Christian Nowatzky was 11 years old when the Berlin Wall came down 20 years ago, but the Berlin-based pastor says walls still exist. Some Germans still see themselves as East German or West German, others see themselves as liberal or conservative, but the church, he says, should be middle ground. "We can really be cultural leaders in a diversified world and in the city of Berlin, where people long for a message that unites, yet without superficially brushing over real differences," he says.
Nowatzky grew up in Erfurt (former East Germany), where his family faced communism in his early childhood. After attending seminary, he spent some time studying under Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. With Redeemer's help, he came back to Germany four years ago to plant an Evangelical Free Church called Berlinprojekt. What started with 11 people grew to about 400 people, making it in one of the largest churches in Berlin, where just 1.5 percent of people attend a Protestant church. Two weeks ago, the Christian magazine Idea Spektrum called Berlinprojekt one of the fastest growing churches in Berlin. Online editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey spoke with Nowatzky, who is now 31, in a café in former East Berlin about the church in Berlin 20 years after the fall of the wall.
Were there any spiritual ramifications for Germany after the wall fell?
Under communism the church was decimated, and the majority of people were atheists, which is rare to find today. After the wall came down, the younger generation was influenced by the general postmodern theme and generally more pluralistic mindset from the West.
Is secularism the reason why church attendance in Germany is so low, even with its history of the Reformation?