Lithuania – new initiative
Lithuania – new initiative
Baptist in Lithuania
Baptist movement had been brought to Lithuania in 1841 by the German Baptist missionary - Johann Gerhard Oncken. This is the date when the oldest Baptist church in Lithuania was founded. The first baptisms were performed in the city of Memel, now called Klaipėda.
Baptist missionary work among ethnic Lithuanians had resulted in the establishment of several churches and by 1875 the total membership reached 2200.
During the Second World War most of the Baptist communities almost disappeared. However in the post-war decades, missionary work was slowly re-established. During that time Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union.
Mission work at present
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, several indigenous missionaries began a church-planting ministry. Mission work in their circumstances involves a great deal of commitment and effort.
Today there are eight churches belonging to the Baptist Union of Lithuania, with a total membership of 36685 baptized believers. There are also several mission stations in different parts of the country.
Lithuania is an independent state in the Baltic region and a member of the EU since 2004. The country’s population is 3,6 million, with 80% professing Roman Catholics, 10% Orthodox, and 1% Protestant.
The Lithuanian Baptist churches as struggling between conserving the heritage and being open to modern challenges. They are small communities with scarce ministry resources. However there is at least one new initiative which aims at the outreach to the contemporary people.
Henrikas and Gilija Žukauskas live in Klaipeda. The couple has developed the new spiritual initiative which they call ‘Portico’. It is an interactive school. The name is derived from ‘porch’, where people are friendly to each other and interactive. The intention is to emphasize that there is a part of church which may express different reality than formal and rigid services.
The ‘Portico’ School teaches theology, art and culture. The goal of school is to lead people in the Kingdom of God in a friendly way. The ultimate aim is the spiritual renewal of a person and society. The school tries to reach out to the un-churched and de-churched people. The method is to convey faith and at the same time avoid the talkative ideology. The important objective is to create a safe environment where people can ask honest questions and look for satisfactory answers. The school teaches how to implement theology in the every day life.
Henrikas explains that “the school follows the example of the Apostle Paul who successfully used the existing structures of society, like: ‘agora’ (places of public meetings) in order to reach out to people. Nowadays it is the schools where people can be influenced with ideas. The school has to tackle with some social aspects because people bring with them problems which need to be solved – for example some of the students are deaf.”
The students meet twice a week for learning and twice a week for dance lessons - some students are actually present four times a week. About once a month there is a public performance. Most of the students are single, young and educated. They are people of new generation who are disappointed with the ceremonial church but open to faith in God. They are also looking for the real meaning of life. The course of study continues for one year and is divided in 3 trimesters (quarters).
Henrikas says, “The modern person is hard to reach with a mediocrity which is usually offered in churches. The Portico School aims at achieving a product which may be sustained in the flames of the criticism of the sophisticated society. It is important to achieve something worthy and of the real quality”. “The most important is the final product.” concludes Henrikas.
The Portico students are not interested in the ceremonial church because they usually had bad experiences in the past. Earning their trust by the church is rather long process. They do come to church on occasions, like Christmas or Easter but they don’t feel comfortable in church. Some of them say that “sitting during service is like torture” for them. Henrikas admits that “the way of evangelism of the church usually doesn’t understand the modern human being and often would hurt with its superficial demands, aggressive talk or spiritual pressure.”
This is the second year of the school and there are already about 10 graduates from the last year. They are encouraged and want to continue the spiritual venture. Henrikas knows at least one person who has returned to one of the churches after being influenced by Portico.
1. That the Baptist churches of Lithuania would develop a comprehensive approach to mission.
2. That they would be equipped both in terms of human and other resources for the task.
3. That God would give wisdom and vision to see how Christ through His Spirit renews the society, arts and thinking.
EBF Mission Coordinator
To help planting reproducing churches!
To help growing healthy churches!
For the glory of God!