Praying for a New Reformation in Germany
Praying for a New Reformation in Germany
We are grateful to welcome to Christ Church this Lord’s Day the Rev. Sebastian Heck, German church planter from Heidelberg, Germany, and a dear friend in ministry. Sebastian will be preaching in our evening service (5:30 p.m.), and I would warmly encourage you to attend. Sebastian’s church, the Evangelical Free Church of Heidelberg (Die Selbstandige Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche Heidelberg) is located in the heart of the city, on the top floor of the historic Landfried building–– a building which, in former times, was a large tobacco factory. I have had the privilege of worshipping in the church numerous times. It is a beautiful space in a strategic downtown location. From the arched windows in the sanctuary there are stunning views of the ancient hillsides and vintage buildings of Heidelberg. Elevated front and center in the sanctuary is the pulpit built by Sebastian and his father. The beautiful piece of ecclesiastical furniture is meant to underscore the centrality of the public reading and preaching of Scripture (I Timothy 4:13). By God’s sovereign grace and power, the vision for the establishment of a Reformed, Confessional, and Presbyterian Church in Germany has become a reality.
A Little Background
About six years ago the session of my former congregation, Grace Presbyterian Church, met with a former missionary to discuss the possibility of partnering with a young man that he knew from Baden Baden, Germany who desired to plant a Reformed church in Heidelberg. That young man was Sebastian Heck, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Twin Lakes Fellowship, a ministerial fraternal in Jackson, Mississippi. After meeting Sebastian, it was evident that he had the faith, gifts, and resolve to meet the challenge.
Sebastian was then introduced to our congregation, and it was obvious that a sweet relationship was forming between Sebastian and the members of our church. Because there is no Reformed and Presbyterian denomination in Germany, and thus no ecclesiastical governing body to ordain Sebastian to the ministry, our church and presbytery heartily agreed to oversee the process. Part of the ordination requirements in the Presbyterian Church in America entails an internship. Therefore, my former church brought Sebastian and his family over to Douglasville for six months to partially fulfill the internship requirements. During this time we grew to love Sebastian, Isabel, and their three children, Sophia, Tabea, and David. The Hecks became members of our congregation during this period. In addition to the internship, the session unanimously decided to make the church plant in Germany our highest missions priority.
The Challenge & Opportunity
Due to post-enlightenment philosophy and nineteenth-century higher criticism, the State Church in Germany (both Lutheran and Reformed) abandoned the authority and inspiration of Scripture. Consequently, today less than 7% of the German population attends church. Of those who profess Christ, only a tiny fraction confess the Reformed Faith. Therefore, the need for a new reformation in Germany, a country of almost 90 million people, is huge. A work of this size will not happen overnight. Therefore, there must be ongoing support of faithful German church planters in the future. Paul’s words to the Romans are profoundly applicable:
“But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)
The city of Heidelberg is the perfect place to do the work of church planting in Germany. Located in the beautiful Neccar River Valley, Heidelberg is a bustling town with many leading professionals and over 40,000 students from the University of Heidelberg, one of the finest universities in Europe. In addition, this historic city has a glorious Reformation heritage. Indeed, since 1563 the Heidelberg Catechism has been a primary confession within Reformed Protestantism, still confessed today in many parts of Europe and North America. Sadly, only a small handful of people in Germany are aware of this glorious heritage.
Grace & Power in Christ
Like here in Charleston, it is springtime in Heidelberg. The trees and flowers are blooming and displaying their vibrant, God-given colors. After a long and cold winter in Europe, new life is springing forth all over the German Palatinate. In kingdom terms, the church plant in Heidelberg is only one blossom on the tree of reformation and renewal in Germany. Therefore, it must be our solemn prayer that God would end the long spiritual winter in the land of the Protestant Reformation, and bring the inception of a new spiritual springtime through the faithful proclamation of the Gospel. Great grace and power is needed to accomplish the task. Thankfully, great grace and power are provided through the crucified and risen Christ. Dear members of Christ Church, we have not even begun to understand or experience “what is the immeasurable greatness of God’s power ... and might” (Ephesians 1:19). Let us pray for Sebastian and the building of God’s kingdom in Germany.
Your Pastor, Servant and Friend,