ADVERTISING
 
Monday, June 25   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 
Flecha
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 
 

POLL
Migration
Do Christians in your country have a Bible-based understanding of how migrants should be treated?




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Interview
 

“The people’s relationship to the church has shifted from law to longing”

“We have a lot to learn from Christians from other continents where being in minority is the ordinary way of life for a church”, says parish pastor Haakon Kessel. 15,000 left the Church of Norway after deregistration was made available online.

AUTHOR Joel Forster OSLO 02 SEPTEMBER 2016 12:14 h GMT+1
Members of the Ræge kirke, a Church of Norway community where Haakon Kassel is pastor.

The Church of Norway (Lutheran) has decided to make it easier for anyone to join or leave the institution. The launch of a website which simplifies the procedures of registration has led to a strong reaction: more than 15,000 gave left the institution in only seven days.



The leadership of the state-church (with 3.8 Million members, 73% of Norway’s population) was not surprised by the 'exodus': “No one should be a member of a religious community against their will, and therefore I am glad that this solution has been put in place”, the Chair person of the Church Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum said.



But what does this tell us about the situation of the traditional Christian institutions in Norway? How do church leaders see the future?



We asked Haakon Kessel, a Church of Norway parish pastor of Ræge Church. He who shared his views based on his personal experience from the ground.



Kessel believes Norwegians “have shifted from a time when the church enjoyed legal and financial privileges and had a guaranteed sphere of influence, to a time when people only seek the church if they want to.”  



“We may get discouraged by the influence of secularism and pluralism but must keep in mind that it is now looking more and more like the social reality of the first church”, the Protestant minister adds. 



Read the full interview Evangelical Focus did with Haakon Kessel.



 



Haakon Kessel, Church of Norway parish pastor.

Question. What have the secular media in Norway said about this new option to join and leave the Church of Norway through a website?



Answer. It received a lot of attention in the media, even on the national TV news. Most people become members of the church when they get baptised as infants, unconsciously of course, it is the parent’s decision.



But you have to make a conscious decision if you want to leave the church. More than 15,000 left the church in a matter of days, and this reflects the fact that many people have wanted over years to leave but did not take the trouble to do so.



It was too complicated and the register wasn’t properly functioning etc. So this number reflects an accumulation over years. The Church of Norway has 3.8 million members, 15,000 is less than 0.5 % so I think it is fair to say adherence to the church is still solid. 



 



Q. Do you see this online solution as a helpful option? Do you agree with Gunleiksrud Raaum in the opinion that people should have an easy way to leave the register when they are not really being active members of the Church?



A. I can only answer for myself. I think it is helpful and also inevitable. We live in the online reality and have to relate to it.  



I agree with Director Gunleiksrud. I know a lot of people will question how it is possible to leave or enter the church without any personal contact with a church, fellowship or pastor. I see that paradox, but this is how a national people's church works: membership is perceived differently than in an independent local church.



I understand it raises some questions, but it also gives opportunities to meet and reach people that other churches do not have. 



 



Q. Would you think the possibility of becoming a Church of Norway member through an online application makes people disconnected from a real Christian engagement: discipleship, attendance to meetings, community...?



A. I do not think online membership makes any difference in that respect. People are engaged in the church irrespective of how membership is technically registered. It is a matter of faith.



But there is a flip-side here: It has also become easier to become a member. During the first days, when a lot of people left the church, 500 people registered to become members. These are people who consciously want to belong. The church should focus its attention in that direction, so they feel welcome and get integrated in the community.



 



Q. What developments do you think should happen in the Church of Norway to see new spiritual growth and more active members in the parishes?



A. I believe we have the same challenges as other churches in Europe. We have shifted from a time when the church enjoyed legal and financial privileges and had a guaranteed sphere of influence, to a time when people only seek the church if they want to.  



We may say that people’s relationship to the church has shifted “from law to longing”.  How do we meet that transition? I don't believe in any quick fix or new revolutionary method for growth in our churches.



But I believe that instead of moaning the ever shrinking spheres of influence in society for the church we should rather focus on meeting the longings of people. The best way to communicate faith is through relationships, starting with our own relationship with God.



We may get discouraged by the influence of secularism and pluralism but must keep in mind that it is looking more and more like the social reality of the first church. This makes the New Testament even more interesting in our day and time.



We are not moving farther away from the biblical world, we are getting closer. We also have a lot to learn from Christians from other continents where being in minority is the ordinary way of life for a church. 



 



Q. Do you support the separation of church and state in Norway? How will it happen? How can it benefit the Church of Norway?



A. I think it was a good decision, it was overdue. There is no theological basis for a state-church. The “divorce” is a gradual process.  



Financially the church will still receive support from the government (taxes) based on membership. But even if there is a split, there is also a desire to keep it as a “folk- church” (people's church) to preserve the broad an open appeal which the Church of Norway still enjoys.



I sometimes struggle to explain this to Christians from other countries with no “national” church. There is a lot of faith among ordinary people which does not necessarily express itself in regular church attendance and activities. We have to acknowledge this faith and see it as an opportunity to lead people into a deeper relationship with Jesus and the community. 



https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif



ABOUT HAAKON KESSEL



Haakon Kessel has been a missionary pastor in Osaka (Japan) for 12 years. For the last 3 years, he has been the parish pastor of Ræge Church, near the city of Stavanger, Norway.



Besides studies in theology, he has a degree in social anthropology.


 


POLL
'National Churches'
Protestant state churches are losing members and influence. Should Christians in Europe be worried?
Yes, it shows the unstoppable secularisation in Europe.
34%
Yes it is a shame, but meanwhile other smaller biblical churches are growing.
25%
No, the mission needs to be done through local churches which understand the new secularised context.
41%
This Poll is closed.
Number of votes: 102
SEE MORE POLLS
 
 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - “The people’s relationship to the church has shifted from law to longing”
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA

“Prostitution is nobody’s dream,  it’s a very traumatic lifestyle”, says Kathy Bryan, director of the Elevate Academy. She mentors former victims.

 
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

 
Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible

At the 2018 Apologetics Forum in Comarruga (Spain), Michael Ramsden, Pablo Martinez, Ruth Valerio and José de Segovia analysed how society and the Bible approach the issues of personal identity, integrity, sexuality, pop culture, and environmental care.

 
European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga

The network of Christian ministries working for the inclusion of people with disabilities, celebrated its tenth continental meeting in Latvia with the participation of 12 countries.

 

 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Trailer: “The Peace Between” Trailer: “The Peace Between”

A film about the experience of refugees in Europe. Churches, small groups and individuals are encouraged to use it during Refugee Week: 17-24 June.

 
How can churches better support singles? How can churches better support singles?

Tina Tschage, on some areas in which other Christians can encourage singles.

 
The Church of Scotland debates historic doctrines The Church of Scotland debates historic doctrines

The Kirk has begun official procedures to investigate the status and the role of the Westminster Confession of Faith within its denomination.

 
Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

 
In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.