The Cause of Christ in Stavanger, Norway
Situated on the southwestern coast, the North Atlantic on one side and mountains in a distance on the other is Stavanger, the fourth largest city in Norway. Stavanger is picturesque with its contrasting modern and old buildings, and even though it has a population of 84,370, it has the appearance of a large country town. It is an important industrial and trading city for Norway. Known as the most religious city in Norway, it has 34 different sects and it is sometimes called "the sect city." There is an atmosphere of religious tolerance that has created an apathetic attitude in the majority. There is neither aggressive opposition to what they might look upon as error, nor any eagerness in accepting any new truths. The most zealous among the sects here, are the Pentecostals groups, and of them, a group called "Maran Ata" (in the English KJV, "Maranatha" meaning, "Jesus come.") is the most prominent. The largest sect is the State church, which is Lutheran, and about 92% of Norway's population belongs to this religion. State support of the church and deep-seated traditions has inactivated the people spiritually. While many see error in this church, they do not have the interest or courage to repudiate it. Under these existing circumstances, it is difficult to get a foothold here. One Norwegian has said, "If you can start a church in Stavanger, you can start one anywhere."
However, among so much religious confusion, there are to be found a few who are honest and are seeking the truth. With this conviction, we came to Stavanger in 1961, with the Joe Pruett family, to begin the Lord's church, Kristi menighet. With us, was a Norwegian preacher, Einar Engoy, who helped us the first few weeks in translating a Bible correspondence course and doing other essential things in order for us to begin the work. In October, we began with a Gospel meeting, with Mason Harris, who was then working in Bergen, doing the preaching. We had an average attendance of 32 each evening. One young man was baptized. Since that time we have made slow but steady progress. Now, almost four years since our beginning, we have: (1) a nice meeting place on a main street near the center of town; (2) several tracts, Bible correspondence course and other materials translated and printed (we have access to a printing press in Bergen and we work with the brethren there in printing materials); (3) a faithful Norwegian man, Olaf Reinholdtzen with his wife Henny, and their two children, working full time with the church here, and two other faithful Christians besides the Reinholdtzen family (two other members have fallen away, one has moved to Germany and another member just passed away this spring); (4) we have several names on our mailing list receiving our monthly paper "De Gamle Stier" (The Old Paths), several who are taking our correspondence course; (5) and even though our attendance is small, we have good interest among outsiders in our meetings.
This may seem to you a very small beginning and very little growth in a four-year period, and it is. But remember, beginning a work here in Norway is different (language problems customs to learn, tracts to translate and print, all of which we take for granted and have on hand when beginning a work in the states) than in America. When beginning a work in America, one usually has nearby congregations who can help and encourage the work. Also there are preachers in abundance who can be invited to hold meetings to encourage the work. Here, we stand virtually alone, and other than myself, there is only one other conservative American preacher here, Bob Tuten in Bergen. If we have meetings, we either hold them ourselves or ask each other. This is fine, but there is a certain drawing power in having different preachers for meetings. This is helped much now by the coming of the Reinholdtzen family. He is a zealous worker and has this month, while visiting and working in Bergen, converted and baptized an older woman and a young man. No, we haven't turned the world upside down here in Stavanger, but we believe the church is firmly established and now has the potentials of greater growth.
In May of next year, we will have been here seven years, two years in Bergen and five years in Stavanger. We would like to return home the last part of next May, 1966, and I am writing this article with the prayer that we may be able to awaken the interest of a faithful preacher or preachers and their families in the work here, so that they may come and help brother Reinholdtzen, after we are gone. Brother Reinholdtzen is very capable and could continue alone, but we hope this will not be necessary.
Christ's words: "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel . . .""Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . ." should challenge you to a decision! Don't soothe your conscience by saying that you can go across the street or to another state and fulfill completely Christ's command! He commanded: "go into all nations . . ." If you are interested, will you contact me? I will be glad to furnish you with information about the language, customs, climate etc. Will you let me hear from you soon???
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 3, pp. 16-17 December 1965