Report of Several Recruiting Efforts in Christian Student Congregations in Munich (2006)
(Received via email from a member of a Christian student congregation)
With this email, I’d like to thank you for the description of the Holic Group. In my opinion, it is described very fairly. I don’t know when you wrote the description, but perhaps it will interest you [to know] that the group is also active in Munich now (Munich wasn’t yet listed). Perhaps also in Regensburg. The description was very helpful to me and to our congregation. The group’s behavior is exactly as you describe. They arrive in pairs, a bit offset in arrival times, to our student Bible study, and ask immediately whether anyone is there for the first time. If someone answers that he’s been coming there for a while already, they look for someone else. Then they sit next to that person, and they ask him whether he’s “properly” converted. If you send them away, they appeal to the bystanders: “Is that love???” But the following trick is very effective: ask the question in return, whether they are the ones who belong to the website christen-folgenjesus.de. At this they are suddenly shocked, and seem to have significant fear. After repeated questioning, though, they admit that they are, and then they leave as quickly as possible on their own initiative. One distinctive point we observed was that they always wore old knitted wool sweaters which reminded us of the 1970s and 1980s. The bad thing about them, from my viewpoint, is that they don’t understand the message of the cross, and they attempt to save themselves.
(Here again, from the same author, is a somewhat more detailed report.)
I live in a student neighborhood in Munich/Freimann and go to a Christian congregation in the neighborhood of Schwabing (this type of congregation is modeled after the Herrnhut Brotherhood congregations, most similar to an open Brotherhood congregation). Approximately three months ago, a poster was hung up here in my apartment building with a text which amounted to: “War, Conflict, Jealousy, … how much nicer the world would be, if there were this: forgiveness. We are Christians who follow Jesus. We meet independently of a church and want to share our lives.” Beneath [this text] were tear-away paper tabs with an email address. The email addresses and internet sites, which I discovered since replying to the flier are:
[and these websites]
I replied to the poster both out of curiosity and out of a desire to get to know Christians here in the student neighborhood. My email-conversation partner was named Tim. I don’t know his last name. This Tim appears to play a central role inside of the group in Munich (among other things because he answers the email. But perhaps they also answer them on a rotating basis and discuss the content together).
A further headline on one of the posted fliers:
“IS GOD IMPORTANT TO YOU? To us, too, and we are Christians who follow our leader Jesus … Andrea, Martin, Ines” (I don’t remember the exact names any more.)
O.K., now concerning their appearance in person at our congregation: On Tuesdays we always have a missional student Bible study group. Around a week after I saw the first posted flier – that was three months ago – two of them showed up. A boy and a girl (or rather, a woman). Both were rather inconspicuous, and they didn’t sit next to each other. I didn’t realizer who they were, and only afterwards was I informed about the type of conversations which had occurred.
The boy went to one of our leaders first, criticizing in roughly these words: “This can’t really be a proper Christian congregation, because there is no common ownership of property (according to Acts chapter 4, I believe).” Our leader clearly corrected him, but he sought out new conversation partners. A small conversation of around five people formed, but two of us were watching as it happened. The boy’s charge was that we are not Biblical. I was sitting somewhat off to one side, and the woman approached me. She seemed to me, in retrospect, not to be nearly so rigid and stubborn. She also didn’t use this stereotypical style of reasoning in conversation, but rather we quickly came around to her work and her past, which she described in this way: she works in a practice in which addicts are weaned [off heroin] with methadone, but soon she was going to quit this job, because she could not harmonize it with her conscience any longer. Methadone is a replacement drug, and therefore the addicts aren’t really helped. She was previously in a Christian community (of one type or another), about which she said that it had distanced itself too far from the Bible over time. For that reason she now, in her new community, is … something. She didn’t define it any more clearly. An alarmed friend of mine, however, joined our conversation very suddenly. To my amazement, he directed the conversation to himself. He wanted to make it clear to her, that as a Christian, one should not travel around the Christian world (even if there are many grievances) and point with one’s index finger at the weaknesses of others, because one is always insufficient before God and is justified by means of grace, anyway. Therefore one should first of all examine oneself. But she took this in the wrong way, and brought up an example of wealthy “Christians” who own five cars. In hindsight, she probably felt herself justified, because we laid no worth on such morality. It’s a shame about her: if we’d known more about the group at that time, we might have eventually been able to enlighten this woman, because she was not so ossified [in her thinking] yet, so she was capable of having an even-handed conversation.
Then the two of them left again, without having done any damage. On the following Sunday, two women snuck into our worship services again, slightly late. One sat way up front. One way in the back. Again this time I didn’t realize it, and was only brought up to speed afterwards. They approached individuals after the sermon, then, and once again the topic was: this congregation cannot be one of Christ’s because … the reproaches this time [were] that there was too little examination before communing [the Lord’s Supper] about whether the participant was actually a Christian. Our practice is: we distribute it row-by-row and say words beforehand to the effect: “This is the supper which Jesus instituted, so that we remember that He has died for us on the cross. Whoever has accepted Jesus as his personal Lord, and knows what He has done for us, is warmly invited to partake. If someone is not yet certain about this, that’s no problem, simply pass it on, without eating or drinking.” But according to their opinion, a misuse [of the sacrament] is not yet ruled out. The next point of criticism was: in prophecy, two or three people are allowed to speak (from the letters to the Corinthians, I think), but among us, the preaching is always done by just one person.
A noteworthy scene played itself out, too: the woman from the Holic Group spoke with one of us about a typical point of criticism, and he replied to her that a person can’t do such a thing among us: simply enter into the congregation and address individuals who appear weak with such reproaches. Thereupon the Holic member turned immediately to the those standing nearby and said: “Is THAT love?” A nasty trick. But this time, too, no damage was done. One of them left [the church], in fact, with a visitor [to our congregation] (probably in the direction of the [nearby] subway [station]). But we have contact with this girl, and she did not move in with them.
Subsequently, we made it known within the congregation that Holic members [might] come, and we took a closer look at their homepage. But after that, they didn’t come again. I assume it’s because they cited the letter to Titus, which is also mentioned in their emails: “One should say something to a false teacher two or three times, and after that, [the false teacher] speaks his own judgment against himself.” The troublemakers seemed to have faded into oblivion, but now, at the start of the new semester, we have set up a book table at the university. There we invite people to Bible study – among others, a certain Stefan (or was his name Thomas?). He studies orthodox theology and we already knew him a bit, because we’d met him last November at the postsecondary meetings. (Post-secondary meetings are a four-day series of missionary presentations at the university, organized by the various Christian student groups here: YMCA, Navigators, SMD [student misionaries in Germany], Campus for Christ, and the J-House-Café (us).) Back then, he was still open and appeared to be searching. By the way, somebody from the YMCA asked two Holic members if they wanted to participate in these postsecondary meetings. But they didn’t want to.
This Stefan also arrived then at our Bible study that evening, and he even participated. Not in a lively way, to be sure, but he gave one or two short answers related to the topic. Afterwards, I heard him behind me conversing with a Norwegian student whom I’d befriended. This time, I was already alarmed and broke into the conversation right away. I looked around and quickly also identified Number Two: a woman, around 30 years of age, sitting alone, who then joined us. I motioned to two of our experienced people to come over as well. The topic this time: can a bornagain Christian be lost again. Our congregation’s position (without raising this topic to the litmus-test for being a Christian) on this question is: No, except by means of a conscious and thorough decision against God (the sin against the Holy Spirit). The two of them seemed to know this and cited the history of Ananias (Acts 5) and also repeatedly the letter to the Hebrews. Quote: “The letter to the Hebrews was written especially about this topic, to protect us from falling away.” The conversation didn’t last long, because we didn’t want to allow ourselves [to be dragged] into it. To their statement “But, here it is really VERY clear,” we responded, “That’s a difficult topic and there are also many texts where our position, too, is apparently very clearly supported.” At this point, I said: “At my place in the student neighborhood, such fliers are hung up with the internet address: christen-folgen-jesus.de. Is that your site?” At this moment something seemed to flash through Stefan’s [mind] and he faltered for a moment, became uncertain, and then asked quietly, “What was the question again?” The woman, too, seemed anxious to go now, because: “We simply have different opinions on this topic. I think we had better go now.” After I repeated my question, Stefan hemmed-and-hawed, but then very reluctantly admitted it. When somebody knows who they are, it appears to instill a great fear in them. Somehow they know subconsciously that they are like the thieves who come into the sheep barn through the windows, without showing their true intentions. After that, we clearly saw the uncertainty and anxiety in them, and they wanted to go. But I still said something about the email exchange [I’d had] with Tim: did they know this Tim? Yes, they know him. Then I told them about the content of this email exchange with Tim, and that in the meantime I don’t believe anymore that he’s a Christian at all, because he has not understood the message of the Gospel.
At that they left the room quickly and haven’t appeared again since then. By the way, the woman had still spoken to a girl before this, with the topic: May a Christian have hobbies? Of course not, as the Holic members believe. But she was quickly refuted. When one of them entered our gathering through the door, his first question to the nearest person was: “Are you also here for the first time?” To the reply, “No, I’m here often,” he immediately turned away and directed himself towards someone else.
Also interesting: In a conversation, they recited their lines of argumentation very soberly as always, but in one particular moment, their faces clearly came to life. Then they suddenly blossomed; they thought maybe that they would have success. Specifically, it was in that moment when they got off-topic and said: “Would you like to see it for yourself among us?” They weren’t selling Jesus, but rather their group.
The distinctive marks which I have discerned up to now:
- knitted wool pullovers, which remind one of the 1970s or 1980s, as if made by one’s grandma
- old-fashioned or simple hairstyles
- furtive glances
- usually appear as a two-person team, who arrive slightly offset from each other in terms of time, and who sit in different places, i.e., not next to each other
- after the official presentation, they initiate conversations themselves, addressing individuals
If you’re tuned in to them, you can unmask them very quickly. So, as mentioned, since their last appearance three weeks ago they haven’t shown up among us. Next week, and the week after that, however, we’re holding two lectures at the university, at which we fear that they will again get involved. Perhaps with even more of them, then, because the lecture takes place in a large auditorium.
The author’s name is known to the webmaster.