Timo Heimlich, a church planter in Germany, talks with Kurt about the differences, similarities, and challenges the church faces in one of Europe’s busiest hub cities–Berlin.
Kurt: Well, a good day to you. And thanks for joining us here on another episode of veracity hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics and society. Today we’re looking at an interesting topic, something outside of the scope of American society and traveling across the pond, I guess. Well, that’s usually what the British folks say. But we’re traveling over to Germany. And we’re going to be discussing the the state of Christianity in Germany with Timo Heimlich, who is a German church planter. Timo, thank you so much for joining us on the program today.
Timo:Hey, good morning, Kurt.
Kurt: Yeah, I figured this is something unique to our podcasts, I thought, What a great way for folks to learn more about you and the ministry work that you’re doing over there in their working with different church congregations and for Christians here in America to learn more about what it’s like to be a Christian. Over in Europe. What do people perceive Christians are like, and you know, the type of work you’re doing there. So it’s sort of a broad topic, but a great opportunity for us to really learn more about what’s going on over there. So thanks for joining me. So, to begin, let’s just start to learn more about you, who you are your background and say, what got you interested in church planting?
Timo: Well, that’s a long story. But no, there are a couple a couple of steps along a journey. And the journey for me started in Western Germany and the center of West Germany near Dortmund, if any, you know, we have some soccer players out in Dortmund. Anyway, and I moved to Berlin later after I graduated from high school. In Berlin, God called me to work in the city of Berlin for a number of reasons, which I may share later, but I knew I needed some training to lead on work in the city of Berlin, I came here to the United States to be trained at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, in Urban Ministries. And during that time, I already knew I would go into ministry and I already knew I would go into Berlin. But it was then actually that one variant, the most influential course that I had was given by the now moody President Mark Jobe. We talked about urban issues and the church. And so it was clear that any issues in a big city, it’s the church, it’s being called to serve and into and so from their city was on my mind, my focus church became even more in the focus. And then church planting was then the next step in development, to see what their churches in Germany, but there’s a big need to start new ones that complement the existing ones, but also have a very big heart for missions for truth for evangelism and for Urban Ministry. And that got me into church planting. That’s kind of…yeah.
Kurt: So were you born and raised in a Christian home?
Timo: I was born and raised in a Christian home, my parents went to church to man, this will come up more often to a Free Church in Germany of free churches, different from the general state church, which is very popular and cultural expression of Christianity. But the free churches are smaller churches independent. That is what this free means. Kind of like churches. Oh, yeah. Generally, I mean, independent of a larger system. Yeah. And so that’s where my parents went. Sundays other times. They were involved, and they had friends and they were Christians, but they weren’t at the church all the time. So when I was a teenager, the church there was a great place, you know, to get a little bit away from my parents and be plugged in and involved in just starting groups and studies and all the stuff there.
Kurt: Yeah. So here in America, a lot of folks. We don’t have that concept of us of a state church. Yeah. And that’s a church that is taxpayer supported and run and works with the government, or is the government how does that work?
Timo: Yeah, and actually, the Vert the term state churches really not 100% accurate because it’s like other countries where you really have a government dictated religion and really a state religion or state church. In Germany, that term just describes between the larger church body the vongola, securtiy, and Deutschland or Cattolica, the Catholic or Protestant church in Germany, there, they have a lot of treaties are a lot of ties to the government, where responsibilities are aligned or cleared. So it’s not so much that the government is running the church but just that the church has a lot of influence in their running hospitals, universities and all these things, and it’s just regulated somehow. And yes, tax is part of it. The government is collecting taxes from all the members of the church, and because they collect taxes anyways, I mean, there’s what’s government do? Right? So they might just as well for the church to and then it’s a service that the government is providing and giving the money to the church for their services?
Timo: it’s nothing bad. It’s just
Kurt: So these free churches, though, don’t have any connection to the state in the sense that they don’t receive taxpayer dollars. They’re not regulated by the state.
Timo: Right? Yeah, they are out of that system. Again, that’s why they are free outside of that. They don’t get any text, we could I mean, we have our legal status is we could tax our members. But that doesn’t make too much sense. Most people who are really involved in local church they give to their local church, and there’s no need to have, you know, that come from their paycheck, which is a lot less, I think it’s around 1% or below 1%, even sizes. So we could do that. We don’t do that. And yes, no, there’s no other government support, other than any other entity that is doing providing social services, for example, to a community and as government getting government to ensure that, but that it’s just like anybody else.
Kurt: Right, right. Yeah. It’s just like, a different organization for social work. Right? Yeah. Okay. So you traveled to the United States, you went to Moody Bible Institute, here in downtown Chicago. And so you were there for a few years? And then did you go back right away to Germany and begin working?
Timo: Well, I went back right away, but it didn’t start to work. I went to seminary in Germany, because it was important besides the training here in the United States to also get theology training in Germany. And so that was another two years, which was I guess it was working. And then we did an internship, especially in East Germany to understand more of the East German church culture, church philosophy, and work there for almost a year. And then we hope to move on to Berlin to start right away, but doors didn’t quite open at that time. There were some some some funding that wasn’t there and some other things. So we said, Okay, we have another year attend before we can move into border. And so we actually came back to the United States and then tapped with a church planting movement in Minnesota for one year. That’s where we got some practical training. And our goal was to find out and do all the make all the mistakes over here. to Germany, we all set but account doesn’t work.
Kurt: Yeah, right. Right, right. Just the laboratory over here. Nice. Okay. So then what year was it that you went back to Germany and began…
Kurt: Okay, it’s about 14 years ago…
Timo: 14 years ago. So we moved back there.
Kurt: Nice. And so did you just sort of start from scratch? Did you integrate with an existing organization? Or how did you begin to do work there?
Timo: Both. And I mean, we were looking for an organization because in Germany, it’s very important if you just work by yourself, and then maybe even let people know that you came from America solo for studied here, then and you’re not affiliated anywhere, you are very suspicious. So it’s good to have a German, legitimate sort of speak organization. And so we joined the, well, the Evangelical Free Church of Germany, which is like a denomination of the free churches, about 400 500, known in Germany. And so, because that’s the denomination I grew up in, in Germany. So I went back to them and said, Okay, are you starting any work in Berlin, and they, they were interested in that. And that is a record Nice. Again, not the big state type church, but it’s really more traditional features that people don’t know. It’s a safe category. And it’s a good organization. So that’s, we look for them, but then the work on the ground and border, and we started from scratch.
Kurt: Okay, interesting. So let me before asking me more about your work. Specifically, let me ask you about, say more about the state of Christianity in Germany. So how many people are Christians there in Germany? I mean, maybe, you know, what, what does one mean by Christian might come up as well.
Timo: Yeah. And there are different angles to look at this. I mean, I already mentioned the general church and where I grew up in Germany, it was most people would call themselves Christians, or because, I mean, and rightly so to some degree, because they were part of the equation church as a Catholic or the product, serenity. They’re born into that. I mean, you become a member by birth. So and usually people were baptized as infants born into that system. And, and so when I my religion class, it’s school, half of the class went to the Catholic religion class and the other half of the Protestant. So there was, if you look all over West Germany, it’s about 60% of people who belong to a bigger church like that. However, then in the East, in Eastern Germany, which you know, for 40 years was socialist communist. There those numbers is a different day, you’re down to 20%, even being a nominal member of a C church, and in Berlin and Catholic Church is very small. And so that’s very different between East and West, however, then, being a member of a big church doesn’t mean you’re, you express your faith, you believe in Jesus, you go to church every day. That’s why believe in Jesus in a very personal way, at least. If you look at if you reduce it to that, and it’s hard to measure, what are you measuring? I mean, maybe even regular church attendance, if you measured that, then you would find out that it’s basically 2%, less than 2%. I mean, if a regular is a little bit more than once a year, you know, sort of couple times a month
Kurt: so there are there are a lot of people that just self identify,
Kurt: as a Christian, but functionally speaking, you know,
Timo: yeah …describes a little bit more their worldview or their okay, I’m not, you know, I’m not an atheist. I’m not Islamic. But even there, it’s kind of interesting when it takes surveys about how many people believe in God, and that God has impacted your life. Those numbers are much lower than the actually church membership. Yeah. So even within the church, it doesn’t mean yeah, that your faith is very affected by that. Cultures. Maybe? I do.
Kurt: Right. And we, we have that here. Yeah, in the United States, where people will say that they’re Christian, but, and they might even go to church every so often. But you know, you, you shall know them by their fruits. And you want to see people with that active, vibrant faith, living in community with others. And so that’s something
Timo: when you’re looking at statistics, like from Operation word, or from other statistics, you always with Germany, it’s around 2% 1%. Some areas, three or more percent actually have a little Bible Belt or whatever. But but so the numbers vary a little bit. But when when I approached Germans and say, Hey, we only have 2% Christians, they’re looking at me like, I mean, and usually there’s a disconnect then, and we have to talk about what we are really finding. And so this church attendant thing is usually something that makes people think, oh, yeah, that’s why I’m not going to church.
Kurt: Yeah, it’s the same thing in the American South, everyone’s a Christian. I mean, high percentage of people even attend church regularly. But you still want to see that vibrant faith that might not be there. So it’s can still be very cultural. For some people
Timo: But then really the American thoughts from how I know it, I understand, religiously and Germany, its words apart. When it comes to worldview, system and belief. I mean, it’s really, Germany is very secular. Very, East Germany, very atheistic, also West Germany, it’s the one I’m more practically atheist. The others are more philosophical atheists basically. And it’s really generations removed from from even practicing Christianity. And I mean, I’m ruling party or Chancellor’s coming out of the Christian Democratic Party. So Christian is usually to use as a general term for maybe for Western worldview or whatever. But it’s different from itself in America.
Kurt: Yeah. Yeah. Now, you. Interestingly, you said, if people maybe don’t identify as a Christian, they might identify as an atheist or Islamic?
Timo: Yeah, sure. I mean, if you’re a Muslim, you are. Yeah. So…
Kurt: So, what is the percentage of of Muslims in Germany?
Timo: Depending on the area? I mean, generally, it’s about four or 5%. Okay. So so there will be more people than then the church going, … evangelical Christians, whatever you want to call it. However, even within the 4%, you see the same thing you have, you know, some of the secular and nominal Muslims there too. And so it’s kind of, but but those will be, but then it varies vary from area to area, we have areas in Eastern Germany, I traditionally didn’t have any immigrants from from Muslim countries, where this is between zero and 1%. Maybe. And then you have areas in, for example, the bigger cities in like in West Berlin, or other cities in in West Germany, where the numbers there maybe 20, 30%. Even.
Kurt: Yeah, yeah. So it can vary. Yeah. Yep. Good, good. All right. So it’s interesting to, you know, hear that the country is secular by and large, but people still use the term Christian even in the political parties. And there’s still this cultural sense, but, you know, it’s, it’s almost like a dying culture, from a Christian perspective. And some people are worried that America might, is on its way, you know, what happens in Europe kind of happens here, maybe, you know, 30 years later or something like that. So it’s interesting to look at that. Alright, so what got you going in the city of Berlin? What was it that, you know, how was it that God was working on your heart to go there, and maybe not somewhere else?
Timo: Yeah, so, yeah, so I moved to Berlin as a 19 year old for one year. In Germany, every male at that time I was different, but back then had either to do military service or social service. And I said, I’m a Christian, I can’t do military service, there was our pacifistic, you know, coming heritage from where it was that we started, we kind of went the pendulum went to the other side and said, Okay, I want to do want to do social service. So I work in a nursing home. There in a Catholic nursing home, again, the church is the general church is taking on a lot of social functions. Catholic nursing home, however, hardly any of the staff really was Catholic and had no idea there was a priest coming in. But the staff was not really sure what this was about. So there was one one the first hint that Oberlin really, people don’t know too much about Christianity. And unless unlike in West Germany, we’re going to religion class was kind of normal in East Germany, in East Berlin, I learned this is not normal at all, I’m really a minority. There, I was much more confronted with okay, we only those 2% of questions, there was much more in my face or in, in East Germany. So I was like, Whoa, no, Berlin is really needy, for that matter, that Christians are engaged in that city, because it is a city that is extremely influential. In Germany, it’s a radiator of culture. I saw a lot of cultural trends, I mean, music, fashion, food, thinking come from America, for example, from other places, come to Berlin first, and then. And then from there, rippled into the rest of Germany. It’s a very international city. So people from from over 190, or, you know, one to one, whatever countries, people groups, over counted, and people from places where missionaries, for example, could never enter in. And but they were here, just like, you know, in Chicago, or bigger cities in the US. And I was like, wow, this is, I mean, this unique, I mean, this from a missions perspective, that’s where the word is one of the places Yeah, so seeing the influence in Germany, but also in Europe, seeing the need, and also seeing it’s, yeah, ideas flowing in and out of boredom. And I thought, okay, Christians really need to be active in that. Important,
Kurt: it’s sort of like a filter, if you will. So ideas come from the outside filter through Berlin, and then go to the rest of Germany
Timo: or back into the word. I mean, Berlin is, you know, because it’s a world class city, it’s also inspiring, not just Europe, it’s other places. And, I mean, it’s a, you know, one of the top five world economies. Yes, it’s I mean, there’s a lot of yes, there. So Christians shouldn’t go away from this, but but really be involved in this hub or network of.
Kurt: And networking is certainly one of your strong suits. You part of your job is that you network with others, and you’re here in the United States for three weeks. Tell me if you’re able to what you’ve been up to over the last couple of weeks.
Timo: Yeah. So yeah, two out of those three weeks have passed. And I have spent a weekend with friends, old friends and new friends, which, by friends, I mean, it’s also churches and church leadership groups and finding out about church spending in the Milwaukee area. So there was quite cold there when I was visiting, but there was just, again, I’m deepening all relationships and networking into new relationships, basically. So then networking was was very much also doing a conference I attended Orlando, Florida, big, I guess the biggest church planting conference in the US exponential with many top leaders in church planning many movement leaders, many, many planters, I mean, just making context there and and also, obviously, I come from a Berlin perspective, I’m looking and spying or exploring, I guess what, you know, what can help us in Berlin? What kind of work in my work can we glean in terms of ideas, but also in terms of partnerships? Yeah. Then I spent another couple of days in Texas with with old friends from school here. We’re doing tremendous work, both in Texas but also in Asia and Africa. And so we explored ways of cooperating there.
Kurt: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. I just like you said the spine, the gleaning, you’re looking for those, you know, mutually beneficial relationships that can benefit you and the churches you’re working with over Overbeck in Germany. So tell us about your your work proper. And I’m going to not be able to say this correctly, but gemeinsam for Berlin, is that right?
Timo: Yeah, that’s pretty close. Yeah. gemeinsam pavilion. It’s not a denomination. It’s a loose network of a lot of different churches, a lot of different questions from various ethnic backgrounds, who are in Berlin it’s good wiser for within just means together for Berlin. So we are working together in a way working for not just in but for Berlin and Yeah, we have different different interest groups. I mean, there’s different prison ministries all over Berlin. They’re uniting and working together, there’s a big prayer movement. And that is so encouraging to see churches who wouldn’t pray together necessarily Christians who wouldn’t over the even last January and 2018. And now this January, count together for large city wide prayer events where you had more than 40 denominations and very different churches, and even those nomina or bigger congregations, like the German, again, purchases church, state church, or Ethiopian Orthodox church or whatever, I mean, a Coptic Church, okay, sorry, from from Ethiopia, the church from Eastern Europe come together and big prayer events. And there was also partly spawned points of sponsored by commands and Putin. But I approached him about a year ago and said, Hey, you don’t really are involved in bring church planters together and stimulating church planting. But really, your network would be excellent to do that. Because it has this neutral. You know, you’re not. I came originally with the German Evangelical Free Church. Now if I’m in that role approaching other planners, they’re always afraid I’m taking, I just want to get them into my denomination or whatever, which is not what I want. My personal goal is to see as many churches planned in Boone as possible. And I don’t care. Yeah, you know, I guess I care a little bit, but I don’t care really about the brand that’s on there.
Kurt: That’s right. Yeah, you come to it with a broadly evangelical approach, saying, Hey, we just need as many Christians as we can come into the city, and doing doing Christ’s work. Yeah, that’s great. So you’re together for Berlin organization helps to you help coordinate and sponsor community events, and you work with these churches and overseeing? So it’s any anywhere from experienced churches that you might be working with to, you know, church that are starting from scratch. Right? And you might be more involved in some of those churches to help them.
Timo: yeah, I’m always interested in the both end, because in order to reach a city as diverse, we need both both ends. I mean, we need existing churches who are there and then to grow and get better and, and also to sponsor young church plants. I mean, it’s, I mean, we started with, as I said earlier, just a few people with the head of often denomination that was good. But usually, that’s not the way it’s possible all the time. Usually, it’s much more churches planting $1 church somewhere. So I like to engage the established churches to and motivate them to plan to get behind a certain planter to support him. So they are very much needed to establish churches. But then what’s unique now to what we do, is we get a couple of leaders. That’s for for one year now that regularly we meet as church planting leaders from the city from various denominations. Usually their pastors have established churches, but not necessarily. And like last November, we said, okay, let’s find all the planters in the city that we can, you know, identify at this point, and there probably more and get them all together, just to see each other here, oh, you’re doing this work over there. You’re doing that work over there? Oh, I didn’t know you were here. And this is great. And I can learn this just, I mean, just a networking event and encouragement event. And from there, we will go next steps. I mean, hopefully this year, that’s what I’m thinking and hoping for is that we will develop a common vision for church planting in Berlin. How many churches and I don’t know if there will be a number on it or whatever. But just something that’s inspiring and attracting new planters. My perspective is always wanting to mobilize resources that are in the city and that come from outside and then bring those resources together. That’s in a nutshell, but commands…
Timo: …is the umbrella where that can happen.
Kurt: Sure, great. Great. We’ve got to take a break here. And when we come back Timo, though, we’re going to talk more about the organization here, the loose network, if you will, together for Berlin and the great work that you’re doing. And I’m also looking forward to a round of Rapid questions. That’s coming up should be very fun. Alright, so stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you’d like to learn how you can become a sponsor, you can go to our website veracity hill.com, click on that patron tab. And you can see the different sponsorship levels. We’d love to get your recurring support and the patrons those are folks that just chip in 510 or $20 a month that want to help our program continue to go and grow. And if you’re one of our supporters who chips in $20 or more a month, we send you a very nice gift. a thank you gift of a veracity Hill branded USB flash drive with some of our favorite programs that we’ve had on over the past two and a half years now just a little bit more than that, almost three years of doing this program. So we’re very grateful for those folks that have helped us continue to do this program. All right. On today’s show, I’m joined by Timo Heimlich. Hopefully I’m saying that correctly Timo and he is a church planter in Germany. He is of German descent. He’s a German citizen. So it’s great to have his accent here in studio. I enjoy just listening to him. And hopefully you do as well. And we’re talking about sort of the state of Christianity in Germany. We’ve learned about Timo so life, his background, he’s interested in church planning, and just some more information about what it’s like being a Christian over there. And just during the break here. Before we get to rapid questions, Timo, you talked about how the refugee crisis, you know, was something that people responded to very proactively in Germany. And you were surprised that there were a lot of Christians involved. And in some parts, Christians were surprised to see other not even unbelievers just involved in helping refugees there.
Timo: Yeah, it was really all of the above. I mean, everybody was surprised to see that kind of work on culture, and that we had in 2015, 16. And we really had to be quick, everybody had to respond. I mean, the authorities had to respond, the schools had to respond. I was, I mean, in Berlin, we got a call. I mean, the peak time in the morning, that there will be a train full of 500 people coming from Munich, and they better have housing when they get to Berlin a couple hours. And so quickly, housing needed to be put up, there was the initial response, and you had many, again, people from churches, people from the community, Christians, non Christians, whatever, whoever had a heart, and many people have a heart for other people. So I really got, as Germans working together with people that we usually don’t maybe associate in our community. That was a nice surprise. And so after the initial response, yeah, obviously, things settled down a little bit. But sort of for a year or two, there was a lot of improvising a lot of serving and places and we still work with camps around Berlin and mentoring programs, helping people into housing opportunities into job opportunities. So integration can take place. Yeah, or Yeah, or people are much more trained what to go home and build up their own countries begin. But what we’ve seen is there’s it’s, there’s great great hair between or there are always two ways, way streets, there’s so much learning from the people who came from other countries. There’s so much richness. I mean, there’s in terms of spirituality in Germany, the German churches, I think, being shaken up in a very positive way by questions from other countries also about their having to position them how to deal with other others other faith, but also the Christians and and people who aren’t definitely not Christians who would never associate themselves. So with questions, then working together. That was also very eye opening in both directions. Yes. I like to learn like to see how people learn.
Kurt: yeah, that’s great. Great. All right. So Rapid questions here. This is a short segment on the show where we ask just fun questions about you. And it’s always nice to get someone from a different country because sometimes the questions don’t relate or compute. I remember one time we had, there’s a Christian author oz Guinness, do you know the name? We have Al’s gonna sound our program and I asked him Oh, yes, I had asked him what his favorite holiday was. And here in America, even though he’s I think he’s a US citizen. He’s got dual citizenship. I’m thinking you know, Valentine’s Day Christmas Halloween. He computed holiday
Kurt: You got it
Timo: We’re gonna learn British English at school first. And yeah, I got in trouble with some of the words we learned.
Timo: When I came over here.
Kurt: Yeah. And then also I had asked some something about favorite ballpark or something like that sport, or I forget. And he answered something about cricket a cricket field. And I was like, huh, and…
Chris: you asked him what type of pitch he was?
Kurt: Yeah. Oh, yes. Good.
Kurt: Yes. Great. Chris here. You know, I asked people what if you were a baseball pitch? Which one would you be or something like that? And he had thought, you know, yeah, it used a cricket pitch
Timo: So it was so much misunderstanding.
Timo: And work into this one.
Kurt: All right. All right. So we’ve got the game clocks. 60 seconds here. You won’t be able to hear it. You might, but I’ll let you know once it’s up. So if you’re ready, I’ll click the clocks. Okay,
Timo: so I’m ready.
Kurt: Okay, here we go. What’s your clothing store of choice?
Timo: C und au.
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Kurt: What’s your favorite sport?
Timo: football soccer.
Kurt: What song is playing on your radio these days?
Timo: Radio these days? I don’t know.
Kurt: favorite movie?
Timo: There’s so many. Oh, my goodness. Movie for the movie. Okay, Coco was good.
Kurt: Sure. Sure. have you ever driven on the other side of the road?
Timo: Yeah. Yes.
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Timo: Not really.
Kurt: Pick a fictional character that you’d like to meet?
Timo: Robin Hood
Kurt: Which celebrity are you most like?
Timo: I’m most like a celebrity?
Kurt: That’s a hard one. Huh?
Timo: I know. And I’m thinking too complicated. Our German mind, like.
Kurt: Did you have a dream last night?
Timo: I don’t remember. The answer would probably be yes. But I still don’t remember.
Kurt: Yes I think it’s something like we dream all the time. But we don’t always remember what it is. Yeah. Okay. So the clock is up here. Let me ask you two things. Your clothing store. What what did you you said a German name there. Yeah.
Timo: Yeah. C und au. Which is C and A.
Timo: And that’s just general. It’s my favorite because it’s the closest to where I live.
Timo: So I can just run in there. Get what I need. Leave. So those pens or you know, whatever?
Kurt: Yeah. Good. Okay. In the fictional character. This is always a fun one. Robin Hood.
Kurt: Okay. Why would you want to meet Robin Hood?
Timo: Well, I read Robin Hood, when I grew up, and my son loves him. He read Robin Hood Now that he’s growing up, and he likes to be out in the woods. And I just like nature and being out there. And and I guess the Justice aspect and the adventure that he had, and
Kurt: yes, yes.
Timo: The time it was a different time.
Kurt: It was yes. And a lot of people they think that Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. There’s always that phrase.
Kurt: but actually, he stole from the government officials that had tax the people. And so he sort of so that’s there’s an interesting take there. So yeah, so yeah, always there’s that sense of justice. So I liked watching the recent or more recent Russell Crowe version. Ever seen that one. Maybe a few years ago.
Timo: Yeah, I’ve seen the Russell Crowe Yeah. And then the Kevin Costner one.
Kurt: Oh, way back when that’s a classic, classic. And then of course, there’s Robin Hood Men in Tights. The comedy
Timo: but really what we watch at home is with the BBC World? I mean, there was like a long series. And then we go on to DVDs and it’s just, not just one movies. And
Kurt: there’s also the Disney version. There’s lots of stuff a lot of different versions and takes on Robin Hood. All right, so we’re talking on our program today about the state of Christianity in Germany. And looking at sort of general facts about that, for example, that roughly 2% one to 2% really are active, flourishing believers in Germany, but somewhere up to 60% of people might call themselves Christian. And you know, it’s we have something similar here in the United States were many people may call themselves a Christian, but you might not see that the you know, attend church on a regular basis. And sometimes the surveys they all depend on self identifying and There’s some shortcomings there. But let me ask you more about together for Berlin and your work there. So you oversee these, a network, a loose network of churches, there’s no, there’s no formal affiliation, right? It’s not in the nomination, but it’s just you working with and helping these churches and it could be anywhere from experienced, you know, 30, 40 year churches or longer. Do you work with any of the state churches, formally or no, not formally?
Timo: Well, I’m actually in my role as the local pastor and leader in a certain area of Berlin, there’s a lot of we work with to state churches together. And there’s actually I’m actually very excited we were planning for the first time, as in this broad scale, we are planning an ecumenical Pentecost Monday Penagos. Money is an official holiday, that’s another one of our Christian heritage that we have all these Christian holidays. Nobody knows what it is. But anyway, it’s a great day to do an ecumenical service, because that is when the Catholic Church is not required to provide a Eucharist for their members, they actually free to celebrate with with other churches interesting because we don’t have to have communion together. Anyway, so we are planning that and that is more on a local level. In our part of Berlin, on this network, yeah, there are some state churches, but generally, they’re the church planting side of things we don’t there’s not too many stages, because indefinite their ecclesiology their philosophy is, no, we have a church, we have the country covered with churches anyways. We don’t need more. Yeah. You know, we, the churches may merge, but But still, the ground is covered. Right. So we don’t need to Plant more churches. And, and so that is really a church planting is more an area of independent denominations or churches.
Kurt: Yeah. And so the types of churches are dealing with, you said that there could be a diversity of individuals as well. It’s not just say, you know, folks from Western Europe, right, that you’ve got immigrants that have come. And you said something about how there are immigrant Christians that are joining these congregations?
Timo: Yeah, I mean, if you’re coming, you know, out of Syria from a Syrian Orthodox background. Yeah. And, yeah, I mean, you’re you’re finding out okay, what is faith, like in Germany? Or what is it, you know, and then you find out all the different shades of it. From all this is, oh, I guess there’s a Christian nation? Oh, maybe it’s not. And then…
it might be confusing.
Timo: What do I believe actually, because of the Orthodox Christians from Syria, we’re also more in a more nominal category of Christians. And so there’s an interesting discovery, however. Yeah, so So what that is where the beauty of network comes in, where this Discovering Together where we are actually happens, but then the next step needs to be okay. After we get to know each other networks are very relational, so about getting to know each other stories about where everybody is, and, but then it’s also getting things done as being on mission together at some point, and not just doing tea or coffee, which is, again, a necessary and great starting point. But to see, okay, how can we actually Plant more churches? Are we can we equip people, for example, Syrian Christians to go back to Syria and start churches there. So having gotten also a part of, to some degree as a training up?
Kurt: Yeah, it seems like a very nice opportunity where the Lord is drawing people to Berlin. And you don’t necessarily have to go to some parts of the Middle East that you might not want to go to. But you know, you’ve got these refugees coming here. And they might consider after spending some time some years, perhaps, to go back to their homelands. And that’s, sometimes people don’t consider that they might just think, Oh, they’re integrating into our society now.
Timo: Yeah. But in the meantime, it’s better to be integrated, rather than just sit around and do nothing and be bored or depressed or have crazy ideas. It’s, so we work hard on integration for the time being. And then it’s also part of the training and equipping. But then yeah, ideally, they’re building up their own home country. So…
Kurt: yeah, so what would be a general overview of a, a church community church planting community? Are we talking about, say, maybe a congregation of 10 people that meet in a home? Are we talking about maybe 150 people that meet in a building? What’s that like?
Timo: Often the church plan start kind of small, it’s yes, maybe a dozen people, maybe two or three dozen people, depending on how quickly the usually there is a church planter. It doesn’t have to be always but the point person and how focused that person is on gathering others or comparing the vision for that particular area is yeah, and there’s always a home aspect because it’s relational. But what we find if it’s most church plans very early on it, they they start meeting other Indian restaurants or coffee shops or schools or whatever something little bit like a third place, you know, not all not work, but somewhere where people gather, where it’s easy to access without having to go on people’s homes. In some parts of Berlin people have so small apartments, you can’t bring into it. And people are not going into anybody’s homes. It’s just different culture and some parts. So yeah, it starts usually small. It’s not the model that you often have here. Always send a couple 100 people over and start another campus.
Kurt: Yeah, yeah.
Timo: The other and maybe that’s interesting. Just listening to other church planters here in the US over the last week, or the conference I attended was one one big question just bangs always when you launch, when do you launch? And I was like, What do you mean? Yeah. When when you start your church, I’m like, well, it’s more a process. You know, we gather people Yeah, we we do maybe a monthly event. We do brunches. We invite our non Christian friends. And we may have a worship service here or there. But it’s much more. It’s not so much. You gather people and all of a sudden, every week you have a Sunday morning service. church planning is not starting a Sunday morning service, organizing an event regularly. It may be part of it. And rightly so I love to worship
Kurt: but basically the ministry work just starts right away. Hey, let’s go get coffee.
Timo: It starts right away and takes a long time. And there may be high pain points and maybe big, big events during that time. But it’s not so much a black and white. It’s more process.
Kurt: We’re starting on this day at this location. Be there? And I quite like that.
Timo: Someone you have you first, whatever, but but even then you’re experimenting, you’re changing. And … whatever.
Kurt: So, you know, a lot of my interests in theology is in apologetics. And I’m wondering, what sort is there much interest in apologetics as evangelism? You know, I don’t mean just debate or formal debate. But are these sorts of questions are people are Germans asking? Why does God allow evil and suffering? Does God exist? And what role do Christians play in that?
Timo: I mean, the Germans are different, too. I mean, it’s like not there’s not the American there’s not the German too but but generally speaking Germans like to think and are many Germans like to think not. And yeah, of course, if you consider religion either you don’t consider it because you put it in the category of okay, it’s doesn’t have anything to do with thinking is just a spiritual experience. But if you try to bridge that gap a little bit and try to explore obviously, there are all these questions, you know, how does? Is the Bible really true? Yeah, what about even in the world? I mean, the classic What about the different religions and all that? And yeah, people like to find out what this is about. It’s not just yeah, there will be to the step otherwise, just to jump into a spiritual community is too big without clarifying some of those thoughts. However, we have other people who they are almost the opposite. They don’t really care about all the I mean, it’s so relative anyways, and it’s whatever just give me the experience. Right?
Kurt: Right. Yeah. So yeah, it’s it’s sort of the same here with a mixture. Yeah. Yeah. Good. All right. So um, if people wanted to get more involved or learn more about the work you’re doing, see how they might be able to help what would be some ways that they could do that?
Timo: I mean,
Timo: …has a website GFBerlin all together. No, no… GFBerlin.de. I believe there’s a website it’s in German Oh, we will have some English content but then really to contact me directly shoot me an email and that is also very easy Timo ti mo dot Heimlich, like the maneuver, heI ma ich. And then at Berlin. You know, our city, that de, that’s my email address. And we can go into conversations there. I’m sending on monthly prayer requests, for example, to follow the work if you want to support it by prayer, there’s also links if you want to support financially, there’s also a link that’s a little bit more personal. But yeah, and and then really, the biggest thing is coming to Germany. I mean, we are hosting summit Partnership Summit in November from November 11 to 14, for example. But also at other times, if you say I want to come to Berlin and observe, observe ministry in a very post Christian secular context and learn different ministry models, and you’re welcome to again, shoot me an email and we’ll work something out.
Kurt: You mentioned you’ve got these connections sort of across the United States. You know, you did some work in Minnesota and you’ve got friends in Texas. Do you have any like, short term mission trips? Come? You know, do you have Americans come and do work there in Berlin?
Timo: Terms? No, oh, sometimes we have short term mission trips, if usually if we have we’re looking for long term workers. We have a great program for people who come two years Just yesterday, I met a new person who will join us for two years in the next few months. And I met another person who worked with us for two years stay to third year and is applying for long term service. So that’s really what we look for. Yeah, because it’s such a long and tedious work and process in in Germany, however, is if a person is on the ground as a long term missionary, they are welcome to invite short term teams from their sponsoring churches. So there is room for that, but we just need to be it needs to really tie into the relational work that’s going on. It’s however, the there is a great opportunity for people who graduated from high school or in college age, to are able to come during the summer for seven weeks. It’s apex apex.org, I believe it’s the address. But it’s for seven weeks, or six weeks, you’re on the ground in Berlin. And it’s really nice to have the word smugglers brought or a buffet of just different military options, working with prostituted women and prostitution, working with the church planting, working with artists working with a variety of Urban Ministries. And that’s a great opportunity to come for summer.
Kurt: Yeah. So if people have the option of thinking, don’t want to spend the summer working in Chicago or Berlin, they might say, Hey, let’s go to another country.
Timo: If money you know, obviously, we don’t pay you. Sure. But there’s Yeah, the opportunity is there. And that’s right. I mean, especially if you’re thinking about oh, I want to go into ministry other abroad. It’s a great, yes. But even for here, any youth pastor who has spent some time in the in Europe, thing is better equipped for the work? Yeah, as you say, we’re kind of it’s a little bit trip into the future. We are 30 years ahead, like you said,
Kurt: yeah, … that’s right. Okay, what would you say last question here? What do you say is the greatest need for the churches that you’re working with?
Timo: it’s godly, and visionary leaders. And then that those two terms, I just, yeah, they include a lot of other categories. But leaders, it’s people who take responsibility to follow God, but also follow God in our context, well, network, hopefully well enough in the community and with others, and raise other leaders, it falls and rises and falls with leadership.
Kurt: Is there is there a struggle to get more church planters or just pastors for these communities?
Timo: Yeah, I mean, we can always use more. I mean, we have millions of people that I mean, the workers, this is great.
Kurt: Yeah, yeah, the harvest is ready. But the workers are few.
Timo: For example, sometimes here you have a church, maybe say, of 3000 people, they employ a staff of 30 people preserve those 3000. Now we have 3 million people in Berlin, if I go with the same ratio, well, we need, you know, lots of people,
Kurt: lots of people, yeah, a lot of a lot of staff support. But sometimes the financial resources aren’t even necessarily there. So there could be a by vocational bent here.
Timo: And that is great, too. I mean, obviously, we have some some good companies, you can some people come for work for companies and boring, but usually, and that’s, theoretically, it’s a great model. However, what we experience in practice, if your company sends you over, they want it’s really high a management level and up and they want to put all these hours into work. There’s not too much time for ministry. So it’s a give and take, but so people who are supported workers are very welcome.
Kurt: Yeah, yeah. Great. Timo, thank you for coming into our studio today and to chat with us on the state of Christianity in Germany, where I could learn more about what it’s like there and the great work that you’re doing. Thank you. Thank you. Good. All right. Well, that does it for our show. Today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors, and they are defenders media. Consult Kevin, the sky floor, rethinking hell, the Illinois Family Institute and Fox restoration. I want to thank our technical producer Chris, for the great work that he does. And to our in studio guests today. Timo Hi, Emily. And last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.