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Lithuania Mission Initiative
The first of the former Soviet republics to declare its independence, Lithuania is the largest of the three Baltic states and lies to the east of Sweden. The country has one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe and is a stable and strongly democratic republic.
Over three-quarters of the population is Roman Catholic, and all churches were suppressed during the Soviet occupation; many of the laity and clergy were killed, tortured, or deported. Since the restoration of independence, many Protestant denominations have established missions in the country.
The Methodist presence began there in 1901, long before the Soviet period. The current United Methodist Church was organized after staff members from the General Board of Global Ministries and a Lithuanian-born German pastor, the Rev. Arthur Leifert, visited in 1995 to look for traces of Methodism. A renewal effort emerged from that fact-finding effort. The first revived Methodist worship service was celebrated on August 30, 1995, in Kaunas. The plan in 2015 is to celebrate the move from mission initiative to its current status as a district of the Estonia Annual Conference.
Challenges: The church in Lithuania has been experiencing declining membership and some difficult relationships within churches. Indigenous lay leadership is needed as well as United Methodist educational materials. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the church is dependence on financial support from partners and the need for financial self-sufficiency.
Assets: Pastoral leadership has risen from the local community, including many active, young pastors and diaconal ministers. There are several church buildings and facilities owned by the church and strong partnerships with churches in Europe and the United States, including the integration of In Mission Together partnerships. The structure of the church is strong, and intentional work is underway for churches to become self-sufficient. Two Global Ministries’ missionaries and a Swedish Methodist missionary serve on the Mission Initiative staff.
Goals: The Lithuanian Mission Initiative wants to increase the number of churches that are financially independent and help congregations understand stewardship and financial responsibility. A Lithuania vision team is visiting charge conferences in an effort to increase understanding among lay people about stewardship and the need for growth in commitment. The objective is for the Lithuanian church to embody a Methodist identity that is growing and reaching out to Lithuanian communities. Major areas of focus are discipleship, evangelism, youth work, and new church plants.
Statistics: There are 10 churches, two additional faith communities, eight pastors, and two missionary pastors.
In Mission Together Coordinator:
Bishop Christian Alsted
Lithuania is a Mission Initiative country. Learn more about Mission Initiatives and how local churches in the US are partnering with these congregations through the In Mission Together program. Share your prayers and get real time updates by joining the Facebook group page for this Mission Initiative. Visit the page and click on “Join Group” to become a part of the conversation.