Germany is home to one of Europe’s oldest cultures. Its German name is Deutschland. A land of proud people and traditions, it is known for beautiful forests, mountains, and rivers. The countryside is dotted with scores of castles from medieval and Renaissance times. The people enjoy working, eating, and spending time outdoors.
Germany’s history is scarred by feudal strife, devastating wars, and religious conflicts. Germany was united in 1871 under King Wilhelm I of Prussia who became emperor. The German Empire peaked before World War I and went into decline after its defeat in 1918. The 1930s were years of short-lived prosperity that ended with World War II. With help from the West, Germany recovered and today is an economic success story. Its government is comprised of an elected president, prime minister, and parliament.
The Catholic Church was the largest influence over Germans until the 1500s. But Martin Luther resisted the church, preaching “the just shall live by faith” and that all people could read the Bible and receive the Holy Spirit. These teachings began the Reformation and the birth of evangelical movements.
The German Pentecostal movement began in 1907 due in part when two Norwegian missionaries visited several German cities en route to India. Many believers from a Lutheran background experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit and other spiritual gifts. Lutheran pastor Jonathan Paul, considered the father of German Pentecostalism, met with various leaders in Hamburg the following year to establish biblical guidelines for the new movement.
In 1922 evangelist Heinrich Vietheer established the Berlin Tent Mission and began planting Elim Pentecostal churches. Later other independent Pentecostal churches joined his fellowship. In 1938, due to the political repression of the Nazi regime, the Elim churches were forced to affiliate with the Baptist Union.
U.S. Assemblies of God missionaries G. Herbert Schmidt and Gustave Kinderman directed efforts of the Danzig Bible School ( present day Gdansk, Poland) beginning in 1928. Through the influence of this Bible school, the Pentecostal message expanded in Eastern Europe amongst Germans, Poles, and Russians, resulting in the formation of the Freie Christengemeinde fellowship. In 1938 the Bible School was forced to close by the Nazi authorities.
Evangelist Karl Fix began ministering in Berlin during 1934 and later moved to the province of Württemberg in southern Germany. Karl Fix along with Karl Keck and Paula Gassner worked to establish the Volksmission church fellowship. All the above-mentioned church fellowships, (except the first group initiated by Jonathan Paul), today make up the BFP (Union of Free Pentecostal Churches), which is the partner fellowship of the Assemblies of God in Germany.
The results of World War II were disastrous for Germany, bringing mass destruction, expulsing millions of people from their homeland, and costing millions of lives. This led to the dissolving of many Pentecostal congregations in the East, as well as the destruction of numerous church buildings. However, German Pentecostals who were expelled from their homelands in Eastern and Southeast Europe, became the founding members of many new congregations founded in Germany after the war.
Following World War II, Assemblies of God missionaries working with various groups of believers encouraged the establishment of a united Pentecostal fellowship, which today is the BFP. Assemblies of God missionaries were instrumental in initiating the Berean Bible School in 1951, which continues to train men and women for ministry. The Berean Bible School as well as the headquarters for the BFP is located in Erzhausen, 17 miles south of Frankfurt.
The Movement Today
Today in Germany approximately 50 Assemblies of God missionaries and missionary associates work in church planting, children’s ministry, community outreaches, Teen Challenge, campus ministry, as well as teaching and other supportive ministries. In the past 30 years Assemblies of God missionaries have established over 20 new churches in Germany.
The BFP, with 820 churches and 56,000 baptized adult members and about 168,000 people in the Movement, is the second-largest Evangelical fellowship in Germany. One-third of all BFP churches today are international with approximately 80 percent of these congregations having their roots in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Facts About Germany
Area: 137,847 square miles
Population: 80.5 million
Education: compulsory from age 6 to 15; literacy rate is 100 percent.
Agriculture: potatoes, wheat, barley, sugar beets, fruit, cabbages; milk products; cattle, pigs, poultry
Economy: iron, steel, coal, cement, chemicals, machinery, vehicles, machine tools, electronics, automobiles, food and beverages, shipbuilding, textiles