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Countering post-Soviet atheism

A church in Estonia, one of the most secular countries on earth, recognizes the foundational nature of the battle—and starts doing something about it.


Published: 29 December 2016 (GMT+10)
Pastor Esa Luukkala is using creation materials to counter atheistic ideology which he says has made most Estonians think of churches like museums.

According to a 2009 survey, only 14% of Estonians think religion is important.1 This makes Estonia one of the most secular nations in the world.2 Although originally from Finland, Esa Luukkala is pastor of the Äksi church,3 an evangelical Lutheran congregation on the shores of Lake Saadjärv in Tartu, Estonia. He notes: “Matters of faith hardly interest people, and most have a very materialistic worldview … Years under the Soviet regime’s atheistic ideology have made most Estonians think of churches like museums, places just for contemplating the past. Most people in Estonia think Christianity has no relevance for modern people, and most don’t know even the basics of Christianity.”

Years under the Soviet regime’s atheistic ideology have made most Estonians think of churches like museums.

The Äksi congregation deliberated how to reach people with such a materialistic worldview; what could engage them, and open the door for the Gospel? The approach chosen was a Creation Display, suggested by a church member who said he had personally witnessed “the great destruction wrought in the lives of youngsters by the Darwinian evolution theory taught at school”. When Estonia was a part of the Soviet empire, evolution was actively used to foster atheism/materialism as the foundation of the state-sanctioned Marxist ideology.

Posters adorn the walls of the Äksi Lutheran church in Tartu, Estonia. The image of ‘two-tone twins’ Remee and Kian is immediately recognisable and is a great talking point to help questioners understand the origin all the ‘races’.

“A Creation Display lets us present to young and old alike how nature shows that God is behind it all,” says Pastor Esa. “And it can present scientific facts showing how the Bible accounts such as Creation, Fall and Flood are reliable, and are real history.”

With the help of volunteers, from the congregation and Finnish creationists, Pastor Esa prepared professionally laid out 20 large A0-sized4 posters (see photo), of durable PVC material, enabling outdoor use as well. Text and graphics are from CMI-supplied materials, translated by a friend of Esa's who is a PhD Estonian linguist. One (volunteer) professional graphical designer was involved in designing the layouts.

We pray that the Holy Spirit can use this display to prompt people to think about questions related to life and eternity and to lead them to salvation.

At the Creation Display’s official opening in September 2014, Pastor Esa confirmed that while the posters were initially for display inside the church, they planned to take them elsewhere also; schools, other churches, religious events—in fact, anywhere there was an open door.

He says, “The creation topic is not an end in itself, but we plan to use it as a way to guide people to Jesus. We pray that the Holy Spirit can use this display to prompt people to think about questions related to life and eternity and to lead them to salvation.” The questions addressed include:

  • Is life a coincidence?
  • Did man evolve from apes?
  • Has the Creator made me also, and does God really care for me?
  • Am I responsible to the Creator for what I do with my life?
  • Is human sin the reason for the vast amount of suffering and imperfection in the world?
  • How can I be forgiven from my sins and saved from eternal damnation?
  • Is the Bible trustworthy?

“We also hope that the display will encourage and embolden Christians to present the whole message of the Bible from Creation, then the Fall, and on to salvation through to faith in Jesus Christ.”

  • Creation Ministries International wishes God’s blessing on the Äksi congregation’s groundbreaking creation evangelism efforts in Estonia. We trust they will bear much fruit and will encourage others to likewise stand on the truth of biblical creation.

#Adapted with permission from the Finnish Creation magazine Luominen.

Finnish outreach too

After this article was published in Luominen, a similar display was launched in Finland and has now been shown in several cities (Vantaa, Helsinki, Kuopio, Keuruu, Oulu, Hanko, Tampere and Pori).

References and notes

  1. Religion in Estonia, en.wikipedia.org, accessed October 2014. Return to text.
  2. Estonians least religious in the world, euobserver.com, accessed October 2014. Return to text.
  3. aksikogudus.org. Return to text.
  4. At 0.841 m × 1.189 m, the area of 16 A4 pages. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

Vern R.
WOW! What an excellent opportunity in the heart of the beast of atheism. May God richly bless this pastor and his congregation and CMI in this endeavor.
May the eyes of the blind be opened, may the ears of the deaf be made to hear the truth, and may the tongues of the mute be loosed to bring glory to the God of creation. Let the Holy Spirit of God reap the harvest of souls hungering for truth.
May God richly bless the efforts of CMI in this project.
david G.
Wonderful to see this "return" to biblical evangelism where when the people knew nothing about the OT (the only Scriptures available then), the message started with creation and God's sovereign goodness over all his has made and man's accountability. When people had or knew the OT, they showed how the Scriptures pointed to Christ. Blessings on this brother's labors!

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