People are afraid. These refugees are a people who come from lawlessness, and the dangers in Europe today are the kind you can’t easily prevent. Europeans, who have for centuries trusted their government, are unsteady. The attacks they’re seeing can’t be predicted. They’ve happened underground and by normal people in normal areas – completely unforeseeable in many cases. The German government can no longer protect its citizens to the degree they were able to in the past and Germans don’t know what they can trust in anymore.
Missionaries aren’t enough to do this work of sharing the Gospel with fearful nationals and questioning refugees; thousands are needed to mobilize the small three-four percent of local evangelical Christians. Fortunately, the Evangelical Allianceis moving in huge Spirit-led ways like it did in France a few years ago, and GEM is at the forefront of this movement to train people.
Norman says it is a privilege to be in Germany at such a time as this. He believes the GEM team in Germany and the body of believers they work with are working on the foundation of those who built a quiet and faithful ministry of prayer and preparations through patience and perseverance, decades before them.
He sees that the enemy is working disunity and terror through violent attacks to splinter the efforts of those doing Christ’s work and seeking His peace - trying to make Europe an unsafe place so missionaries won’t go.
But the opportunity Christ-followers have to see people come to the Lord and bring life to a dead region is outstanding. Germany is a mess politically, economically, and socially, but people are open to the only thing that is really stable: The Eternal and Ancient, Faithful God. Ten years ago, Europeans didn’t need God to have “abundant life”, but now people are waking up.
“Germany will never look the same.” What if this is an answer to decades of prayer?
God has cracked people’s hearts wide-open and is inviting us to share the answer we have to their restless and questioning hearts.
Join us in God’s great Commission and sharing His love to Germany, all of Europe, refugees, and all the world.