I honestly don't think I was overly naive when I first arrived in Denmark. I had visited in the past and also read about the catastrophic decline of Christianity in western Europe. But I never entertained the possibility that in a nation once shaken by the Reformation, a nation of 5 million people, that I would be unable to find a local church that preached the Gospel.
The local Pentecostal pastor detested my evangelism labor because I talked about sin! Though he professed to hold to the authority of Scripture he refused to even discuss his sin free theology with me over an open Bible. If I were to put my best construction on the local Baptist pastor I would say that he was far more honest than the Pentecostal pastor - he readily admitted to his low view of Scripture! I tried the Apostolic church and found that to be a wonderful haven for postmodern emergent thinkers who had "moved on" from the archaic idea of propositional truth. The Lutheran priests I spoke with ranged from liberal to very liberal - when I could find one that wasn't a woman (and that could be difficult to figure out). I also learned that the word "Methodist" is actually Danish for "universalist". I even stumbled upon a conservative evangelical church which would have been great if not for the 3 words the pastor didn't understand - penal substitutionary atonement.
Then there was the organization called "Evangelist" which sounded interesting enough - except for the fact that I couldn't find any explanation of the Gospel anywhere on their website. In all due fairness to their leader Christian Hedegaard, though I never heard him preach the Gospel, he did compensate for this by talking a lot about himself . . . when he wasn't asking people for money.
This is not to say that there are/were no legitimate Gospel preaching churches out there in Denmark. I just couldn't find any. I am also hopeful that my provocative comments might aggravate a faithful shepherd to the point that he would contact me and enlighten my ignorance. My tale of woe is really only a snapshot of what has been a grievous journey for me. I struggle with the fact that I spent more than a year without being a part of a local church. My conscience is plagued with the possibility that I failed as the head of my family to take more decisive action when it was needed to rectify their lack of spiritual food and fellowship. Did I dishonor God by heeding my wife's desire to continue living in Denmark when we should have relocated somewhere that had a healthy biblical church? It was certainly understandable that my selfless, darling wife would long for a season in her homeland after 6 years in Australia. But I am also called as the head of my family to act decisively on behalf of the biblical command not to forsake the assembly of believers. I still wrestle with this and may well deserve rebuke for my actions, or rather inaction.
As can be read, my grievances were certainly not matters of secondary importance, which was why I launched into my lengthy tirade at the start of this post. If I were to identify God's providence in all of this then I believe it would point to the fact that my situation forced my to really zero in on the question of what is, and what isn't, a true church. It also forced me to sharpen my understanding of the Gospel to the point that I actually started to take some action on the status quo in Denmark, which I will talk about on Monday . . .
Go On To Part 5
Go Back To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1