The Baptist movement in Poland is nearly 160 years old.
Its origins date to the activity of Johann Gerhard Oncken from Hamburg, Germany, who, in the middle of the 19th century, had planted the congregations among the German-speaking people who inhabited the territories of East Prussia (now Poland).
The beginning of the Baptist movement on native Polish territories is Nov. 28, 1858.
On that day, a country teacher, Gotfryd Fryderyk Alf, born in 1831, was baptized in Adamow, together with a group of other believers after having experienced a spiritual awakening through the reading of the Bible.
Subsequently, the first Polish-speaking Baptist congregation was planted, and a spiritual movement began growing dynamically despite numerous repressions.
The period between the two World Wars was very fruitful for the Polish Baptists, who successfully ran the missionary work and organized a theological seminary, a publishing house, a hospital, an orphanage and a home for the aged.
The 1938 statistical report mentions 16,000 baptized members (30,000 when families and friends are included).
The monthly Baptist magazine, “Slowo Prawdy” (“Word of Truth”), has been published continuously since 1925.
World War II seriously decimated the Baptists, and the post-war Communist regime tried to impose an atheist ideology on the nation.
In the 1950s, the oppression was hardest as all churches were under strict communist surveillance and some leaders were arrested.
Nevertheless, the Baptists steadily rebuilt its membership reaching more than 2,000 in the 1960s.
In the 1970s, they managed to develop a publishing activity as well as lively work with children and youth.
As a result, the evangelistic crusade of Billy Graham in October 1978 became possible.
This resulted in the conversions of many young people and their subsequent involvement in the church life.
The population of Poland currently is about 38.5 million, and almost 90 percent are nominal adherents of Roman Catholicism.
The Baptist Union comprises 90 established local churches that include more than 5,000 baptized members.
Church planting is an important component of the Baptist Union’s strategy. Currently, there are about 20 new church plants, and several of them have been facilitated by the European Baptist Federation (EBF).
For example, Lukasz and Ola started cooperating with the 5N Church – the largest Baptist congregation in the city of Poznan led by Piotr Zaremba – by forming Bible study groups among students.
Poznan is an important center of academic life in western Poland, and the couple’s goal is to build up a healthy Christian missional community that grows in faith and multiplies in numbers.
The basic methods are group meetings on Sundays and one-on-one discipleship. During the week, they also meet for a Bible study and an English club, where the regular attendees can also invite newcomers.
In 2014, Lukasz reported, “Our group draws about 50 people on Sunday and we influence about 100 people. Our basic method of work is to organize students in groups that meet during the week focusing on fellowship. We also organize special meetings for men and women where believers may bring their friends. In addition, I lead a youth group that meets weekly (ages 13-19), and there are at least 15 kids present every time.
“Our group is very young,” he said. “I am 25 years old and other leaders are my equals. Most of our people were not raised in Protestant churches, and we try to create a culture-friendly environment of faith. At the same time, my focus is to preserve the biblically sound teaching.”
In 2015, he said, “There are three new girls attending our meetings as they became Christian and are part of discipleship group. … [And] four new people visited Sunday services regularly, and three of them joined discipleship groups.”
“We have now about 15 small discipleship groups. Our vision is to teach people discipleship, share the gospel and multiply groups. I myself attend one group and lead three groups,” he said.
Poland is a nominally religious nation that is currently under a strong influence of secularism.
In this context, mission-minded leaders of the church plants will continue to play a crucial role in the future of the Baptist movement in Poland.
Information about EBF’s mission partnerships is available here.
Daniel Trusiewicz is mission partnerships coordinator at the European Baptist Federation. A version of this article first appeared on the EBF’s mission partnerships news page and is used with permission. You can follow EBF on Twitter @EBFNews.
Daniel Trusiewicz is mission partnerships coordinator at the European Baptist Federation.