GERMANY – The Challenge for an Irrelevant Church

A German member of the Operation World team writes:-

The new corona virus made its first appearance in Germany early this year, as in the rest of Europe. The virus started spreading rapidly, and as of May 24, there are a little over 180,000 confirmed cases, and also 8,367 deaths related to this disease.  Compared to other countries in the region, this is a very low fatality rate, usually attributed to a fairly good health system with the highest number of intensive care beds with respiratory support per 100,000 inhabitants in all of Europe.  

The Federal and State governments imposed social distancing measures in March, similar to those in other countries. The Federal government did a fairly good job in communicating the situation and measures, and the public widely accepted the restrictions, which are now slowly and gradually being lifted again. 

Germans are not as well disciplined as their reputation suggests, and after two months of work from home, income cuts, home schooling the kids and keeping them away from their friends in small apartments, and, of course, nobody around them having died yet, many peoples’ nerves are lying bare and more and more of them stop caring as much as they did before. Public parks are full again. 

Churches last met on March 8. After that, all Sunday services, small groups etc. were cancelled.  All of a sudden, churches had to learn about online services, video conferencing tools, etc.  Two weeks ago, church meetings were allowed again, but under rather severe restrictions: 1.5 m / 5 ft distance, masks, no singing, no gatherings before and after the service, and, what is probably worst, members of high-risk groups to stay home.  Many churches will stick with online services until they can have real fellowship again.  A Baptist church in Frankfurt did meet – and about 50 congregants and their contacts got infected.  The incident was covered widely in the media, which did not make for great publicity.

The good thing is that the churches were forced to develop new creative ideas to do things differently. This will most likely make their outreach more efficient. They also notice that their online services are being watched by far more people than ever attend in their buildings. 

On the other hand, we had to recognize that our opinion was not sought by the public in this crisis.  To the majority of Germans, what the churches have to say in such a situation is about as relevant as what the Association of Poultry Breeders say.  According to recent Gallup and Pew Research polls, 66% of the German population are non-religious or atheist; only 10% say they are “absolutely certain” that there is a God, with an unknown percentage of them being Muslim immigrants.  

Points for prayer: 

  • Many people were shocked to be reminded that they do not have everything in life under control.  May they not look for a culprit, but for the truth, and may they find it.
  • This disruption is a great opportunity for every Christian to tell their friends and neighbours about Jesus and show his love.  Please pray that we seize this window of opportunity wisely before it closes again because life returns to normal. 
  • Churches have shown a lot of creativity in the past weeks. Let us pray for this momentum to continue and to be used to spread the gospel.  Let us also pray that churches have the wisdom to resume their activities safely.  
  • Even if Germany was affected less than most other countries, still thousands of people have lost loved ones, many more have suffered from severe attacks of the disease and still experience after-effects, the lockdown caused loneliness, even depression in many, others suffered from domestic stress, even violence. May they find peace and comfort.