European Coordination Center
Evangelism in Continental Europe began in 1979 when three young True Jesus Church (TJC) members from Taiwan went to Germany to study. Chia-Ming Wu, Ching-Wen Tu and Hong-Hsiung Ko initially observed the Sabbath together in Stuttgart but later moved to Heidelberg. This small group grew as more TJC youths from Taiwan went to further their studies in Germany. Gradually, they were joined by friends who came to know God from attending their Bible studies and Sabbath services.
In time, church activities spread to more places in Germany, France, Austria, and Switzerland. The first spiritual convocation was held in Heidelberg, Germany in 1980. A few years later, other places of worship also held spiritual convocations and conducted water baptism. These activities were always supported by preachers and members from Taiwan.
In 1982, with the generous support of the churches in Taiwan, the believers in Heidelberg purchased an apartment. This enabled them to have Bible studies and Sabbath services regularly. Three years later, Heidelberg officially became a house of prayer. Through the guidance of God and believers’ supplication, more houses of prayer have since been established in Salzburg, Hamburg, Paris, and Rhineland.
Spiritual convocation in Heidelberg (December 2015)
Formation of European Coordination Center
Until 2014, the churches in Continental Europe—as is typical of pioneering regions—were part of the International Assembly’s (IA) directed churches. However, after the churches in the German-speaking countries as well as in France had been firmly established, IA officially announced the setting up of the European Coordination Center (ECC) in 2015.
Places that are officially part of the ECC are:
- Germany: Hamburg and Rhineland (who have their own church buildings) and Heidelberg (where a residential apartment functions as church premises).
- Austria: Salzburg (a shop has been purchased for use as service venue) and Vienna (service point).
- France: Paris (residential apartment).
Houses of prayer and places of worship in Continental Europe, which are under the care of the ECC.
Church dedication in Hamburg, May 2012
Members at Salzburg House of Prayer and in Vienna.
In 2012, after the Paris church's decision to offer employment to an IA terminated preacher, a few members started to gather elsewhere for Sabbath worship. Since 2014, preachers from abroad have assisted in conducting two spiritual convocations and one seminar annually.
Under the care and guidance of the Lord, the East Paris Prayer House was recognized by the IA and officially registered in May 2015. There are currently forty-one members and two RE classes. Services are held weekly from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., followed by Youth Fellowship which ends at 6:00 p.m.
Presently, East Paris Prayer House is raising funds and searching for a chapel. They require the faithful intercession of the whole TJC.
- Brethren at other Locations
There are a number of brothers and sisters working at different places in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. These believers either conduct their own family services or travel to attend services at places where there are churches or houses of prayer. The current membership of ECC churches is 176.
In recent years brethren, primarily from Fuzhou, China, have been emigrating to Spain, Italy, and Greece for work. By God’s grace, these brethren are now able to have regular worship services. These new places of worship are under the direct care of the International Assembly, but a German care team supports them by traveling to Spain and Italy on a regular basis to help conduct Sabbath services.
In the past decades, the places of worship under ECC underwent a major transformation. Many places have progressed from family services conducted in members’ houses to proper worship services in their own church building. In the beginning, worship services consisted of Bible studies or listening to sermon tapes/watching sermon videos; today, each place has its own organizational structure. There are church board members, religious education teachers, and members who take care of the general affairs such as cooking.
- Sabbath Services: These are usually held from Saturday morning until late afternoon, including Religious Education classes, prayer session, and lunch. Many places of worship have Bible studies on Friday evenings.
- Spiritual Convocation (Local Church): All ECC places of worship regularly conduct spiritual convocations. Each region holds its spiritual convocation at a different time during the year so that all the believers are able to attend one to two convocations every year and partake the Holy Communion. Since some members live a fair distance away from the nearest place of worship, spiritual convocations are held during weekends or public holidays.
- Spiritual Convocation (Continental Europe): Apart from these regional spiritual convocations, there is a spiritual convocation for the whole of Continental Europe at every year end, attended by members from countries under ECC, as well as from Asia and the United States. IA and UKGA send preachers to assist in these spiritual convocations.
- Special Convocations: These are tailored to suit the needs of particular groups of believers. For example, there is an annual children’s spiritual convocation, which Heidelberg and Hamburg house of prayer take turns to host annually. The aim of this convocation is to allow children from different churches to meet each other more often and to deepen their biblical knowledge.
Children’s spiritual convocation in Heidelberg 2014
- Youth Fellowship Seminar: Since 2013, Heidelberg and Hamburg have also been conducting youth fellowship seminars. These have seen a dramatic increase in the number of participants every year. Apart from lessons, activities are conducted to enable the participants to get to know each other better and to strengthen their sense of belonging.
Youth Fellowship in Hamburg 2015
- Special services: Whenever preachers from the UK, USA or Taiwan conduct pastoral visits, special services are held. The purpose of these services is to evangelize, to strengthen the faith of the members or to train church board members and religious education teachers.
RE Teachers’ Seminar 2015 in Hamburg
- Literary ministry: The ECC invests much time and energy into the creation of church publications, such as gospel pamphlets and material about our church for distribution. In addition, various teams are currently working on a new hymn book in German and the translation of Religious Education materials.
Going forward, there are a number of important objectives for the churches under ECC.
In the past few years, brethren at several locations have purchased and renovated church buildings or apartments for worship. Much time and energy have been spent on these matters as there were often problems that only God could solve. With most of these tasks now completed, there is a need to refocus on preaching the gospel to the world, particularly to the local people in Europe. Only then can the gospel be spread further in this part of the world.
The church needs to have members who are able to preach the word of God on the pulpit to edify the church as well as talk to strangers about the gospel to bring them to Christ. Currently, the entire Continental Europe region only has a single full-time preacher for the German-speaking region, who is often deployed to other parts of the world to support the work of God. Although the United Kingdom General Assembly does send UK preachers to assist, it is vital for Continental Europe to train more members, especially its youths, to sermonize and to evangelize. By God’s grace, there will be members who will offer themselves to be full-time ministers in the future.
Another important task is to help the members in the Southern European countries, such as Italy and Spain, to establish the local church. Many of the members there have to work 24/7 for a meager income. Hence they have little time and energy left to serve God. However, these places are like young sprouts. If we provide as much support as possible and help them to grow, they will one day become great and strong churches, able to glorify God.
Church dedication in Rhineland, May 2015
With God’s guidance, the ECC will be able to overcome these challenges and preach the gospel to all corners of Europe. Intercessory prayers from worldwide TJC brethren are greatly needed. We look forward to welcoming you here in Europe one day.