It is amazing to see what God has done at the turn of the millennium using modern satellite technology both in Germany and throughout Europe. Since the first evangelistic crusade with Dr. Billy Graham in 1993 in Essen, Germany, “ProChrist” (www.prochrist.de/) has gained momentum and decisively shaped evangelistic efforts in many places around Europe.
After Lausanne 1974, a process of evangelization given by God started in Germany: “All the world shall hear his word!” This was the theme of the International Congress on World Evangelisation, held in Lausanne, Switzerland, July 1974. A few years later, in 1985, the German branch of the Lausanne movement was founded. The strategy was to build a wide platform that would act as a meetingpoint for all who felt a commitment to evangelisation. The realization of national evangelistic crusades and the training of full-time workers and volunteers were part of the task. At the 1990 Congress on Evangelisation in Stuttgart, Germany, the question was brought up: “When will we finally come together to evangelise Germany?”
With Dr. Graham as evangelist, ProChrist 1993 was held in Germany. The circle was completed: “All the world—and Europe—shall hear his word!” Today there are Christians from across Europe, from over twenty denominations, church unions and Christian agencies, working with ProChrist. Lausanne was an essential part of this process.
The History of ProChrist
ProChrist was founded in 1991 on the initiative of two Lutheran bishops, Theo Sorg (Stuttgart) and Martin Kruse (Berlin). The first steps toward using modern satellite technology for evangelisation had already been taken, with pilot projects having been held in England and France.
“Scotland ‘91” gave decisive impulses for Germany. The Scots encouraged us, even as we hesitated, whether this was the right way forward for Germany. They invited a small delegation (and paid their expenses!) to Scotland ’91. Wilfried Reuter, well-known as Billy Graham’s German translator and part of the group that supported ProChrist from the very beginning, says of this time: “The typical jokes about Scottish thriftiness lost their meaning when the Scots gave part of their financial surplus from Scotland ‘91 as an advance for Germany.”
The German board members emphasized at the time: “We are very thankful to your sisters and brothers from the worldwide body of Christ, for their vision and faith, for their experience and the way they naturally shared what they had. Without them, the European-wide network of Christians and churches for ProChrist 1993, with a clear evangelistic mandate, would not have happened.”
A Proven Profile
“Millions took part and heard Billy Graham’s evangelistic sermons” was reported by countless newspapers around the world in March 1993. At the time, ProChrist 1993 was the largest evangelisation effort ever held in the twentieth century. The challenge to live a life with Jesus Christ was sent to 384 sites in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and more than one thousand sites in fifty-five other countries around the world.
And yet there was controversy even before it started. Even those with a burden for evangelisation expressed their concern: “Are we expecting people to come forward to a film screen or to start a life with Jesus Christ? Isn’t the whole project much too expensive?” Many questions and objections were raised.
And yet the profile proved itself. After ProChrist 1993, there was much positive feedback from churches in Germany, as well as from other countries, expressing the desire that ProChrist continue. This pressure from the grassroots level continues for Germany—and increasingly Europe—with the sixth ProChrist event to take place in March 2006. At ProChrist 2003, events were transmitted from Essen, Germany, to over 1,300 sites in sixteen European countries. Russia also took part. Over 1.8 million people visited the evangelistic events.
One main event in a city is transmitted live via satellite to local broadcast sites in Germany and around Europe. Site organizers have the opportunity to give their ProChrist event a local touch, but can also build on the professional and attractive nature of the program coming from the main site. A large-scale and concerted publicity campaign helps to raise the public profile of local Christians. This is complemented by corresponding invitation materials which allow local Christians to personally invite their friends and contacts.
Rev. Ulrich Parzany
The program consists of music, interviews, a short drama piece and an evangelistic message by Rev. Ulrich Parzany, the main speaker for ProChrist. As head of the 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2003 ProChrist events, Parzany is also well known outside Christian circles. He served full-time until September 2005 as general secretary of the German YMCA. His clear and direct words are his trademark. His style is not that of a market crier who is trying to sell his product. However, he is not a psychologist either, and does not manipulate the worries and fears of his listeners or attempt to appeal to their emotions. Rather, convinced of the message of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, Parzany speaks clear and direct truth, with a good portion of humor included.
ProChrist 2006 from Munich: The Highest Pulpit in the World
From 19-26 March 2006, ProChrist will transmit direct from the Olympia Hall in Munich. The theme will be “From Doubt to Amazement.” Over 1,100 sites in twenty European countries from Holland to the Ukraine will take part and simultaneous translation will be offered in up to twenty languages. Reaching foreigners in the various countries has become increasingly important.
Part of ProChrist is also the children’s program, “ProChrist for Kids,” that will be transmitted live from the Olympia Hall 18 March. For young people, there is a separate event called “JesusHouse.” The next youth event will be JesusHouse in April 2007, and will be transmitted from Hamburg.
ProChrist for Kids
ProChrist is held every two to three years, and has a clear emphasis on comprehensive preparation at the local level. This is encouraged and supported through materials and training seminars, as well as through “ProChrist Impulses,” a weekend satellite transmission for participating churches that runs approximately five months before the event. In November 2005, this transmission encouraged over 100,000 Christians in local churches as they embarked on the final phase of intensive preparation for March 2006.
The ProChrist 2006 theme, “Doubt and Amazement,” connects with the attitude toward religious happenings in Germany and Europe. Many have turned their back on the church, and are disappointed by their encounters with God’s “personnel on earth.”And yet, even as churches lose ground, there is an increasing openness in our societies to discuss religious and ethical issues. People are searching for life models and are interested in the subjective expression of Christian life, even though they may reject faith as something fundamentalistic.
ProChristmobil: On the Road to Reach People
To proclaim Christ publicly and personally, ProChrist has taken a new approach with the campaign, “The smallest church in the world.” Never before has there been anything like it. Seventy small “smart” cars, driven by volunteers, were sent out on a ten-month journey on 18 May 2005. They will visit over one hundred cities in Germany and neighbouring countries, working with local churches in the cities and towns they visit. Over three thousand Christians are working as volunteer drivers. The initiative will continue until 26 March and end with the ProChrist event in Munich.
The concept of this modern street evangelism is simple: On the doors of the orange and black “smart” cars, the slogan “The smallest church in the world” is visible in white lettering. In teams of seven cars each, these “mini-churches” go out to do evangelistic outreach and community service projects. People are invited to ask questions and get engaged in discussions at supermarkets, at shopping centers, in pedestrian zones and in many other places. Many prayers have been prayed, and many lives have been given to Christ in the smarts. The press response has exceeded all expectations: Over 1,500 articles and nearly one hundred television features, radio broadcasts and Internet articles have been chronicled. This press coverage is helping to make people aware of the coming ProChrist 2006 event.
We continue to be amazed at how God uses this evangelistic tool to invite people to entrust their lives to Christ. Despite much skepticism and difficult experiences, it seems fairly easy to get into conversations with Germans about issues of faith and belief. Many are just waiting for the church to finally approach them, to ask them about themselves, to listen to their questions and to allow them to voice their doubts.
Prayer for Many Decisions for Christ
In Germany, we look back with great thankfulness to the good impulses given by Lausanne 1974. Through ProChrist satellite evangelization, the words of the “Lausanne Commitment” of 1974 have become a reality: “God’s working in our time deeply moves us. Our failure leads us to repentance. The unfulfilled task of evangelization challenges us. We believe that the gospel is God’s good news for the world.”
Please pray with us, that many people come to faith in the living God during the upcoming ProChrist evangelistic event in March 2006, and that we Christians in Germany and Europe will become more a part of the worldwide revival.