|Republic of Finland|
Area 338,145 sq.km. This northern country is 70% forest, 10% lake, 8% arable land.
Capital Helsinki 1,175,000. Urbanites 66%.
Finno-Ugric 92.5%. Finns 4,782,000; Lapp (Same) 5,700 in Arctic, with 2,000 speaking 3 Same dialects.
Germanic 5.7%. Swedish-speaking 295,000, largely in SW and on Åland Islands in the Gulf of Bothnia.
Other 1.8%. Russians 25,000; Turks 1,000; also Somalis, Romanians, and others.
Literacy 100%. Official languages Finnish, Swedish. All languages 10. Languages with Scriptures 4Bi 1NT 4 por.
Specialized, export-oriented economy based on wood products and, increasingly, high-tech industry. Serious recession in the early 1990s has since ended. HDI 0.913; 13th/174. Public debt 67.1% of GNP. Income/person $24,790 (78.7% of USA).
Ruled by Sweden for 700 years, then by Russia for a further 100. Independent in 1917. Member of EU.
Freedom of religion, but Evangelical Lutheran and Finnish (Greek) Orthodox churches have special recognition.
1 The collapse of Communism in the USSR gave unprecedented opportunities to Finns for evangelism and for the encouragement of Christians in Estonia (their ethnic cousins) and Russia. Estonia's church growth in the 1990s was due in large part to Finnish Christians. But the early boom is over. Now there is a need for long-term workers to help disciple the new churches. Finns also enjoy a strategic role to the Finno-Ugric people of the former USSR, assisting in evangelism and discipleship.
1 Secular humanism has a strong influence with its attendant negative attitudes two-thirds of Finns see life as gloomy and devoid of hope, and 5 out of 6 believe that the ordinary person's lot is continually declining. Unemployment and the national debt are major concerns and spiritual pluralism is becoming widespread. The last revival occurred during the 1960s. A growing interest in spiritual things could lead to another revival, but in the meantime the fastest growing religious groups are Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons.
2 The Lutheran Church is much more evangelical than most national churches in Europe partly a heritage of the revival movements of the past that have influenced its spirituality. This body is an umbrella for a large number of autonomous fellowships, revival and prayer groups and missions. It is in these that most committed Lutherans find their fellowship and platform for evangelism. Perhaps as many as 20% of Lutherans have connections to these groups, but adherents decrease as attendance dwindles (2% of the population). Ageing congregations indicate a future intensification of this problem. The Church needs a renewal of both spirit and structure to combat passivity and nominalism. Pray that deep and lasting revival might come to the entire Lutheran church.
3 The Free Churches, both Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal, are relatively small but spiritually vigorous and growing. Charismatic renewal has had a marked impact. Pray for greater unity and cooperation in evangelism and missions among these various bodies, and between the Free Churches and Lutherans.
4 A new paradigm for the Church is required if it is truly to grow in Finland. The church planting targets set by DAWN show that there is still life and vision, but the structure of the church is in a state of change. The old forms and traditions do not address the needs of many Finns. Specific issues:
b) The widespread growth of house groups. Some of these groups are planted by established churches, some are not. Pray that all might see themselves in a wider context as part of the whole body of Christ, and contribute accordingly.
5 Young people's ministries have great potential. A high proportion of Finnish young people attend confirmation camps. This is an opportunity for them to come to a living faith in Christ. Pray that the leaders might display a godly example of the walk of faith. Pray also for the campus ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Student Mission (IFES, in 12 cities), EYL and CCCI. Many students in Finland do not reside on campuses, so organizing the groups is much more difficult.
6 A vision for missions is not growing as it should. Churches need to catch a missions vision and become more involved in the sending process rather than relying totally on agencies. Many workers are hampered by a lack of support. New models of missionary sending need to be developed that counter the depersonalization of the support process. Various missions have sent out Finns in summer or short-term teams all over the world; many are now in full-time ministry.
7 Less reached peoples. Many refugees and asylum-seekers have come to Finland from Central and Eastern Europe and an increasing number from Asia and Africa. Many are Muslims, and few have ever heard the gospel before. Some fellowships are providing international meetings for these people, and there are some ethnic fellowships, such as the small Chinese church in Helsinki. Pray that these immigrants might have the chance to encounter Jesus in a real and attractive way.
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