The homeland of Martin Luther has hardly been the hotbed of Christian revival in the twentieth century. Germany has become one of Central Europe's largest fields of mission as a result of more than a half-century of dictatorship—first Nazi, then Communist. In the former Communist East Germany, the legacy of 40 years of anti-Christian indoctrination and oppression lingers: a mere 31 percent of its 16 million people profess a belief in God. In all of Germany, only 4 percent of Protestants and less than 20 percent of Catholics participate in weekly Sunday services.
Yet Michael Stollwerk, 33-year-old senior Protestant pastor of Wetzlar's cathedral, is "extremely encouraged" by the renewed interest of young people in Christianity. Wetzlar is a city of 50,000 inhabitants 60 miles north of Frankfurt.
Thursday night youth meetings had been held at another downtown church, but they became so popular the sanctuary could no longer accommodate them. Youth night has transferred to the massive Gothic cathedral towering over the town.
Stollwerk is typical of a new breed of German clergy who, unlike many of the postsixties generation of pastors, disdain the proclamation of political agendas from the pulpit. "As a pietistic Lutheran I feel duty-bound to preach only the gospel of Christ," he says.
Such an outlook is the secret of pastoral success, according to Helmut Matthies, editor of "ideaSpektrum," a weekly magazine published in Wetzlar by Germany's Evangelical Alliance. "Where unadulterated biblical truth is proclaimed, young people listen."
Albrecht Herzog, 37, Lutheran pastor in the Bavarian town of Tirschenreuth, suggests an additional criterion. "Today's young Germans are very open to our message, provided they have had good personal ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more