The latest news item from the European Baptist Federation paints a rather depressing picture of membership decline within the German Federation of Evangelical-Free Churches (Baptist and Brethren). Titled ‘We will continue to grow smaller’ the article reports from the recent annual conference in Kassel.
The number of churches within the Federation has dropped by five to 823 in the last year; membership declined by 0.5% to 83,285. A total of 1,905 persons were baptised – the lowest number since 1995. Some congregations are bucking the trend. During the last 12 years, 187 congregations have increased membership by more than 15%; yet the membership of 323 has diminished by more than 15%.
A final observation is made that only 386 congregations out of 690 sent delegates to the conference. Several delegates called for a deep spiritual renewal and closer integration with the 450 Baptist and Mennonite congregations whose memberships of 120,000 are largely made up of arrivals from the former USSR.
The tying together of the decline in an indigenous European denomination and the presence of migrant congregations is becoming a familiar theme. It remains to be seen how effectively the mission of Christ in Germany, and elsewhere in Europe, will be served by closer co-operation and integration. The years ahead are likely to be challenging for these churches and in this they reflect the reality of the historic Christian presence in Europe.
The decline prompts a call to passionate prayer, informed support, commitment to faithful ministry and mission, and a courageous decision to face the future with renewed reliance on God’s Spirit.
For the original article at EBF, see: http://www.ebf.org/articles/display-article.php?article=319&cat=home&lang=eng