Thursday, April 30, 2009

More than a name on a yoghurt carton

Those of you who thought that Oncken was just the name on a rather posh yoghurt, should check out Johann Oncken. There's a whole chapter on him in Ian Randall's excellent history of European Baptists that's being launched at the assembly. So buy the book and be amazed!

Johan Oncken, born at the start of the Nineteenth Century, was a German pastor. But he can lay claim to being every bit as significant as Spurgeon - if not more so. Countless European Baptist groups owe their origins to this tireless disciple-maker.

Starting out in Hamburg in the teeth of much opposition from the locals, Oncken preached and planted churches among the urban poor and working population and especially the migrants who came through that great port city. Three quarters of his first baptised converts in the 1830s went off to start churches and preach the gospel somewhere else.

His motto was 'jeder baptist ein missionar' (every baptist a missionary) and all his teaching and discipling was geared towards moulding missionary disciples. And his efforts seem to have paid off. By the time of his death, the German Baptist movement had grown from virtually nothing to 16,000 members in 96 churches. But even more significantly, many of those had planted churches and begun Baptist associations in Russia, Ukraine, Sweden, Denmark, the Baltic States, Austria, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, France and Poland. Even further afield Oncken-inspired disciples went to Australia and west Africa and through his American partners, started ministries in Brazil.

What a guy! We'll be telling his story in Prism (at this weekend's Baptist Assembly in Bournemouth) as he's one of our heroes from our past who inspires our mission in the present.

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