Tearing down walls across Europe for the gospel’s sake

We live in Steinhausen-an-der-Rottum, a little village in a region of little villages with beautiful little Baroque churches. We’re about an hour south of Ulm, a city with the tallest church in the world, Ulm Minster. But this is a nation of many churches and much religion—and almost no Bible-believing works.

You might have heard that Germans like walls! Germans like to build fences anywhere we can. We are a private people. So door-knocking doesn’t work that well here. But I like tearing down walls, and making friends with as many people as possible. The first thing I did when we came here was to take down the fences around our house.

I introduced myself to my neighbor, Volker, a tall man of about 40, with tattoos, and we became good friends. We did all kinds of things together. I invited him to my house, and we drank coffee, and just talked. He called me his best friend.

I say, ‘I love Jesus Christ’ and they say, ‘Really, why do you love Jesus Christ?’ And so the conversation is under way.

He said he didn’t believe in God, but asked me for advice on how to raise his son. I gave him some biblical advice and he said it worked, and it was amazing. He started to think there might be a God. We drew closer together, but one day I came home and his wife came out of the house crying.

His wife said Volker had died suddenly of a heart embolism. I asked to see him one last time and as I climbed the stairs, his wife cried out, “Philipp, bring back my husband.” I looked down at Volker on the bed and thought, “He’s bearing the Lord’s judgment in hell right now.”

Since then I preach differently about hell. We are dealing with real people with real souls, spending eternity either in heaven or hell. We are the people who can bring them the wonderful gospel that reaches them. We need to befriend people and tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ. We do this to our neighbors, and everyone we meet.

Goodbye Amazon, hello tennis clubs

We hand out tracts in the street, and preach in the street, but my biggest thing—and that’s what I’m teaching—is just make relationships with people. I go to the same restaurant, I go to the same stores, I don’t buy things on Amazon if I don’t have to, because I don’t make any contacts.

I love to play tennis, and I’m in two local tennis clubs. I just went in there and after a couple of weeks there were about 10 or 15 people who were friendly with me, and they started to ask what I’m doing. And I say, “I’m doing some investment advisory work, and I love Jesus Christ.” They say, “Really, why do you love Jesus Christ?” And so the conversation is under way. It just goes on as a normal and natural thing, and from there, who knows?

It’s basically making contacts, constantly, and being friendly, talking, talking, talking, and leaving behind a tract here, and a tract there. I’m telling you, after a month, if you do that consistently, you have more things to do than you have time on your hands to do them.

Sometimes when my wife Teresa and I go shopping, we have to take the back road because there are so many children and parents come running and just want to talk to us!

But we love talking with people and speaking of Christ. We try to go slow. We give them the gospel, and build relationships. If you don’t build relationships, they don’t trust you and won’t even give you the time to listen. But we can give them the greatest message every told.

Our church here in Steinhausen is around 30 people. We have small works also in Füramoos—a young group led by a man called Pascal, who I’m discipling—as well as works in Bad Waldsee, Berlin, and Belgium. In total I have about 30-40 souls who need to be fed, so I’m preaching and teaching six or seven times a week. We need more laborers, and that is our prayer to the Lord of the harvest for more young men who want to take the next step.

Paying a price

Several young men are being trained to preach. All are doing an intense discipleship program. We also take short trips, to London and Berlin and Aachen, where we expose our people to different cultures, combined with teaching sessions.

We get them street preaching, to build their confidence in sharing the gospel. The main goal is to move them to a point where they are not ashamed of their faith, because many do get saved but then have a hard time confessing with their mouth what it means to be saved.

Of course it’s not like in other countries where their life is threatened, but they get different opposition from people and we try to embolden them to stand for truth.

There is a price to pay for converts here in a place where true salvation is rare. One man we led to Christ in a German-speaking part of Belgium had been told by his wife (who thought she was saved but isn’t) that she will leave him if he continues to come to our church.

Another young man, 27, has come under fire from his mother who has told him he needs to find his own apartment. The problem these days is that younger men are immature. It is our goal to train them to be future husbands, dads and pastors for their people.

The biggest challenge here in Europe centers around good works and lack of eternal security. It’s hard for people to get saved, but even when they make a profession, they still believe they can lose their salvation because they are so self-righteous. I’ve been fighting this doctrine now for well over 25 years. It is amazing to see how much people are still trying to justify themselves and are not willing to see the simple truth.

Roman Catholic and Lutheran are the biggest influence, with Bible-believing churches making up only around 2 percent. The most conservative group is the Brethren movement, including Plymouth Brethren, and evangelicals. Pentecostals and charismatics are big also.

But we are making a difference. Recently we baptized three generations—grandmother Annette, 80, her daughter, Brigitte, 51, and granddaughter, Sibylle, 26. All gave a clear testimony of salvation. We also baptized an 87-year-old woman, who brought more visitors on her baptism day than we had in the past three months. So we have a young group in one place, and an older group in another.

Online services have also helped. I was contacted by a family in Switzerland who are freshly saved and found us online. They are looking for Bible preaching and teaching, so I am able to disciple them online, and they are attending our streaming services regularly.

Decision time: pay hike or leap of faith?

The Lord saved me at the age of six through the ministry of James Griggers, an Independent Baptist missionary from the United States. We were living near Zurich. My dad is German-Swiss and my mother Italian-Swiss, and one of my aunts heard about this Bible church across the border in Liechtenstein. She passed on the news to my mother, who was searching for something. She went there to check it out, and brought us kids. We all got saved!

I led my first soul to the Lord when I was eight years old, a seven-year-old. We played sports together and I just told him about Jesus. I got my first training under Pastor Griggers. His wife Linda was my Sunday school teacher.

My dad came to the church but didn’t stay, though he got saved later. He was very career-minded, heading the production team for the world football organization FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) in Zürich.

The Lord called me to preach when I was 16. I was on the train on my way to do some evangelism and read in my Bible,


But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist … (2 Timothy 4:5)


It was then I knew God wanted me to commit my life to that calling.

I had met my now wife Teresa, from Indiana, at a Bible conference in The Netherlands in 2004, and two years later we were married, and so of course my English improved a lot. Then the Lord started working on my heart to fulfil the last part of that verse … “to make full proof of thy ministry.”

This came exactly at a time I was offered a pay rise. Another American missionary wanted me to work with him in Heidelberg, Germany. He couldn’t pay me, but needed my help.

Teresa and I prayed, and we decided to make the leap of faith. I asked my boss how much the pay rise would be and he told me the number and it was very tempting. But I said I would quit anyway. I went back to my office and thought, “This is crazy.”

Four months later we moved to Heidelberg and started to live on our savings to help this pastor in his ministry, doing whatever he wanted, preaching in his absence, picking up people and bringing them to church, doing anything he asked.

For the past 10 years I have been working full-time for the Lord, trusting him for support.

It’s biblical. It’s what you see in the book of Acts. They just went everywhere, started talking to people, and people got interested. It is not our work, but the work of the Holy Spirit. If the door is open, you will find people get excited. The problem is not that people won’t listen. The solution is how you present it.