FIFA World Cup - Something New in Germany – God is transforming Germans
Our warmest thanks to the praying people from so many different nations for their prayer support during the Football (Soccer) World Cup in Germany. God did more than just answer our prayers. He has done "more than we could ask or imagine":
The evangelistic outreaches in not only the twelve World Cup host cities but also many other cities in Germany were blessed to see people coming to Christ – for example, 100 alone in Frankfurt. Over 4,000 churches (1200 kickoff-associated, 700 Catholic and 2200 Lutheran state churches) had live transmissions of games for public viewing. The Christians were excited about the new contact to unchurched people that these public viewings generated. A Christian sports program produced solely for this occasion gave the viewers food for thought about faith before every match involving Germany, as well as the playoffs and final match.
Cooperation with international churches in Germany also got a boost.
Even the secular media reported positively on the Christian outreaches, something that seldom happens in our country. There was often astonishment about and gratitude for the Christians' involvement in the cities. Just one example: for four weeks the Evangelical Alliance sponsored a stage with evangelistic music and talk directly in front of the main train station. Right after the World Cup, local media called for this stage to be made permanent, marveling at the friendly atmosphere filling what was usually an ugly area and making it an inviting entranceway to the city. Just like in Acts 2, the Christians were: "…enjoying the favor of all the people…"
There were 24-7 prayer rooms and intense intercession groups in many towns and cities. Prayer requests from all across the country were sent to a prayer camp in Bad Blankenburg, the German headquarters of the Evangelical Alliance, during the entire World Cup. For the first time, Christians from widely varying religious traditions prayed together for an extended time during a mega-event – for their country and for various evangelistic outreaches. Many prayer networks all over the world and people from all over the world who had come to Germany included them in and supported them with their prayers. God heard His children's prayers, and brought them great joy.
God's protection from hooligans' excessive violence or terrorist attacks was not just magnificent, it was a miracle: considering the sheer number of fans, hundreds of thousands of whom – including outside the stadiums – watched the matches and peacefully celebrated together. Instead of the violent fights that had been predicted, fans of opposing teams hugged each other and celebrated together, whether they were Iranians and Portuguese or Germans and Britons, etc. People enjoyed just being together. Two small violent clashes remained limited in scope and were quickly brought under control by the police. It was exactly at these two critical points that those praying at the prayer camp strongly experienced the leading of the Holy Spirit and prayed – without any external knowledge – against exactly what was happening. Ex. 17:10 ff. in our times!
But the most impressive thing was that the Lord brought healing to the Germans' wounded souls as regards their national identity. To an extent never before seen, people rejoiced in their own nation, waved flags and sang the national anthem, all without unhealthy shame and with no trace of the unhealthy pride of which other countries could justifiably have been afraid. Far from being afraid, the international media rejoiced with and encouraged the German people. Secular newspapers printed personal accounts of people who had a German flag in their hands and sang the German national anthem with tears in their eyes for the first time since the rule of the Nazis. The fact that God made history is still visible in the streets and on cars and houses. Some of the flags are still flying or hanging; this is unprecedented. One newspaper headline read: "Someone has awakened us with a kiss." Yes, the Spirit of God is doing a new thing in our country.
It was the foreigners who noticed it first and made it possible; it is they who are encouraging us – including us German Christians – to bless the world with our talents and take on international responsibilities.
God also gave our country a willingness to be hospitable and an enjoyment of our guests from many different countries, something which is not typical of Germans. This brought healing to many and great joy for the guests, who had no idea how friendly and emotional Germans can be. Many international newspapers and magazines wrote over and over that they had been forced to change their stereotype of Germany.
The fact that we Germans could celebrate our third-place finish as if it were a victory – when our perfectionism usually drags us down into criticism and frustration – is proof positive that something has changed. That it could happen in the space of four weeks is proof that it could only have been God's work. Even Franz Beckenbauer (a former football great and prominent figure in German football), who actually believes in reincarnation and has nothing to do with churches, when asked on a nationally televised show after the final match how it could be that everything went so well during the World Cup, replied: "I guess we just have to thank the good Lord, too."
May God strengthen and increase the change that has started here and see to it that we – including us Christians – don't fall back into the valley of collective complaining, but share our joy in our God, which is much stronger than the joy that comes from sports or events, with the people outside the walls of our churches and stop being ashamed of the Gospel.
God used people from many nations (more than 4,000 short-term missionaries) to help us evangelize during this world event. And He used many more to stand in the gap for our country and to take the garment of shame off of our people so that we can rejoice in our country – as other people rejoice in theirs – without feeling guilty. This was also an emotional release for an otherwise very reserved society, freeing people to just feel happy.
If the Christians who live in Germany, regardless of what culture or denomination they come from, will continue to allow God's joy to motivate them to actively share the Gospel in unity in word and deed, using their God-given talents and giftings, what God began during the World Cup will be able to continue to grow and thrive.