Monthly Archives: May 2008

CHURCH NEXT! A church where you don’t have to believe in God – a marketing strategy for Sweden?

Imagine yourself a church building looking like a theater, without any sacred symbols, the community inside it embraces atheists and others who might want to maintain their religious orientation but do not necessarily believe there is a god.

There Sunday meetings (often held at “church hours”) are no “masses” but platforms where there are similarities to traditional religious services including music, community sharing and a sense of aesthetics. After a concert, conversations, songs and a discussion, a collection is taken up to support humanitarian causes…, this last week for victims of the earthquake in China!

No kidding! You have just entered the Society for Ethical Culture, in New York across Manhattan’s Central Park. Families bring their children to learn how to live in a world of diversity, respecting differences and finding common ground with others, being motivated to make a difference in the world.

This group whose motto is “Deed before Creed,” is, along with other US non-theist, atheist, agnostic and independent groups gaining ground in the United States. 16 % of the Americans see their spiritual dimension as “unaffiliated”, thus becoming the fastest-growing segment of the very complicated patchwork of American spiritual life!

Realizing this, it is not strange that books such as Christopher Hitchens’s “God is not Great,” Sam Harris’s “The End of Faith” and Richard Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” have all become US best sellers in the past three years.

Daniel Dennett, a philosopher who teaches at Tufts University says: “God is not exploding — which is what Nietzsche supposed — God is slowly evaporating before our eyes.”

Two observations…

1. This is the kind of church we are forming in Sweden when we take God and His absolute truth out of the picture. Take God away, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, His redeeming work on the cross and His purpose for our lives and the only thing left is an association. A group of well-willing individuals who take their life serious but are removed from their very roots. God is slowly evaporating before our eyes. I cannot refrain thinking about the Church in Sweden where tolerance, political correctness and Christendom have suffocated the life within it as it through a step by step approach has lost its lifeline and dependency on the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

2. Another “loud thought” I have relates to the tremendous commitment this group of people show as they consciously try to bridge the gaps between the many cultures, between the reality of life in New York and the rest of the (broken) world around them (all the way to China), raising their children as global, respectable citizens and trying to build a consciousness for their place in the world.

How many of us are doing that in our churches where so many of our so-called members have ample time to visit (! – I did not say minister) and hardly show any commitment to be part of the world changing overwhelming minority which was called out from the world and sent back into that world by Jesus Christ Himself?!

“Don’t ask me for the answers I’ve only got one; that a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son!” (Larry Norman, “the great American novel” on “only visiting this planet”)

Let us in dependency upon Jesus Christ follow His example and His commands to be a blessing to all nations. People, that’s the way I see it at the moment…

John



Let’s secularize the Muslims! – Another way to meet the challenges of multi-cultural Sweden

Dagen and Svenska Dagbladet report about the new initiative of Lars Leijenborg, the minister responsible for college and university education in Sweden. The challenges in regard to integration of the Muslim citizens are growing and obviously there is a tremendous need to deal with these aspects of society as segregation continues grows in our nation.

The imams which are employed by the Muslim community are often schooled and supported by more traditional wings of Muslim believers, and are not always good examples of integration as they lack the ability to communicate in Swedish and show little interest in Sweden as a potential “home country”.

From a perspective of a practicing Muslim this is rather understandable; the far gone secularization within our society and the (in their eyes) normless and valueless way of life are truly a threat to the way of life as taught by them.

“The goal is not to have a reform of Islam” says Leijenborg, but let’s be honest, one way to steer away these groups from the feared radicalization of Islam is to secularize them! In the same way as our theological education has been influenced and adjusted to a politically correct perspective, so also will a state led imam education lead to a secularization of Islam.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not a supporter of Islam and its spread in our nation! But, we have to be realistic as we are a multi-cultural society; we have to give room for people and their beliefs as a consequence of their presence here.

If I were to name one of the strongest aspects of Swedish today’s society it is its ability to secularize everything and everyone! That’s not so strange… Some time ago I wrote a blog on a world values survey where Sweden ranked highest in these aspects. READ>

For now, I will not be fighting against the secularization of Islam, but will do everything in my power to remove the entanglements of secularization on the Church, the Body of Christ!

That’s the Way I see it!

John




Lessons from history; Todd Bentley, Peter, Sadducees and Gamaliel in the Florida revival.

There is a reason for it… There is a reason for it that news about revival in Florida travels so fast all over the world. The tremendously intense TV covering by the God Channel watched by millions of people directly in their homes through TV channels and computers fills a void in the lives of Christians (and hopefully non-Christians) throughout the world. The fact that we can watch it “first-hand”, “live” brings reality closer to us. However, even that live connection is not close enough and droves of people from all nations of the world travel there to “get it” to hopefully “bring it home”.

The fact that we live in a global world and that those of us in the West live in tremendous affluence makes it possible to experience matters in person. We can travel about anywhere we want and distance is only in your mind. This is one of the reasons why news about it spreads like fire across our planet.

The tremendous voids

There is another reason too for the quick spread of this phenomenon; the sheer absence of the super-natural, the power and the ever present need for EXPERIENCE (a main factor to be reckoned with in our Post-modern, Post-Christian Western world) in our churches has created a tremendous void. So when something supernatural happens we are overly focused on it because we are destitute for it.

As soon as things like this pop up (don’t forget that we have had the faith teaching, inner healing, the prophetic movement, Toronto, Pensacola etc.), the advocates/ambassadors get all excited trying to tell us why “this is it what God wants to do” and as a response to the (often) enthusiastic approach of them we set off the alarms so many other who approach these matters from totally different (often non-emotional) perspectives. They are seen as they pleasure killers of the Body of Christ and any question they might ask is considered criticism.

Fighting against God?

In the time of Jesus and the first church we all know that the Sadducees and Pharisees because of their religious and political power were threatened by the expressions and works of the Kingdom of God. (Acts 5:17 states that the Sadducees were filled with jealousy!) When the disciples were taken captive and brought before the Sanhedrin where they were asked to defend their case the Sanhedrin was so upset that some of their members wanted to kill the disciples (5:33). It was at that moment that a wise Pharisee took the word, NIV 5:34-39

But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

Our history – let’s get our homework done!

I know we hate homework! But there is an important lesson to be learned from the history of the Early Church and even of our recent history in Sweden. The last 25 years have been characterized by people and churches taking standpoints for and against different phenomenon in the Body of Christ. (By the way, if the matters involve whether we are to preach God’s Word as absolute Truth, you will find me on the barricades too!)

But in most cases it had nothing to do with truth; it had to do with style, emphasis, and sometimes over-emphasis. People who had been touched by renewal, revival or the (re)discovery of old truths and ways of God have not always been wise and mature in passing on a blessing; instead the blessing became a curse as it divided the Body of Christ and brought hurts and rejection.

Do the experiences become the norm of church life?

If experiences of special touches and (re)discovered principles become the norm for church life in our time and Christian walk we will automatically build in the inability to be a church, or to be a trustworthy and relevant body of believers. If what we read in the Acts of the Apostles is to be the norm of church life for us today why is it that so few people die in the church in spite of their greed, or so few sell everything they have and give it to the church and the poor? Or why is there so little accountability and little openness and confession? Why are so few new people reached… the list can go on…

If we believe that God is doing something new, let us in humility and in accountability live out what God is teaching and giving us in such ways that we seek for opportunities to wisely implement what He is giving us. After all, if it is from God it will prevail and grow!

Let us with humility towards God, each other and the tradition to which we belong approach the works of God realizing that we here at this time and age “…see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”. (1 Cor 13:12)

That’s the Way I see it!

John

PS Accountability and openess is what it is all about!” Read> DS

Trust in Lust – the new approach to relationships! Sex sells, sell sex, xxx

Apoteket AB (drugstore, or pharmacy) has since 1970 a national monopoly position in Sweden. Until now, rubbers (condoms) and chewing gum (some kind of rubber) can be found located on the same shelf (NO! There is logic behind it!).

Soon however, to be precise on June 23, our national health store will with the help of RFSU present the “Trust in Lust” line of design of sex toys and change their image to a kind of kinky Afrodites pharmacy. The Afrodites pharmacy under leadership of erotic educationalist Ylva Franzén has continued to evolve and might have become the role model in the transformation of our national pride as they already offer products like: orgasm classes, orgasm coaching and designer dildos.

Whether this initiative is a strategic effort to raise the stocks of our nationally renowned pharmacy as it will be put up for sale latest by January 1, 2009 or, if this is yet another tasteless and un-thoughtful Big Brother State attempt trying to educate and support its citizens sex lives beyond the threshold of privacy – we might never know! Honestly I don’t want to know!

According to different articles and press releases, on many sites and publications it has become time —-“to welcome sex toys out in the open into the daylight”! “The Trust in Lust” product line has been developed through much research and evaluation by the RFSU and all the personnel of Apoteket has been trained by RFSU! “OH MY G…!” (Read how much I trust the RFSU in “Guidelines for teenagers who want sex – RFSU hands off”).

Let’s be honest, the catchy product line “Trust in Lust” says it all, trust your animal like instincts and uncontrolled lingering volcano-like lust boiling within your limbs: that will set you free! Right!

How different is the approach by God as He through Jesus and the apostle John addresses the deeper motives and pitfalls of humankind leading to distortion and de-humanized approaches of the same and/or opposite sex through lust. (Some might call this yet another “underlivs” (genital area) theology… I don’t care what you think, I do care what God thinks of this:

Matthew 5: 27-28 ”You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.” 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.

1 John 2: 16 “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world”.

We don’t need yet another effort to make overtly public that which belongs to the privacy of people. Big Brother hands off! (I totally agree with Per Gudmunsson ” Sell Apoteket fast so that we won’t have to explain these (awkward) matters for our international guests!)

That’s the Way I see it!

John

PS. How does this approach and unwanted public product placement in the stores affect our multi-cultural (orthodoxmuslimcatholicjewishchristianbuddhistshintoistetc) citizens as this is shoved down their throats?! Culturally sensitive BS? DS (I mean)

Accountability in leadership… transparancy, protection and trustworthiness!

Some preachers have still issues with financial transparency according to Dagen (here, here and here) and Världen Idag… The request from US senator Charles Grassley to get information on the financial dealings of a number of influential and thus often financially well-off spiritual leaders and their ministries have caused many and long discussions and hesitancy on the part of some of the ministries involved. Bennie Hinn only recently submitted his financial records to be scrutinized (because that will happen!), others, among them Kenneth Copeland and Dollar ministries (what a name!) are opposed to the requests of the senator.

With the number of financial abuses in mind both in Sweden as throughout the world we should be more than willing to go beyond the required formal accountability due to national or organizational guidelines. Those involved in ministry should be wiling to walk an extra mile in regard of these matters to even remove the shadow of doubt over our economic dealings. Honestly speaking we need that accountability not only on financial matters but others too. The fact that some continue to argue against such openness make me more or less suspicious, there is no reason to withhold anything from public scrutiny… that’s part of the deal of being Christians!

Jack Hayford, a senior pastor of Church on the Way and presently acting as leader of the Four Square denomination has for years tried to build accountability into ministry. He strongly suggested already in 2004 for all ministries to become part of an International Council for Ethical Accountability.

Another interesting initiative is the national “ministry watch” in the US which tries to give update information on the financial dealings of the different ministries, they even give recommendations on financially accountable organizations, Interesting is that fact that quite some of the organizations refuse to inform this organization about their financial records!

Based on the initiative from Jack Hayford, a number of charismatic leaders got together in Orlanda and developed the following document (here). As we see there is nothing new under the sun and we can only hope that we will voluntarily submit ourselves to accountability and openness, not only within networks with friends, but even organized networks. (Let’s be honest, the loose informal networks don’t always do the job!)

That’s it for now…my appeal: let’s be more open, transparent and accountable! That’s the Way I see it!

John


The path to diversity is rarely smooth! – News and views on immigration

I have been writing in my blogs about integration, immigration, assimilation and many other issues which have to do with the multi-cultural aspects of life in Sweden and the reality of the Church in Sweden.

Below you will find articles and links that will help you get some understanding from a secular perspective as I browsed through many articles of “The Local” which is an English edition of Swedish news. As you will notice, the path to diversity is rarely smooth! So here we go:

It’s as if we immigrants stink of rotten fish” When deciding where in the world to study and work, Nabeel Shehzad, an engineer from Pakistan, thought Sweden seemed like the perfect place. But that was before he began to encounter discrimination on a regular basis. READ »

Parents to face jail for child marriages. Parents who allow children under the age of 16 to get married in another country could face up to two years in jail. READ »

Sweden shutting door on refugees: critics. Recent decisions by Sweden to send refugees back to Baghdad and other war-ravaged areas have tarnished its reputation for welcoming victims of conflict, critics say. READ »

Immigration agreement for Greens and government. The Swedish government and the Green Party are to present a joint proposal on Thursday for new rules governing labour force immigration. READ »

Asylum system ‘stuck in Stone Age’. The Swedish Migration Board has proposed changing the “stone age” regulations for asylum seekers who have started families with Swedish nationals. READ »

The path to Swedish asylum: A smuggler speaks. Rami Abdelrahman travels to Jordan and tracks down the first link in the chain of an underground operation involved in the smuggling of Iraqi refugees to Sweden. READ »

UNHCR criticizes Sweden’s Iraqi refugee policy. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has criticized Sweden’s policy of deporting rejected Iraqi asylum seekers to the southern and central regions of their home country. READ »

Dutch ditching dykes for Dalarna. Hundreds of Dutch want to move to Dalarna and the county is using some innovative methods to assist in the process. READ »

Liberals call for compulsory citizenship classes. The Liberal Party has said it wants to introduce a mandatory course for all immigrants seeking Swedish citizenship. READ »

Immigrant girls and sex education – who knows best? Parents, students, or the state: who knows best? David Landes looks at the thorny issue of sex education and editorial reactions to a Liberal Party proposal aiming to bar parents from exempting their children, particularly girls, from classes. READ »

My views on sex and laws: READ

Foreigners can’t bank on Swedish ID. Foreign students continue to feel marginalized by Swedish society as a result of confusion regarding the issuing of Swedish identity cards. READ »

Synergy evening on film and human relationships!

The next Synergy Evening is scheduled for this coming Friday, 16 May with an emphasis on film.

Lars Johansson, teacher in Philosophy and Religion at Örebro Theological Seminary, will speak about films that help us understand human relationships. You and your friends are invited for discussion and mingling!


Lars also serves as the Director of “Forum for Faith, Culture, and Society,” which publishes the cultural magazine Nod and also facilitates the Nod Academy, which specializes in distance-learning dealing with contemporary issues and Christian faith. Lars teaches on films in lectures and courses and has also assisted in publishing the book, Film and Religion (Cordia, 2005).

Entrance is free, and fika is for sale in our café.

Note: The seminar will be held in Swedish!

The café opens at 7 pm with the seminar starting at 7.30. Time will be allotted for questions, discussion, and mingling afterwards.

//The Synergy Team – Organized by New Life Church and Powerplay

The next Synergy conference will take place 14 -16 November 2008, watch the Synergy “teaser” for the coming conference here!