German congress attracts 7000 participants, emphasizes digital mission as "people find Christian faith on Instagram"

By CDI Staff |
Willow Creek Leadership Conference 2024 in Germany
Willow Creek Leadership Conference 2024 in Germany.

Earlier this month, Willow Creek Germany (WCD) hosted the Willow Creek Leadership Conference in Karlsruhe, Germany, which provided training and education on how Germans can share their faith with those in their surroundings. More than 7000 people attended the event including 5700 at the DM Arena and 1300 more at ten broadcast locations across Germany. The conference was held from March 7 to 9, and ended with a focus on the need for ‘creative courage’.

According to the event organizers, the attendees learned about topics such as hope in times of crisis, dealing with trauma, change in communities, and prospects for the future of the Church. More than 200 Christian organizations also used the opportunity to present their work and develop new connections in the exhibit hall.

For WDC Chairman Ulrich Eggers it was a victory to host so many individuals. “7000 people, what a blessing!” Eggers said at the end of the event. He anticipates that, financial resources permitting, the next conference will be hosted in February 2026 saying the final decision will be made after Easter.

Social media influencers effectively share their faith online

Among the ten keynote speakers at the conference was Austrian theologian Patrick Todjeras, Director at the Institute for Mission and Church Research, who talked about a recent study that noted that social media is key for people to find faith. According to reporting by Pro Medien Magazin, the research team he led wanted to find out, “whether Christian influencers can have a kind of missionary or evangelistic effect on Instagram.”

“People find their Christian faith on Instagram. This is not unusual, but ‘normal’,” said Todjeras whose team looked at 15 Christian influencers and networks, and surveyed more than 2,500 of their followers. “This applies to adults, young adults and teenagers,” he added, highlighting that according to the study, the impact that Christian influencers have on their audience is applicable to all age groups.

Some followers mentioned how they actively seek out the opinions of the influencers they follow on Christian themes.

Todjeras emphasized that evangelism on social media must be reframed. “In order to touch people's minds and hearts with faith, we need people who speak competently and consistently about the Christian faith in the digital space,” he commented. “We need digital pioneers who are able to live, believe and invite people to faith.”

He pointed out that the study specifically found that social media followers pay attention to the “consistency and competence” of the influencers. He therefore encouraged audiences to support and stand behind Christian influencers.

Overall, around 56 percent of respondents mentioned they had either felt a change in their faith or found faith for the first time through social media.

The study that is yet to be published acknowledged, however, that the digital world is not the only place where people come to faith. Among the seven main factors that contribute to conversion experiences, Todjeras mentioned “positive emotions, crises, the influence of others, the use of digital media, but also tradition, supportive parents and a Christian upbringing at home.”

“There are many different things that lead people to find faith," Todjeras said. But considering today’s digital age and the potential reach to the wider society, he particularly emphasized the importance of competent and consistent communication about the Christian faith in the digital space.