Being able to speak in “one voice”—a voice that shares the pure law and gospel message—is something Michael Herbst, pastor at St. Johanneskirche, Zwickau-Planitz, Germany, saw and appreciated at the recent synod convention. Herbst and his son, Daniel, represented the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany at the WELS convention during this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation.
“It was so good to get the Lord’s Supper together with all of us,” he says, in reference to the opening worship service. “It’s good to see and hear that we are one voice.”
That fellowship with WELS and other sister churches in the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference means much to the 1,250-member German church body, especially because many people in their country don’t want to hear the gospel message. According to Herbst, while many claim to be members of the State Church (a mix of Lutheranism, Reformed, and United Protestant) or the Catholic Church, they are not really interested in attending. And the message they hear from these churches can range from moderately conservative to extremely liberal. The State Church waters down the law and is tolerant of anything that is preached. “I have to say first [that people] are lost because they are sinners, but that is not the message in the State churches,” says Herbst.
But the 16 congregations in the ELFK are not afraid to share the law and gospel, a message Martin Luther stressed, even at a time when many Germans are tired of hearing about the Reformation.
In fact, they are using the Reformation to reach out into their communities. A series of lectures called “Das Wort Hat Getan” (the Word did it) will give ELFK pastors an opportunity to share more about Luther’s teachings. Herbst’s congregation in Zwickau-Planitz is also hosting a synodwide special worship service on Reformation Day for all its congregations and the local community to celebrate and share the gospel message for which Luther fought.
Joint gatherings for choirs, youth, brass, and more are not uncommon for the ELFK congregations. The ELFK also runs a large bookstore filled with conservative Lutheran materials and trains called workers in its own seminary in Leipzig. An independent elementary school run by an association of ELFK churches, Dr. Martin Luther School in Zwickau-Planitz, offers an education and the gospel message to many students who are not members. “These children have heard God’s Word, and God can plant his Word in their hearts,” says Herbst. “It’s not important for me that they come to our congregation. For me it’s important they come to Christ.”
Challenges still abound. The seminary currently has no students, and outreach is difficult due to the indifference to religion of much of the German population. But the ELFK continues to stand firm in the Word in the land of Luther.
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Volume 104, Number 10
Issue: October 2017
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