Just ten years ago, most evangelical Christians in Germany gave little thought to attending the German Lutheran Church’s biennial convention. But for some time now, evangelicals within the Lutheran church have been trying to reform it.

Their growing influence was evident at this year’s Kirchentag, held last month in Hanover. Translated “Church day,” Kirchentag is a five-day convention that has been held every two years since 1949.

Although groups like Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and Campus Crusade for Christ have participated in Kirchentag for years, the large-scale evangelical presence at this year’s convention was unprecedented. One of the most popular speakers at the convention was Ulrich Parzany, a German evangelist who has become well known throughout Germany.

But Germany’s evangelicals are split on the issue of whether evangelical participation in Kirchentag is proper. Some believe it would be irresponsible to squander the opportunity to reach thousands with the gospel message—some 140,000 people, mostly young, attended. But a large block of evangelicals prefer to keep Kirchentag at arm’s length because it offers a platform to virtually all theological, religious, and political viewpoints. More than 500 groups set up booths at the “possibilities market” during this year’s Kirchentag.

One of those groups was an evangelical spiritual retreat center called “Krelingen,” which joined with local Evangelical Alliance churches to sponsor evangelistic meetings as part of the possibilities market. Krelingen’s founder, Heinrich Kemner, who was strongly criticized by evangelicals for attending Kirchentag, justified himself by saying, “The church is asleep and snoring, and God’s alarm clock will need to clang loudly before she ...

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