Ordained for Ministry in Germany
My name is Bernd Armbruster, and I come from Germany. In my teenage years, I thought of Christianity as an outdated concept and decided to turn my back against the church. I couldn’t understand how church rituals could have any positive effect on my life. Consequently, I not only stopped attending church, but I also started hating Christians in my heart.
After graduating from University in 2004, I went to China for what I thought would be an extended holiday. Little did I know that God was waiting for me there. In Shanghai, I met people who were madly in love with Jesus. They attended Shanghai Community Fellowship (SCF). They made Jesus so attractive to me that I became a Christian and ended up staying in SCF and Shanghai for 12 years.
Also in 2004, my wife Ryoko from Japan, and I met at SCF. In 2006, we got engaged and married. Now we have three amazing children: Anna (8), Noah (6) and Abigail (2).
In 2006, I also accepted the role of Outreach Director at SCF as a volunteer. At the time, I had already known that God wanted me to move towards full-time ministry. One major step in that direction was when my role as an Outreach Director was elevated from volunteer to full-time position in 2011. For the next five years, I was able to work full-time at SCF. Those were five fantastic years. We saw dozens of people accepting Christ every single year through this outreach ministry and joining our church community long-term. Many Christians who joined our team were completely changed. Some of them have now become ministers or missionaries in other parts of the world. Our favorite story is that of a man near retirement age whose complete Christian life at the time consisted of reading a daily prayer from a Christian calendar. He joined us to help others find Jesus. But during those months, his life was completely transformed. To quote his words: “I had the time of my life!” After spending one year on our team, he was a completely different person. His marriage was also revived. Once he reached his retirement, he decided to work for a Christian organization, and his passion for Christ has grown ever since.
The years at SCF were wonderful and fruitful years. But I always knew that this was still training ground, preparation for God’s long-term calling.
I knew that God wanted me to preach, teach and lead. That’s what I loved doing; that’s what I was good at. Theologically, I always had two big passions: one was for outreach. The other one was for relationships, marriage and family (My wife and I even wrote a book on this topic: www.simplesecrets.info). However, God had to do a lot of work in me before releasing me in my calling. He had to rid me of my immaturity, impatience, self-righteousness, judgmental attitudes, gossip, covetousness and lust. On the flipside, He had to develop gifts of compassion, teaching, sensitivity, care, love and forgiveness. I still fall terribly short of God’s standards. But the Holy Spirit has changed me over the years. And I can see God’s hand in all my past life: every major life experience was about getting me ready for being a Pastor.
The years at SCF were instrumental in preparing us for this. SCF has invested a lot of time, money and energy in developing us as leaders. They encouraged us to explore and develop our gifts. They mentored us and allowed us to learn from failures. Without SCF’s investment and encouragement, we would not be ready today for God’s call on our lives.
Around 2 years ago, God gave me a heart to pursue ministry education. I was excited, but finances did not allow me to pursue Seminary. Then I stumbled on CLI’s website. “Free ministry training and ordination” sounded too good to be true. But I gave it a try. And I quickly knew that this was how God was answering our prayer. What a great decision it was to study here.
In 2015, God started bringing it all together: He called us to Germany, to start and pastor a new church. (Aletheia International Church Munich (AIC), www.aicmunich.org). When we told SCF that we felt this call, we received even more support and encouragement than before, both from the leadership and the wider congregation. Many people there still pray for us. While we are not officially affiliated with SCF any longer, we do see AIC as an overflow of SCF’s great work.
So being obedient to His calling, we left SCF and moved to Germany in June 2016. Now we have just started our first small group with currently eight people. We are excited about what God will do from here.
Now about Germany: In my country, the church faces the challenge of religion. Many people think they know Christianity. But actually, they don’t. It is hard to break through those misconceptions, since many already made up their minds with wrong conclusions about Jesus and don’t see the need to reconsider their opinion.
Due to these common misconceptions, it is our desire that people hear the full, true gospel through AIC. Not just a feel-good-gospel, but the full gospel. We know that many people will not respond favorably. But we will proclaim the truth to as many people as we can, and disciple those who respond to Jesus’ invitation. That’s why we are here. That’s God’s calling on our lives.
The classes at CLI have greatly helped me prepare for this calling. The studies have put the different aspects of our Faith together in my mind. Some classes were pretty basic for me, having already worked in the church for years. However, other classes taught me things I had never heard before (esp. the New Testament and Church History classes). The greatest difference now is that I can see the big picture of the Christian Faith more clearly. As a result, I can better understand and communicate our Faith. I am very much looking forward to taking further classes after this ordination and learning even more.
God grew and prepared me through CLI, but this ordination will also give our church more credibility. Ordained for ministry in Germany is better received when it come from a place like CLI. It will help people be more open towards our new Community with a Pastor who has an external approval as an Ordained Minister.
One of my favorite Bible stories is the parable commonly referred to as the Prodigal Son. In 2004, I was that younger brother: Coming home to God full of guilt, shame and embarrassment. But God showed me how much He loved me and rejoiced over my decision to return to Him. More than 12 years later, He calls me to be a Pastor. I’m not worthy of or ready for this calling. I can’t do it by myself. But I do know that God equips those He calls. I know He is trustworthy and a perfect Father. And that’s why my family and I continue to pursue this calling. Not because of us, but because of God’s love and faithfulness.
Our prayer is that God will use AIC to bring the full truth about Jesus to as many people as possible. We would be grateful for your prayer support towards this goal.
Thank you CLI for giving called leaders like me the opportunity to fulfill their calling.
In Christ’s love,