Freed to Free Others: A German Pastor’s Testimony
By Sarah Hunnicutt
“Only God could have changed you!” said Pastor Sebastian Scalogna’s former classmate.
“Thank you,” he replied. “I took that as a compliment.”
Sebastian Scalogna, now the pastor at the Church of God in Wolfsburg, Germany, sat down with Nate Tatman in November 2021 during the German pastor’s retreat to share his story and how God is weaving into the story of the Church of God in Germany.
For over two years, Scalogna’s uncle, who was the facilities manager at the church where he would eventually receive Jesus and become the pastor, reached out to him. “Every time he saw me he would say, ‘Sebastian, you need Jesus.’ And I said, ‘I need more money. I need more alcohol. I need more girls. I need more of all of this!’ [My uncle] said, ‘No, you are not right. You need Jesus.’”
It was during an evening youth group service at the church when Scalogna finally faced the reality of his inner emptiness. “I went downstairs to the room where the youth group was meeting, and I felt a warmth…. They said, ‘It’s nice to see you here. We have been praying for you for two years.’…. I went home and bowed on my knees in front of the window and said, ‘I’m broken. Please forgive me.’ That was the first time I felt the release of the weight from my body. Then I never asked myself again [about the purpose of my life.] I knew it was to live and honor God.”
“I met Jesus…at the end of 2002,” said Scalogna. “[Jesus] had a kind of love I’ve never experienced in this world.”
This decision radically changed Scalogna’s life. He quit a well-paying job at Volkswagen to attend Bible college. He gave up a promising soccer career. He made the difficult decision to walk away from the expectations and hopes for success placed on him by his Italian immigrant family to pursue God’s calling on his life. In the middle of the difficulties brought on by this choice, seemingly miraculous provision came about: all his living and related Bible college expenses were covered. He met his wife and began a family. He was able to reconcile with his family. Life came full-circle, and he began pastoring at the Church of God, the place where Scalogna found his own freedom.
Scalogna’s vision for the church is simply, “We will be the church Jesus wants us to be. We try to be modern, God-centered, and a church where you can feel God, [and] not only know something with your mind, but also in your heart.”
Wolfsburg, where the Church of God congregation Scalogna leads is located, was chosen strategically by Hitler and Nazi Germany to produce machines for World War II. “People came and worked like animals. They defined themselves by the kind of money they made. There was no culture, no music, no theater…. There was no focus on spirituality…. It’s difficult to speak to people about God. They say, ‘Because we earn so much money, we don’t need a god. We are god.’”
“I can speak with people and say, ‘You have everything, but what about your soul? Your soul is crying out for someone who give you rest.’ And then we can speak. They understand that,” said Scalogna.
Scalogna knows firsthand the inner emptiness of having it all but having no soul rest and is able to use that knowing to connect with the people of Wolfsburg. He sees the high divorce rate there as a direct result of the culture of the pursuit of outward success. “Wolfsburg is the city with the highest rate of divorce in Germany. In 2011, there was a divorce rate of 63 percent. Sometimes people call us the church with the most divorced people! [I say] it’s a wonderful church…. We are called [a] free church. [People ask], ‘Are you Catholic or Lutheran?’ [And I say], ‘No. We are free.’”
Scalogna reflected on how even during the tumultuous season brought on by COVID-19, people were eager to grow and become baptized. Scalogna recalled one church member coming to him and saying, “You know, Sebastian, [for 60 years] I’ve been a Christian, and I’m not baptized.”
“So,” said Scalogna, “we baptized several older people. It was a blessing.” He remembers one eighty-two-year-old man in particular who struggled to enter the baptismal, but upon coming up from the water raised his arms, turned to the church, and then shouted, “Jesus lives! Jesus lives!”
It’s clear that Scalogna has found genuine peace and freedom is eager to share that same peace and freedom with his congregation, community, and city. “Some of my [friends] said, ‘You are really crazy. You’ve lost your mind!’ I said, ‘Maybe I lost my heart! I gave it to Someone.’”
Story produced from Episode 4 of Season 5 of A World of Good podcast. Tune in for the whole story: https://chogglobal.org/podcast/s5e4/.