Brunstad Christian Church
|Brunstad Christian Church|
|Leader||Kåre Johan Smith|
|Founder||Johan Oscar Smith|
|Congregations||more than 220|
|Members||more than 30,000|
Brunstad Christian Church is a worldwide evangelical non-denominational Christian church. Established in Norway early in the 20th century. It is represented by more than 220 churches in 65 countries. The Norwegian researcher Knut Lundby has estimated that in the late 1990s, its membership was at 25,000 to 30,000 and growing. As many as two thirds of its members live outside Norway. For many years the group did not have a formal name and was referred to as Smith's Friends, particularly in Norway.
Johan Oscar Smith (1871–1943), the church's founder, was originally a member of the Methodist church. After a religious conversion in 1898 Smith began preaching to small gatherings. In 1905, his brother Aksel Smith (1880–1919) joined him. Smith had early contact with the Pentecostal movement in Norway and Aksel Smith cooperated with Thomas Ball Barratt during the first few years after Barratt introduced Pentecostalism to Norway in 1906–1907. As both the Pentecostal movement and Smith's group developed, they became increasingly wary of each other, with Barrat accusing Smith of creating schism within his group, as some of his followers joined Smith. During the following years both groups wrote and published articles against the other.
In 1908, Johan Oscar Smith met Elias Aslaksen (1888–1976) while serving in the Norwegian Navy. Under the leadership of Johan Oscar Smith, Aksel Smith, and Elias Aslaksen the group began to grow quickly. During World War I, Smith, as a Naval officer, partook in patrols of the Norwegian coast. During this time, he had contact with believers and churches were established in several Norwegian coastal towns. During the 1930s churches were established in inland Norway, most notably in Hallingdal and Valdres. During this period, congregations were also established in Denmark.
From the 1950s, the church began to spread throughout Western Europe, most notably in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, after several church leaders were invited to participate in the Pentecostal conferences held at Leonberg during the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brunstad Christian Church spread further to Eastern Europe, the United Kingdom, North America, Australia, Africa and Asia. Churches were first established in South America in the 1970s.
Today, there are more than 220 congregations in more than 65 countries. The church has annual international conferences at Brunstad Conference Center and regional conferences throughout the world. It has its own publishing house, Skjulte Skatters Forlag, publishing books and distributing audio-visual media intended for spiritual edification. The monthly journal Skjulte Skatter, ("Hidden Treasures") has been published every month since 1912.
Brunstad Christian Church is an association of some 220 churches worldwide. The church has no ordained clergy and few members have any theological training. The church keeps no official membership register. Leaders are appointed in each local church congregation on the basis of their perceived virtue, the confidence of members in the individual and their natural abilities. There are no elected leaders. When Johan Oscar Smith died in 1943, overall leadership of the church passed to Elias Aslaksen, followed by Sigurd Bratlie in 1976 and Kåre J. Smith in 1996. The church is non-denominational and has little formal association with other churches.
Brunstad Christian Church places its basis of faith in the New Testament and the belief that the Bible is the word of God. The fundamental elements of their faith are: faith in Jesus as God's son, faith in the Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sin, baptism and the Lord's Supper. They believe that the forgiveness of sins is undeserved and by received through Divine grace when one believes in Jesus Christ. They practice the Baptism of adults by complete immersion into water.
As in other evangelical churches, the Bible is central and believed literally. Books and writings by past and present elders in the movement are held in high regard within Brunstad Christian Church. The most central internal publications are the monthly magazine, Skjulte Skatter and Smith's Letters, a collection of letters written by Johan O. Smith, mostly to his brother Aksel and Elias Aslaksen.
The church claims to differ from other non-denominational evangelical groups in its belief that Jesus not only died to bring forgiveness of our sins, but that he was also tempted to sin just like every human being. The church teaches that Jesus' victory over sin as a human being is the basis for personal victory over sin and transformation into Jesus image for believers, which is defined as the process of sanctification. A study undertaken by Norwegian theologian Geir Lie concluded that the theology of Brunstad Christian Church was influenced by the Keswick revival at the turn of the 20th century and by individuals such as Madame Guyón and Jessie Penn-Lewis.
Brunstad Christian Church is actively engaged in missionary and humanitarian work around the globe. According to their official website, they are careful not to mix their missionary work and humanitarian aid in an effort to ensure that people are not influenced to a particular teaching or religion simply by the material goods the missionaries have to offer. Moreover, the church states that it believes in "preaching the gospel without necessarily giving people hope of better living conditions" and, for this reason, "channel money or material goods through social or public organisations where distribution of goods takes place according to need, and not according to religious persuasion".
Over several decades, the church has driven the mission work in this way, contributing millions of dollars, among other places, behind the iron curtain before it fell. They have traditionally been a tentmakers mission, where the missionary who has been sent out takes up regular employment in the area they are posted.
The church is in the process of building conference centers in several foreign countries. As of January 2008, conference centers were under construction in India, Romania, Kenya, Ukraine and Cameroon.
Youth Exchange Program
The Youth Exchange Program (YEP) is an initiative within Brunstad Christian Church where young people from affiliated churches around the world volunteer a year to work in church-related activities and projects. According to the church's website, the program mainly consists of missionary work, Norwegian language lessons, volunteer work, culture exchange and network building. The purpose of the program is to "obtain better knowledge of the church's basis of faith and its history" and to "teach and spread knowledge of international languages and culture". The program was founded in connection with the expansion of Oslofjord Convention Center and has since been expanded, so that participants are involved in missionary work and church activities in many different parts of the world. including the construction projects at local church properties. Each year, approximately 250 young people aged 18 to 25 years are invited to take part in the program.
- Bratli, Kjell Arne (1996): The Way of the Cross: An Account of Smith's Friends. Tananger, Norway: Skjulte Skatters Forlag. ISBN 82-91305-23-4
- Gjøsund, Alf (2004). Seier Likevel: Min Vei ut av Trossamfunnet Smiths Venner (Victory after all: My Way Out of Smith's Friends Fellowship) (Norwegian). Lunde. ISBN 82-520-4596-0
- Velten, Johan (2002). Ansatt av Gud: Et Kritisk Søkelys på Smiths Venner (Appointed by God: A Critical Review of Smith's Friends) (Norwegian). Genesis. ISBN 82-476-0249-0
- "Official Website". Brunstad Christian Church.
- Lundby, Knut (1996). "Religion, medier og modernitet. Kommunikasjonsmønstre i sekt og kirke i en norsk kommune". Sosiologisk tidsskrift (Oslo) 4: 266.
- Lie, Gier (2004). "The Christology Among Smith's Friends: A Misunderstood Impulse from the Keswick Tradition?". Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 7 (2): 305. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
- Streiker, Lowell D (1999). Smith's Friends: A Religion Critic Meets a Free Church Movement. Connecticut: Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0-275-96084-6.
- Bratli, Kjell Arne. The Way of the Cross: An Account of Smith’s Friends. Skjulte Skatters Forlag. pp. 34–38. ISBN 82-91305-23-4.
- Bloch-Hoell, Nils (1956). "The Pentecostal Movement: An Analysis of Its Origins, Development and Characteristics with Particular Emphasis on Its Appearance in Norway". Oslo: Oslo Universitetsforlaget.
- "Our Story". Brunstad Christian Church. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
- "Organization and Structure". Brunstad Christian Church. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
- "Baptism". Brunstad Christian Church. Retrieved Nov 9, 2010.
- "Communion". Brunstad Christian Church. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
- "The Forgiveness of Sins and Victory over Sin". Brunstad Christian Church. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
- "Theology". Brunstad Christian Church. Retrieved November 9, 2009.
- Moe, Steinar (2002). Hva lærer Smiths venner? Et bidrag til konfesjonskunnskap. Norway: Færder Forlag. ISBN 82-7911-038-0.
- "Missionary work". Brunstad Christian Church. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
- "YEP". Brunstad Christian Church. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
- Aud, Schwital. "Sandefjord Senior Høyre inviterer til tur til Brunstad den 25. mai" (in Norwegian). Høyre. Retrieved June 18, 2010.
- Olderkjær, Ove (June 17, 2007). "Bygd på vennedugnad". Bergens Tidende (in Norwegian) (Bergen, Norway). Retrieved June 18, 2010.
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