Monthly Archives: June 2008

God of the City! Chris Tomlin

My friend and fellow church planter Douglas Molgaard put this song on one of his blogs some time ago… shortly after our church planting conference in April… The song had been a theme song throughout the conference and it was (is) an important reminder of the fact that our God truly is the God of the city.

A few weeks ago as we were worshipping God on a mountain in Gothenburg, Sweden, we looked out over the city and over the area where we are in the process of planting a New Life church, we sang this same song… While worshipping and declaring the truth of the fact that He is the God of the city through the accomplished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, faith and perspective entered our hearts and minds…

Enjoy this wonderful song and tune in as you worship the God of YOUR CITY!

John van Dinther



Leadership in the church: dealing with the “hireling” mentality!

Two months ago I wrote a blog as a reaction on the article in Dagen about the fact that pastors were encouraged to become part of a union to secure their rights and jobs. My first blog was semi-seriously written (check it out here). However after today’s articles in Dagen (here and here) I want to add my side of the story.

The problem I see is that most pastors are regarded as employees of the church that they serve. The reason for that is because most pastors are hired by churches in order to fulfill a particular job description, much as is done in the business world. The way we look at this “job” might or might not be in line with the Biblical perspective on what a pastor is meant to be / do. In such situations a pastor is more inclined to compromise with any unbiblical expectations of his employer otherwise he/she might loose their job.

I know of numerous pastors in both small and larger churches where there are issues in regards to the application of Biblical standards within the congregation. The churches in Sweden acknowledge the pastor mainly as a “hireling” who is supposed to yield to the decisions being made by the eldership and/or board.

It is not uncommon that the established laymen leadership (elders and board) has allowed certain unbiblical practices in the church among lay leaders, themselves and its members, thus setting up a potential division between the new appointed (hired) pastor(s) and the congregation. It is not unusual that congregations seek to recruit for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires (2 Tim.4:3). The fact is that most established churches don’t want any new pastor to rock the boat; they want peace and rest, maintaining what is going on in the church by strengthening the present and maybe making manageable changes to embrace the future!

“The hireling mentality” as I described above however, also exists among pastors.

This becomes clear to me when pastors look for promotion opportunities rather than to grow and develop on a long term basis with the church they are called to serve. Some actually are self-interested, showing greater concern for their compensation package and the earthly security it supposedly brings than ministering to the body of believers they are called to serve (Jn.10:12,13).

The practice of regarding pastors as employees has not been the norm through the church’s history. Historically, pastors have not been considered to be employees, but bond-servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, they are slaves of Christ, not slaves to an employer.

My family and I have during 15 years lived and ministered without a regular salary. A couple of years after we started New Life Church (where I presently still am serving as a pastor), we received for the first time a part-time salary which as time passed has been raised and is a full-time salary today. Our church has well taken care of us although I for one, have been opposed to raising my salary at times because I preferred to use the money to provide support for other workers so that we could form a team. I consider myself a bond-servant to Christ and not an employee first of all (although legally I am in that position within the context of the Swedish society). So, in essence I am saying that you as pastor have to make a decision whether you are a “hireling” or have been “called” as a pastor! If you cannot exercise the gifts God has given you, or cannot minister as a pastor you might have chosen the wrong place to minister. (By the way; did you take the employment because a job was offered when you needed it, or was it a CALL from God?!)

Let’s face it; some pastors need to get rid of their hireling mentality, but so do some churches!

I have friends in churches where they receive very little support and encouragement from the congregations they serve. They experience that they have minimal impact in the direction of the church’s ministry and often find themselves on the receiving end of hurtful criticisms. Others are inadequately compensated and feel little appreciation for the important work that they do on behalf of the church. Expressions of discouragement and unhappiness are not uncommon, and for some, ministry is no longer a sense of calling from God nor a source of joy and satisfaction in their life!

Do members understand the concept of being a people of God?

Much of how we relate to our pastors depends on how we as individual members understand our relationship to the life of the church and its ministries. Are we essentially religious consumers who see ourselves as being receivers of ministry, or do we understand ourselves to be part of the people of God who partner and who have a vital role in helping to fulfill the church’s collective ministry? Do we see our pastors as employees who are paid to serve to congregational customers or as spiritual leaders whose ministries of the Word of God and their leadership enables us to better fulfill our ministries of service and proclamation in the world?

Our answer to those questions makes all the difference in the world when it comes to determining our expectations of the pastoral ministry and those who are called to serve within it. Our pastors are neither self-made nor self-maintained.

They need to be supported, encouraged and affirmed. And when we neglect that important work, we pay a very heavy collective price. I’ve never known a church whose spirit, enthusiasm and commitment to ministry exceeded that of its leadership. I’ve never experienced a vibrant, flourishing congregation whose pastor wasn’t also receiving generous amounts of prayerful support and encouragement from its members!

Remember, it’s not simply a matter of getting the kind of leadership we deserve. It’s more a matter of receiving precisely the kind of leadership we choose to call forth and then support.

That’s the Way I see it,

John

Leadership is all about failing – if you don’t dare to fail, you don’t dare to lead!

If you haven’t failed enough, you haven’t learned enough! One of the main characteristics of the leadership in my life and ministry has been that I have failed in many ways and with many things.

In our nation and in our churches we have many people that are well trained and well educated, but have not become involved in ministry. At the same time I as leader need to have the goal that they will be involved in the mission of God (Missio Dei)! We have to turn spectators into participators. The characteristic of a growing, vibrant and healthy church is not the program, the plans, popularity, nor position; but rather the people. Not the quantity but the quality. They are the ultimate barometer of how well we have carried out the ministry of the church.

If we want to be effective in ministry and to see the church grow and be built up then we have to be working at enabling people. If we want more people to be involved in ministry we have to find better ways to enable people.

One of the main enabling barriers

The enabling of people is the crucial point. At the same time, as I said before, we have many people who are well trained and well educated; yet they are not active in ministry and the mission of God! There are many reasons why they are not involved and I will not attempt to address all of these. Yet, one of the main reasons why people do not use their God-given gifts and qualities (and I am 100% sure of that!) is their fear of failure.

In a society where so much value is put towards performance we do not dare to fail. This creates a climate where leadership is quenched and new initiatives are not encouraged. The fact is that we actually encourage a defensive approach to leadership which in essence is not leadership at all. Isn’t leadership going where none has gone before; making trails where we no trails have been established… walking and guiding by compass rather then by a map?!

Leadership = insecurity = possible failure!

Leadership implies possible failure, it implies insecurity, and it implies having to learn while doing. “Theology on the run” and “leadership on the run” would be some of my slogans. In a nation (Sweden) where we look for consensus in all areas of life and also in leadership there is a danger that we quench the leadership gifts of our people and the Church as a whole. We are so embedded in a save, secure social system and way of doing things that we hardly allow anyone to break out of the box through entrepreneurial leadership styles; rather we call people who do authoritarian and insensitive. My view on leadership is based on a team approach, yet, we have to realize that God so often uses individuals to bring out new perspectives and new ways of application of old truths which transform the way a team used to think. And those new ways usually bring us where we have never been before… which implies possible failure.

Honestly, I rather fail and fail and fail again to be finally to learn a new way than to remain on secure grounds not learning anything new and working for status quo.

Check the following link on FAMOUS FAILURES and place yourself in good company as you dare to embrace the possibility to fail as you expand your borders and move out of your own and your cultures’ comfort zone!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Oprah, the hip and materialistic Mother Teresa is finally seen for who she is!

Two years ago I addressed the semi-religion approach of Oprah Winfrey and others which are blasting into our living rooms through our TV’s. Her show, on the air in 122 countries, is one of the most influential and appreciated ones throughout the world. In a poll two years ago, 33% of 6,600 respondents said Winfrey had “a more profound impact” on their spiritual lives than their pastors / priests. She is like the hip and materialistic Mother Teresa and named the Fourth person of the Trinity and can do no harm.

Besides her show, her magazine, her charity projects and workshops Oprah developed the “O Groups” which are public or private places where you can connect with others. O Groups are created by you. You start the topics of discussion. You create the groups. Your group leads the discussion. Join an existing group or create one of your own!

Finally America is dealing with the nonsense, semi-religion approach of Oprah who has held a highly exalted position for many years among the American public and in the American churches for too long. The “O” religion as I called it slowly permeated people’s minds and their train of though leading to an attitude of compromise for true Biblical teaching. The fact is that no-one dared to approach and “touch” THE ALMIGHTY “O”!

Now according to the Kansas City daily: “Oprah Winfrey has offended evangelical Christians, and they are fighting back. For the first time, 23 Christian newspapers across the country united for a joint investigative project. Their aim was to explore the spiritual beliefs of the popular entertainment mogul. An article titled “Oprah’s God” ran in all the papers’ May or June issues, along with each one’s local input.” – “Oprah’s theology seems to be a version of America’s secular theology of self-improvement, doing good to others and the prosperity gospel.

The May edition of the O – Oprah magazine called “Welcome to the Banquet” said it all; the smorgasbord approach in regards to the pick and choose religion of Oprah is finally becoming a stumbling block for the religious (note that I did not say “spiritual”) community in the US.

Check the Youtube video visited and watched by 7,142,869 people ( I am one of them)

Here in Sweden we have very similar approaches to a smorgasbord kind of religious outlook on life, many of our churches and people have dabbled for a long time in similar deceptive and confusing issues as they try to be politically correct by removing the issues and doctrines by which our Christian faith is held together. The result of that? It is quite obvious: we see a broken, confused and soil body of believers without directions purpose and meaning! Of course there are pockets of believers whose faith and lives are directed by true discipleship; they will be the remnant which is needed to see a renewal brake fourth in our nation and churches!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Warnings for iPhone Porn: A whole new meaning to multi-touch…

The expectations were high rising… finally the new iPhone would be presented (check here and here). However, with every new possibility there are many new challenges to be faced and nothing opens the door to the undesired and untamable more than such a deceiver in disguise; the new iPhone. For the first time ever, people will be able to watch and download their favorite porn videos on a mobile phone without hassle because the content is not going through the service provider; you’re just downloading these porn videos from a website into your iPhone. It couldn’t be easier.

Apple says it will ban pornographic material from the official iPhone App store, an Apple spokeswoman told Time. But with the entirety of the Internet in the palm of your hand, porn will find a way into the device whether Apple likes it or not.

Unfortunately we cannot really grasp the true implications of the accessibility of such material at the touch of a screen. The already broadly spread pest of availability of pornography keeping millions of people in its grip harvesting millions of victims through sex addiction, broken relationships and broken marriages will without a doubt sky-rocket because of the tremendous possibilities of this newest gadget.

There are times when technological development is not equal with success. This is one of those times; the floodgates of smutch and depravity are already wide open. “It is every person’s right to choose how to use their iPhone” we might hear, however to the addict there is no such thing as choice; there is only a compulsive force tearing once identity and life apart!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

The distorted reality of Danderyd’s identity, they are ” their kind of people!”

Fokus magazine has done a great and in-depth analysis of life quality in the different municipalities in Sweden which has been published and addressed in many media. 30 factors were taken into consideration among them we find the care of older citizens, the local tax level, the climate for entrepreneurship, the number of low educated citizens, alcohol related death causes, areas with environmental protection, the number of registered crimes, divorces, suicide attempts, number of teachers in the school classes, unemployment, culture and leisure activities, people’s financial assets etc etc. so far so good!

The sun always shines over Djursholm (part of Danderyd) the old expression says. It still is because in this third attempt to rank the different municipalities (290) in Sweden, Danderyd has taken the first place. It is the municipality that has the richest inhabitants, the students with the best grades and the most expensive houses. “We have earned this distinction municipal commissioner Gunnar Ooms says, There are many who have contributed to what the municipality is today and our greatest asset is the Danderyd population themselves. We have worked hard to make the service to its inhabitants both good and cost effective.

Oh yes, Danderyd knows how to take care of itself! With the focus on ITSELF!

Because it is here that we find the problem with the kind of life-quality analyses as done by Fokus magazine, they only focus on the well being of the own population in regards to possibilities, privileges, numbers and growth factors. Nothing in the research is relating to responsibilities! Suppose we would start ranking our different municipalities in regard to their ability to make an impact on the visible and invisible needs of our society and nation as a whole. Which municipality would then be considered to be the number one in the nation?

Self. That’s the word I was looking for:“self”.

I think the deepest value of the average Danderyd person is so wonderfully and un-thoughtfully expressed (exposed) by Lüüli Lundvall Klebe who is sitting outside her villa. She has received a special distinction from the Djursholm villa association for her beautiful garden and tells that she has to be really active to counter the hired hands that take care of the neighbor’s garden. She likes the fellowship (cohesion) in the municipality. “We who live here are of another kind, a class separate from others, which gives a good solidarity”.

As I quote her words, I have said it all… Danderyd is taking care of itself!

In the last seven (7) years Danderyd has received twelve (12!) refugees in their municipality to be compared to Södertälje welcoming thousands in theirs. (Did you notice that I wrote “received” by Danderyd and “welcomed” by Södertälje?). Danderyd as municipality is not active in regard to other issues which demand the attention, involvement and commitment of many other parts of the nation… Somehow Danderyd is in a deep slumber while it has drawn a Silver Curtain around itself to isolate itself from the rest of us, this picture brings back to memory how once upon a time Eastern Europe separated itself from the rest by an Iron Curtain.

Danderyd, when will you wake up? Bob Dylan’s song “When you gonna wake up?” might give some food for thought:

You got men who can’t hold their peace and woman who can’t control their tongues. The rich seduce the poor and the old are seduced by the young. – Do you ever wonder just what God requires? You think He’s just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires.- You can’t take it with you and you know that it’s too worthless to be sold. They tell you, ‘Time is money’ as if your life was worth its weight in gold.

Chorus: When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up? When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Secularization revisited – the Swedish perspective

The Christian Daily Dagen addressed a study conducted by Anna Kiefer from The Kairos Future institute about how “Soft values and money go hand in hand”.

The institute concludes as they compared a world wide study done among 22 500 persons from 17 countries in the ages 16-29 and 30-50. Among the ones born in the 1980ties in Sweden they found how few believed in God and how religion played a small roll in their life in regards to their values. Only 38% believe in God in comparison with 75% in the USA.

This is nothing new to me, I wrote about similar things in a blog in April called “World Values Survey – another way of looking at cultures!” When you check the blog and the diagram you will find that Sweden is the most individualized and secular nation in the world.

However, we need to make a couple of observations: religion in the USA is closely interwoven with culture (as it is in many other nations as well). When people call themselves believers in God this may mean many different things. Coming from a Roman Catholic background myself I knew of NOT ONE true believer in God throughout my upbringing. (Read part of my story)

Many people whom I know from many different cultures and backgrounds might more easily then Swedish people use words of faith, believe, beliefs, God and other “religious” expressions in comparison to others. This does not necessarily mean much to them; it is part of their culture heritage rather than having faith in God as a person.

At the same time I can encourage you to check out The Kairos Institute website because they do provide a lot of good, well researched information which we need to take consider as we effectively and relevantly want to make a case for Christian faith in out nation!

A subjective observation from my side makes me believe that many young people in Sweden are searching for the purpose of their life and that they do not dismiss God as potential answer to their quest. In day to day, face to face contacts many give indications that they want to experience God in their life and that they long for finding the roots of their existence.

That’s the Way I see it!

John