New Church Plant in Estonia
New Church Plant in Estonia
It is really encouraging that hundreds of new Baptist churches have emerged in Europe over the past decade as they have become the spiritual home for several thousands of new believers. Additionally, many more thousands of people have been exposed to the Gospel message. The Estonian Baptists have their share in this exciting venture.
Introduction to Estonia
Estonia is one of the Baltic countries. The country is inhabited by almost 1,4 million people and nearly one third of its population lives in the capital city of Tallinn. The Estonians speak a language similar to Finnish.
The Lutheran Church is a leading denomination, followed by the Orthodox Church and then by the Baptist Union. There are also Roman Catholics and Pentecostals, as well as other religious minority groups.
Since Estonia regained independence in 1990 after the 50-year long Soviet dominion, people have been taking the opportunity to discover new freedoms. It applies to sharing the gospel and church planting as well. Even so, Estonia is considered the most secularized nation in Eastern Europe.
The history of Baptist Union goes back to the Estonian national awakening in 1876, which came from Sweden to Western Estonia. In the early days the revival spread mainly among farmers.
In 1884 the first Estonian Baptist church was started in Haapsalu. From that time on Baptist churches were planted and multiplied across the country. The period of Soviet dominion 1940 – 1990 seriously hampered the growth of Baptist work. Baptist activities were allowed only in church buildings and leaders were regularly interrogated by the communist state.
Currently the Union of Evangelical Christian and Baptist Churches of Estonia numbers almost 6200 members worshipping in 84 local congregations.
Baptist Church Planting in Laagri
One of the newest church plants is the fellowship in Laagri, a part of Tallinn. The work is progressing under leadership of the indigenous church planter Tõnis, a dynamic and very relational person. He has been able to form a team of several people who are involved in ministry. Tõnis is married to Aili and they have three children.
The newly planted congregation meets every Sunday morning in the local Culture Center. Usually there are about 30 adults and a group of 20 children. The congregation is led by a team of seven people who are considered the nucleus of church planting team.
The Sunday service comprises a lot of singing that is led by a worship group and a sermon usually preached by Tonis. After the service there is a time of fellowship with coffee, tea and some snacks. In addition to Sunday services they meet during the week for a prayer meeting on Friday. There is also a ministry for mothers and toddlers every other week. The group has also organized several practical projects, including childrens’ handwork workshops, open events for young mothers, and community service tidying the local park.
The target group for this church plant are young families and so the congregation provides a Sunday school for children. Last summer they organized a children’s camp that drew 120 participants. Another attraction of this fellowship may be music, as some members sing very well.
The mission strategy according to Tonis is based on the idea of ‘oikos’ or household–based prayer triplets. They form small groups and pray for some friends, neighbors or coworkers. Later they try to build friendships and go to places of interest or leisure like games, sport or similar social activities.
The new church seems to be very well grounded in Laagri. All members live in that part of city and they are very intentional in developing relationships with local people. The mother church is Oleviste, the largest Protestant congregation in Estonia, which supports Tõnis financially and provides coaching from two pastors. Oleviste also offered help for some outreach events in Laagri.
The story is told of one believer who had prayed for 30 years for a new church to be organized in Laagri. And now the dream has come true…