Kreuzberg, a district in Berlin just south of the city center, is the site of an amazing combination of outreach and service that exemplifies what our partners are doing in the under-evangelized areas of the world. By the summer of 2014, the Kreuzberg Project, a City to City Europe network church launched in 2011, had outgrown its space and moved into a new space.
Initially, they were disappointed with their new location. The atmosphere of this young fellowship mixes arts, new music, and creative expression to draw new people into church. But the only suitable space they could rent was from a traditional German church that had a huge property and a dwindling congregation. Various parts of the building were rented out to denominational offices and even a coffee shop, and the architecture of its sanctuary was not exactly avante garde.
Yet within six months of the move, Fridtjof Leemhuis, pastor of the Kreuzberg Project, discovered why God had led them to the new space. The older church denomination had decided to launch an outreach to refugees. They would convert part of their five-story building into something like a hostel, where they could welcome refugees to live with local Germans for 18 months. This would give refugees language practice and the ability to better understand German culture. They could also help give vocational training to the refugees by employing them in the coffee shop. The older German church then asked the Kreuzberg Project to be the “host” of this project.
It is important to understand that many Germans identify themselves as Christian because of Germany’s cultural history but have little or no personal connection to the historic Christian faith. So when Fridtjof and his church members serve the German volunteers and Muslim refugees, they are doing outreach and evangelism on both fronts. They are helping Muslims, most of whom are disillusioned with their religion because of the trauma they faced in having to flee, experience and learn about authentic Christian faith. Yet at the same time, they are helping secular Germans understand how belief in Jesus and personal faith in Him and His grace leads them into loving service and mission.
It is important to note, however, the tension that basically all churches face. “It is clear to us that building a local church in Kreuzberg is still our priority as Kreuzberg Project,” writesFridtjof. “But in the past years it has also become clearer and clearer that it is simply not enough to just think about church planting one-dimensionally, but to integrate the church deeply within the local community and serve the community in many ways.”
In 2016 a few churches, including Second, helped Fridtjof hire an additional staff worker to coordinate Refugio, the name they gave to their refugee ministry. Christoph Braun joined them in September, and cited Weissel to remind his people (and us) that “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference.” While Fridtjof continues to serve as the pastor of Kreuzberg Project, Christoph is creating cultural projects and service opportunities to help build understanding between those new to German culture and those new to Middle Eastern culture, all in a way that points people to Christ. “For the next year at Kreuzberg
Project,” Christoph writes, “I’d like to play a role in lessening indifference and empowering love by means of sustainable cultural and social projects.”
Last fall a membership class at the church was completed; a number of people from Refugio completed the course, both refugees and volunteers. Three were baptized in November, two refugees and one German. This church, not even seven years old, is leading both Germans and Middle Eastern Muslims to faith in Christ.