Our week at Oase in Odder, Denmark, rocked. Maybe because we can’t get the beat and words (we don’t often understand) out of our minds or maybe just because of the fellowship, worship, and enlargening of our sense of God’s work in this world … and probably because of all of these, we are so honored to have been invited guests and given the opportunity to minister at Oase last week. Some highlights:
Oase is a renewal movement of the Christian faith in Denmark. Originating in the Jesus Movements of the 60s (hip, hip hooray!) and the charismatic renewal of the 70s, Oase began to influence the Lutheran Church of Denmark and has spread to embrace in a genuine ecumenical way the churches of Denmark. We met Lutherans and Roman Catholics, Baptists, Vineyard and Apostolic Charismatics. The summer festival at Odder, now growing by 25% each year, got to 3300 folks this summer.
The event offers seminars, daily Bible studies (my responsibility this year), and an evening worship event that is second-to-none. It combines chastened humility, inter-denominational fellowship, a concentration on the basics, and a family-like renewal of friendships and ministries all across Denmark. Our daily Bible study and evening worship, along with a seminar or two during the day, met in this tent:
The tent was big enough to hold at least 1500 people, maybe many more. It didn’t feel full when I was speaking, but it did when the worship band let loose.
For Kris and me, what struck us first was the inter-generational nature of this event. We saw hundreds of toe-headed kids — Kris said she had never seen so many blondes gathered in one place — along with more than we could count pregnant moms, moms and dads walking around with their children, middle-age adults and plenty of seniors. Two seniors we spent time with are Annelisse and Svetlana.
Annelisse loved to speak of her joy in the Lord, and Svetlana — from Siberia and then Iceland and now living near Ålborg — was delightful to share a table with. One couple kindly thought of us and gave us a Royal Copenhagen miniature birth home of Hans Christian Andersen, which we shall proudly display in our home.
There are not so many hang-ups about women in ministry with Oase, and the leader is a local pastor, Anne Mie Skak Johansen. We were so impressed with her leadership, energy and spiritual wisdom.
An issue for me, of course, was translation. I preached and taught in English in the large gathering for Bible studies, and my translator was Nikolaj Johansen. Of course, I have no idea what he was saying, but probably 70% of the audience knew English and Danish, so they knew his translation was not only acceptable but exceptional. Dozens of people spoke to me of how well he was able to take my playful English — and sometimes a little theologically dense — and turn it into Danish. And several said he was able to imitate my style into Danish. Both Kris and I know how significant Nikolaj, a pastor of a Lutheran church in Copenhagen and a really good theologian himself, was to our communication at Oase. Here we are:
A young woman told us that she thought Nikolaj was the best preacher she had ever heard — and maybe we’ll learn that he was preaching even more than I was!
We met many fine people, too many to name, but we are indebted to Birger and Marie Nygaard for taking us to Århus and introducing us to Danish culture; and we met three neighbors in Denmark. Dave and Bennte, along with Glenn Kaiser, are in the Jesus People USA community near North Park. We went all the way to Denmark to meet them!
Now, because the Danes get 6 weeks of vacation a year, it was not quite so hard for thousands to come to an event like this. But, what most impressed us was how many churches came as a group: as many as a hundred from single churches rented campers and tents and lived amongst one another, ate with one another, and were renewed as a church by gathering at Oase. Many spoke to us of how this is not just a big event, but a renewal of fellowship for Christians in Denmark.
And, yes, because of our connection to the emerging movement, some emerging Christians from Denmark gathered two different times with us for an afternoon seminar where we talked about living out the gospel in a postmodern world. One event was devoted to our forthcoming book on the atonement — in about a month it should be available in most stores. The title is A Community called Atonement.