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Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastoral assistant in Barcelona from February 1928 to February 1939.

The task to which Bonhoeffer had been looking forward most of all, perhaps not without a few jitters, was that of preaching. Pastor Olbricht had him give 19 sermons during his year in Spain, that was more than usual for a pastoral assistant at the time. Of these sermons, 14 manuscripts have been preserved and show that he invested a great deal of effort in each.

“I work on it the entire week, devoting some time to it every day”

(Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance, 46).

Why did Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent a year in Barcelona in 1928? It was partly because he desired to take his theological training and make it practical for the people in the pew:

One reason Bonhoeffer wished to spend a year as a pastor in Barcelona was that he believed communicating  what he knew theologically–whether to indifferent businessmen, teenagers, or younger children–was important as the theology itself. His success in children’s ministry shows this…

(Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, 85)

Even Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in his early 20’s, he knew that pride and hubris could cripple a person’s Christianity and ministry. He wrote:

Thus, the Christian message is basically amoral and irreligious, paradoxical as that may sound. 

(Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, 83)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in Barcelona in 1928. There he assisted Pastor Friedrich Olbricht in Barcelona in a German speaking community. Bonhoeffer was concerned that the children were neglected.

In letters home, Bonhoeffer mentioned that Olbricht…”has apparently hitherto done nothing in the way of addressing the younger generation in his parish.” 

Apparently, instruction in the church stopped at the fifth grade. Bonhoeffer wanted to remedy this problem by proposing classes in the church for the older children. Every proposal was turned down by Olbricht.

The example of Bonhoeffer is very, very contemporary and relevant for the twenty-first century church. The church should be a place where all generations are to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus!

(Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, 77-78)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer assisted Pastor Friedrich Olbricht in Barcelona in 1928 in a German community. Bonhoeffer had many opportunities as a young man to grow in the area of preaching. Despite his age, the people in the congregations appreciated the sermons of Bonhoeffer.

On Easter (of 1928), with Olbricht away, Bonhoeffer preached again and the next week too. Each time he challenged his hearers and somehow won them over, It soon happened that whenever Bonhoeffer was scheduled to preach, the congregation grew noticeably. Olbricht noticed and promptly discontinued announcing the preaching schedule! 

Pulpit jealousy?

Pastor Olbricht should have been thankful that the Lord was using the Bonhoeffer in the pulpit.

(Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, 77).

When Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in Barcelona in 1928, he served as a pastor in a German community. Eric Metaxas wrote the following on the sermons of Bonhoeffer…

Bonhoeffer’s sermons challenged the congregations both spiritually and intellectually. In his first sermon he leaped into his favorite subject, the difference between a faith based on our own moral efforts and one based on God’s grace. Along the line he mentioned Plato, Hegel, and Kant, and quoted Augustine. One can only imagine some of the Barcelona businessman puzzling over this earnest twenty-two-year-old, freshly descended from the ivory tower.

And yet there was an undeniable vitality to what he was saying; he rarely lost their attention.    

(Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, 77).

June 2019
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