Tag Archives: Germany

German Pentecostal Leader Martin Gensichen and His Theology of Humility

Pages from 1928_09_08
This Week in AG History–September 8, 1928
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 08 Sep 2014 – 4:31 PM CST

Martin Gensichen (1879-1965) came from a long line of German Lutheran ministers. For three centuries, men in his family served Lutheran pulpits in Germany. After Martin accepted Christ in 1900 and sensed a call to the ministry, it was quite natural that he would serve in his ancestral church.

After graduation from seminary, Martin became pastor of a small Lutheran congregation in Germany. Martin was excited to be able to share what he called “simple faith.” Martin preached about sin, repentance, and being born again.

But things did not go well for the earnest young preacher. Martin’s parishioners became angry and stopped attending services after he preached about sin. He preached to empty benches week after week. He felt humiliated.

Martin was not a typical German Lutheran preacher. He had been influenced by the Holiness movement and had experienced a profound work of the Holy Spirit in his life in 1905. His father and grandfather also each had a personal encounter with God and identified with revival movements in their earlier generations. By 1908, Martin had cast his lot with the Pentecostal church, which he deemed to be the revival movement of his generation.

Martin shared his testimony in an article published in the September 8, 1928, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

In the article, Martin emphasized the importance of humility in the life of faith. He viewed his earlier humiliation in the Lutheran church, when the members left because he preached against sin, as a spiritual blessing.

God “wanted to break my heart,” Martin wrote. “No one can soar into the heights of faith unless they have first had a broken and a contrite heart. Humility is the soil in which faith can grow.”

When Martin joined the Pentecostal church, he realized that it would cost him dearly in his social circles. He recounted that in the early twentieth century Pentecostals were “much despised,” even by many evangelicals in Germany. Instead of resenting the fact that his faith marginalized him from broader society, he embraced his low social position. He wrote, “We must learn to rejoice when we suffer or are despised.”

Humility, Martin believed, is not just necessary for individuals. It is necessary for nations, too. Before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Germany was flexing its military and economic might around the world. German leaders oversaw colonies and envisioned themselves as rivaling the British Empire. Martin was troubled by Germany’s imperial ambitions. Martin’s primary interest was in building God’s kingdom, rather than the German Empire. Furthermore, he believed that revival would not come to Germany unless it had been humbled.

Martin’s theology of humility caused him to reject movements that placed excessive pride in one’s own nation. He wrote, “God set me free from nationalism. I am neither German, nor American, nor English — I belong to heaven.”

Martin also applied this theology of humility to education. He identified himself as a “German theologian,” noting that he had studied for 20 years to master Greek and Hebrew. While affirming the value of education, he also noted that “Our intellect is much too small to comprehend the vastness of His love.”

The young Lutheran pastor who experienced humiliation because he wanted to preach “simple faith” became a prominent Pentecostal leader in Germany. His testimony continues to remind new generations that faith and humility go hand in hand.

Read the article by Martin Gensichen, “Honoring God by Simple Faith,” on pages 1, 8 and 9 of the September 8, 1928, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “God’s Conditional Covenant to Heal His People,” by John Roach Straton

* “Standing for the Pentecostal Testimony,” by Jacob Miller

* “Report of Assemblies in Russia,” by Ivan Voronaev

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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Review: German Pentecostal Church Planting

Clark, Paul.  German Pentecostal Church Planting, 1945-2005: Implications for Intentional Mission in the Twenty-First Century.  Benton Harbor, MI: Priority Publishing, 2011.

Pentecostalism is booming.  From Capetown to Singapore to Rio de Janeiro, the barely hundred-year-old movement is making its presence felt wherever it goes.  Its continuing expansion across the global South in recent years has, among other things, created a veritable cottage industry for those willing to research and discuss the work of the Holy Spirit in the myriad cultural worlds of the now.  The flurry of popular and academic attention to such contemporary developments has been intense.  In the process, however, many older and just as unique indigenizations have been ignored.

This volume by Paul Clark is a helpful corrective to this trend.  By focusing on German Pentecostal church growth over the past 60 years, Clark reveals the movement’s unique path in the heart of old Europe.  As a veteran missionary church planter in Germany, Clark’s approach to his subject matter is both informed and immediate.  The careful research work he has done here tells of a religious movement nearly as old as Azusa Street, but which developed under vastly different circumstances.

Clark’s purpose is to provide “insights to assist present and future church planters in Germany” (5) as they and others come to “understand contextual and theological issues unique to Germany” (10).  Following a literature review of the German language sources relevant to the topic at hand, a discussion of biblical models of church planting, and the context of the Freikirchen (Free Churches), Clark turns his attention to the deep history of Pentecostalism in Germany.  Outsiders from the beginning, German Pentecostals were not welcomed in the state-funded churches and came into existence as culturally suspect “Free Churches.”  Not long after the movement took root in 1906, German believers faced the additional pressure of being labeled as cultic and even Satanic by fellow evangelical Free Church Christians—not to mention German society at large.  For Clark, this 1909 Berlin Declaration helped create an image of Pentecostals that has been as damning as it has been lasting.

The five German church groups studied for this monograph are: the Bund Freikirchler Pfingstgemeinden (BFP), the Volksmission, the Ecclesia Fellowship of Churches, the Mulheim Association, and the Church of God.  Clark investigates all of the German-speaking church plants operating with the cooperation of these groups in the post-WWII era, provided the congregations are still in existence.  He then sorts the churches into eleven categories according to the circumstances of their founding.  Clark rejects two of these categories–churches founded by refugees from the East and by splits in existing churches–as poor models upon which to base further church planting.  Planting churches by use of evangelistic meetings, while showing some success in the past, is also downplayed as less than useful in modern Germany.

The remaining categories of historical church planting retain viability for Clark: resident clergy or layperson initiated, mother church plants, foreign missionary initiated, organic development from the Charismatic Movement, non-resident clergy/lay initiated, home cell group initiated, derivatives of youth oriented ministry, and as the result of proximity to a national or international ministry.  Of these models, Clark elevates the mother-daughter church paradigm as key.  Further, he strongly encourages the use of interpersonal missionary connections rather than institutional outreach.

Clark’s study has much to commend it.  Most notable is the care and diligence with which he assembles the data that comprises this study.  Scholars and church leaders will be glad of it for years to come.  For the English-speaking reader, his is a rare insight into German Pentecostalism that elucidates the unique context of Pentecostalism in a secular land that maintains its cultural allegiance to a state-funded Staatskirche.  The slow numerical growth witnessed by church planters in Germany is thus not surprising.  Clark’s additional observations about the use of the home cell group and suggestions for dialogue and cooperation between the major Pentecostal groups once again reminds readers that his knowledge of the movement is both as deep as it is practical.

Alas, there are some drawbacks to Clark’s work.  First, he often lacks the specificity needed to adequately make his point.  Throughout the book and in his title, for instance, he continually refers to the need for “intentional” ministry.  The term is both undefined and overused in the book, in the process rendering it essentially meaningless.  By not clearly spelling out what he means theologically, he weakens a major piece of his argument.  So too his occasional assertions of “emotional excesses” (49) on the part of some German Pentecostals remains opaque.  He neither historically nor philosophically explains what he means by this language, in the process clouding one of the criticisms made against the movement.

Second, Clark’s approach is rather unfocused.  He does well in establishing the facts on the ground and analyzing the data, but when he moves from analysis to practical recommendations, he seems to have missed a step or two.  His approach to his findings and suggestions mostly takes the form of lists.  While some of what he has to offer is vital, other conclusions—such as “pastors need to lead by example” (146)—seem neither particularly profound nor necessarily derived from his research.  A more focused thesis, the removal of excess and sometimes unnecessary commentary, and more deliberate argumentation would help organize his findings more helpfully.

In spite of these drawbacks, Clark’s work stands alone as one of the only—if not the only—full-length English work on indigenous German Pentecostalism.  Because German Pentecostal Church Planting, 1945-2005 exists at the crossroads of the historical, sociological, practical, and theological, it is hard to criticize it for occasionally unwanted editorializing.  Many of Clark’s comments are both insightful and apropos, and will bear much fruit for those willing to read both his monograph and peruse the associated twenty-two appendices of data and related material.  Missionaries, pastors, and other ministry workers in Western Europe will be wise to study it closely as they contemplate the work at hand.  English-speaking students of global Pentecostalism and sociologists of religion will alike both find much to provoke conversation and reflection on this small corner of the diverse and changing world religious landscape.

Reviewed by Dr. Joshua R. Ziefle, Northwest University

Published also in German: Clark, Paul. Die Gründung von Pfingstgemeinden in Deutschland, 1945-2005 : Implikationen für intentionale Mission im 21. Jahrhundert.  Benton Harbor, MI: Priority Publishing, 2011.

Paperback, 280 pages. €16.95 retail. Order from: Priority Publishing.


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Review: History of the BFP in Germany

Der Auftrag bleibt: Der Bund Freikirchlicher Pfingstgemeinden auf dem Weg ins dritte Jahrtausend, by Dieter Hampel, Richard Krüger, and Gerhard Oertel. Erzhausen, Germany: Bund Freikirchlicher Pfingstgemeinden, 2009.

Der Auftrag bleibt: Der Bund Freikirchlicher Pfingstgemeinden auf dem Weg ins dritte Jahrtausend (in English, The Mandate Never Changes: The Union of Free Pentecostal Churches in Germany on the Way into the Third Millennium), authored by three long-time members of the executive leadership of the Bund Freikirchlicher Pfingstgemeinden (BFP) in Germany, provides first-hand insight into the church’s historical and structural development. This reference volume provides a detailed historical overview of the BFP during the last two decades of the twentieth century and a wealth of data related to many of the changes that occurred during this period of time. German reunification, the addition of several Pentecostal fellowships to the BFP, and the growth of ethnic churches within the BFP have brought about major changes which lead to a structural transition.

This volume also looks back to the development of German Pentecostalism during the Nazi era and Post-World War II Germany. The authors trace the formation and development of numerous local congregations, providing insight into various periods of modern German history which, to say the least, was very turbulent at times. The authors provide lists of missionaries from Scandinavia and the U.S. Assemblies of God who worked to train leaders and establish local congregations through intentional church planting. Much historical attention is also given to the establishing of the Bible school in Erzhausen by Assemblies of God missionaries after World War II. This work is a tremendous contribution to Pentecostal scholarship and describes how the BFP has grown and developed in post-Christian Europe.

Reviewed by Paul Clark, Assemblies of God missionary to Germany

Hardcover, 549 pages. €29,00 plus shipping. Available from: amazon.com

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Review: 100th Anniversary of the Mülheimer Association


Jahrhundertbilanz: erweckungsfazinierend und durststreckenerprobt: 100 Jahre Mülheimer Verband Friekirchler-Evangelischer Gemeinden, by Ekkehart Vetter. Bremen, Germany: Missionsverlag des Mülheimer Verbandes, 2009.

Ekkehart Vetter, the current President of the Mülheim Association in Germany, in his well-researched book, Jahrhundertbilanz: erweckungsfazinierend und durststreckenerprobt: 100 Jahre Mülheimer Verband Friekirchler-Evangelischer Gemeinden (in English, One Century of Assessment: The Fascination of Revival, Tried Through Difficult Times: 100 Year History of the Mülheimer Association Church in Germany), has presented an extensive historical documentation of 100 years of this early Pentecostal organization in Germany. The Mülheim Association was the first officially recognized “Pentecostal Movement” in Germany, which stemmed from a revival in the city of Mülheim, located in Germany’s industrial Ruhr Valley, where 3,000 conversions occurred over a six week period in 1905. Pentecostal revival spread quickly throughout the Gemeinschaftsbewegung (Fellowship Movement) within the Lutheran Church, which resulted in dividing those who supported this new outpouring from those who strongly disapproved of what was occurring. In 1909, over sixty respected Evangelical leaders signed the Declaration of Berlin, which officially condemned this infant movement, along with its leader Jonathan Paul, as being destructive, demonic, and saturated with false teaching. After being forced out of the Gemeinschaftsbewegung, Jonathan Paul and other leaders, against their original intent, established the Mülheim Association.

Vetter goes to great lengths to trace the genesis and development in the early years by carefully examining Pentecostal periodicals that were prominent during the beginning decades of the twentieth century. Vetter also describes in detail, how in the first decades, the Mülheim Association never intended to be a denomination and was hopeful someday to reunite with the Gemeinschaftsbewegung. After World War II it became apparent that the Mülheim Association became an established denomination. Vetter takes a very critical look at his own church, listing at the end of his volume, ten reasons why the Mülheim Association dramatically declined in numbers over the years. One century later, the Mülheimer Association has evolved to become, as it now describes itself, an evangelical charismatic church that has gradually and gracefully left its Pentecostal roots.

Reviewed by Paul Clark, Assemblies of God missionary to Germany

Hardcover, 528 pages, illustrated. €19,80 plus shipping. Available from Mülheimer Verband

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Review: Pentecostalism in Germany

Freikirchliche Pfingstbewegung in Deutschland

Freikirchliche Pfingstbewegung in Deutschland: Innenansichten 1945-1985 (Pentecostal Free Churches in Germany: Inside Story, 1945-1985), by Ludwig David Eisenlöffel. Kirche–Konfession–Religion Band 50. Göttingen, Germany: V&R Unipress, 2006.

Freikirchliche Pfingstbewegung in Deutschland: Innenansichten 1945-1985, an important study of the evolution of the Pentecostal movement in Germany, is one of the latest additions to the prestigious Kirche-Konfession-Religion series produced by Konfessionskundliches Institut des Evangelischen Bundes and Evangelischer Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen. Portions of the publication originally were submitted as the author’s doctoral work at Life Christian University in Tampa, Florida, which was completed in 2004.

The author, Ludwig Eisenlöffel, served as longtime director of the Beröa Bible School and Theological Seminary (an institution associated with the Bund Freikirchlicher Pfingstgemeinden, a German denomination which works with the Assemblies of God) and also was managing director of the Forums Freikirchlicher Pfingstgemeinden (FFP). Furthermore, he has a considerable history with the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Christengemeinden (ACD), which was renamed Bund Freikirchlicher Pfingstgemeinden (BFP) in 1982. Continue reading

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Review: From Oslo to Berlin

From Oslo to Berlin! : European Pentecostalism

From Oslo to Berlin! : European Pentecostalism, by Paul Schmidgall. Erzhausen, Germany: Leuchter Publishing, 2003.

From Oslo to Berlin! : European Pentecostalism made its appearance just in time for the Pentecostal European Conference in Berlin during June 2003. As Director of the Church of God’s theological seminary in Germany and as an active participant in the European Pentecostal Fellowship, Paul Schmidgall has insight into past events and present happenings in European Pentecostalism. Due to his personal interaction with European Pentecostal leadership, Schmidgall’s work reflects much depth.

Schmidgall provides a scholarly overview of the historical developments of the Pentecostal movement in Europe on a country by country basis. He also presents current information on contemporary developments that effect Pentecostalism in a very diverse European setting. This book includes important bibliographical and statistical data that will greatly assist those who have a keen interest in Pentecostalism in the European context. At the end of the book there are helpful color maps showing the strength (or weakness) of Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism in Europe. Schmidgall’s book is a good starting point for those who desire a deeper understanding of the Pentecostal movement in any given European country.

Reviewed by Paul Clark, Assemblies of God missionary to Germany

Paperback, 204 pages, illustrated. Also published in German. To order, contact Leuchter Edition.

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