By Terrell Bunting
After living and laboring in Norway for 15 years, I am no less convinced that this is a land in great need of spiritual enlightenment which only a study of God’s word can provide. I would like to open your minds and hearts to the great need for evangelism in this land. For those who may not know Norway is part of Northern Europe and one of five Scandinavian countries, the others being: Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. As far as land mass, Norway is about the size of the states of Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama. Norway has a population of 4.5 million.
Historical and Religious Information
Prior to the 11th century Norwegians were believers of various idols, the Viking gods. During the 11th century the King of Norway, King Olav, was converted to Catholicism on a visit to France. Upon his return the people had to choose Christ or be beheaded so Norway became a “Christian country” rather quickly. Catholicism was the state religion until the Reformation. During the reformation times, the majority of the priests in Norway sympathized with Luther so Norway rather peacefully converted to Lutheranism. The Lutheran church is the state church and is funded and governed by the state and with state money (taxes). The majority of “known” denominations exist in Norway today but only make up 4% of the population while 93% of the population are Lutheran. The typical Norwegian usually says God exists, but there is little acceptance for the concept that the Bible is God’s word, a book for man to pattern his life after today and adhere to. Religious modernism and liberality are key words in the religious arena today. Tolerance is the prevalent concept in all aspects of Norwegian society including religion.
When I mention church history, I use this term in reference to things directly related to the New Testament Church. To my knowledge there is historical evidence that a restoration movement concept was present in sections of Eastern Norway around 1870. Norwegian religious historians connect this movement with Alexander Campbell and the restoration movement in the USA. They write that this movement was noticed in the Halden district in Norway, but in the early 1900s many of these groups disappeared or went in a more Pentecostal direction.
In the mid-1950s various preachers from the USA focused their attention on Norway. The cities of Oslo and Bergen were primary targets and local congregations were established. Work was done in these two cities as well as Stavanger until about 1970. However, due to the lack of leadership, relatively few faithful converts, some internal church troubles, and lack of interest for long-term commitment, these works were abandoned by American preachers around 1970.
In the early 1980s my parents, Thomas and Shirley Bunting, came to Bergen to try to establish the Lord’s church in Bergen. During the first two years of their labor there were no Christians here and no converts. I joined them in January of 1986. The work in Norway can be described as very difficult. It demands workers who are enduring, patient, willing to adapt and put off national pride and arrogance. One might say the work requires those that are willing to “empty themselves” in the service of Christ. Why is the work in Norway so difficult? There are several factors which I feel cause this: a long history of State Church dominance, strong traditional ties, little mixing of race and culture, material wealth, socialism, skeptical to foreigners and “foreign” faiths, a rejection of the Bible as the inspired word of God, and religious modernism. Norwegians are a very proud people which also makes true Christianity difficult for them. They are content, have a false hope, and are economically well off.
Accomplishments Over the Past Fifteen Years
Thanks to the help and guidance of our Almighty God, let me tell you about what has been done and accomplished thus far. Today there is a congregation of the Lord’s people in Bergen. There are eleven members and eleven children, with an attendance of 22 when all are present. We are the largest group of Christians in the country. In 1990 the congregation bought a store-front building which we have converted into our meeting place. The building has an assembly room, three classrooms, and a baptistry. This is very unusual for congregations in Europe. Our main purpose for being here is to reach the Norwegian population. Therefore, the thrust of our work is in Norwegian despite the fact we are a rather international group. My family and I speak the language fluently and we have tried to become as “Norwegian” as we can in order to be more affective in our work. We have made a Norwegian songbook with over 200 songs, written and composed six different Bible correspondence courses for home study, and have written and composed several young children’s Bible class series from both the Old and New Testament.
The local congregation also has an interest for other places in Norway. We strive to advertise nationally at least twice a year to reach people in others areas of Norway. As a result of such efforts three have been converted to Christ. This past year a young man in Kristians contacted the congregation in Bergen after finding us through electronic mail. This resulted in his studying the Bible through correspondence, and then he flew to Bergen in May to be baptized. We often have one to two gospel meetings a year to give non-Christians an extra opportunity to come hear the gospel, the chance for the local Christians to hear other teachers, and the chance for Christians in other places of Norway to come. We have also been involved in planning and arranging summer lectureships where all the Christians in Norway are invited to come together to study and encourage each other. We have a 24-hour telephone Bible message program which people can call and, if interested, leave their name and address to have more information sent to them. We have also, on various occasions, handed out several thousand tracts, correspondence courses and other teaching materials in mailboxes throughout the city of Bergen. Some years we have distributed up to 12,000 pieces of literature. We see our work as “getting the message out” or sowing the seed. We have learned that a lot of seed must be sown!
There is a group of Christians that meet outside of Oslo in Skedsmokorset, six members and six children. As far as Christians in other cities: there is one Christian family of six in Stavanger, a Christian family of four in Sandefjord, and one Christian man in Kristiansand. There may be other New Testaments Christians in Norway but these are all I know of.
You might wonder: “Why do you stay in Norway?” “Why should we support any one there?” or “Why go to such a difficult place?” First of all there is a great need to save the lost irrelevant of how hard or easy it may be! Christ died for all! There is a great need to restore simple New Testament Christianity here. We need more “lights” shining! I am the only evangelist in Norway who is striving to encourage the few Christians here to remain faithful and to reach out to the lost! How many gospel preachers are supported in Tennessee to reach the four million there? Sad to say but I am the only evangelist supported in all of Scandinavia with a population of about 22 million people! My wife and I would love to have some fellow workers here in Norway. If interested in this part of the world, please contact us. Norway is a beautiful country with many positive things. It is just in spiritual darkness with a great need for many more workers.
Brønndalen 89, 5178 Loddefjord, Bergen, Norway firstname.lastname@example.org